Channel Surf-NDTV, Times Now

Punjabi accents, glacial wars and the Agniputri being left out in the cold

Prime Time news is always something to be approached with trepidation, for fear of an assault on your ears. But sometimes, small moments make it worth it. Like watching Pakistan’s Maj Gen (R) Jamshed Aiyaz Khan tell an interjecting Arnab Goswami in a typical Punjabi accent, “ther jaa yaar (not theher jaa, ther jaa)… aapke show pe to aana hi museebat ho jata hai”. Of course, it begs the question – What then sees him make appearances on the channel?

The second moment which made Thursday night’s Newshour debate worth watching was Maroof Raza’s elegant demolition of Pakistani arguments. A combination of anger and a strong grip on facts and history makes him a pleasure to watch. The debate in question was about General Kayani’s comments on Siachen and how perhaps it’s time for demilitarization of the glacier. It is an emotional issue, but Raza’s arguments steered it away from pure sentimentality to facts and strategic thinking. He pointed out that India is no longer losing its soldiers at Siachen but, “Pakistan is losing face”. Raza also picked holes in Kayani’s claims about the human presence at the glacier polluting the water by asking Pakistan that if water was such an issue -Why were the waters from two glaciers diverted to China?

The 9 pm debate had started with the momentous news of India successfully testing the Agni V missile. However, it seemed Arnab Goswami had taken China’s disparaging remarks on India’s achievement rather personally and was debating with his panel of military personnel why a country which is India’s competitor in every way had made these comments, and what it really meant. Why didn’t China like its neighbour bolstering its defence? It’s a mystery we may never solve.

While this was going on on Times NowNDTV had its correspondent Pallav Bagla describing the scenes of jubilation among the scientists. Something its competing channel showed on TV just a little while later.

NDTV also talked to ‘Agniputri’ Dr Tessy Thomas, a homely looking woman who is the project director of Agni IV and the person in charge of mission design and guidance system. Something that Times Now ignored completely. So did the DRDO press release. According to today’s Indian Express, the release mentioned the names of all the other scientists present at the launch, except hers. She’s just a woman, why bother.

But, the best part of the night, was of course the 10 pm debate over Siachen and its demilitarisation. As the panellists weren’t even able to agree on who committed the ‘aggression’ and which parts of the glacier belonged to whom, it inadvertently showed the crux of most Indo-Pak problems – Which land is your land, which land is my land? And of course, there was the ‘ther ja yaar…

At 10 pm, NDTV had switched over to its special about the women of Tahrir Square. It saw Barkha Dutt walking the streets of Cairo reliving the revolution with the women who took part in it. I am a woman and I still don’t think that was more important than so much that is going on in India.

Times Now had a little goof-up when it was giving a rundown of the day’s news earlier in the show. The voiceover announced that a murdered Mumbai teenager was 17 years old, while the on-screen graphics mentioned his age as 16. Is it too much to ask for better coordination between the producer and graphics guys?

Minor mistakes aside, I vote for more Punjabi-accented people on TV who can tell over-excited anchors to cool it.

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