Channel Surf: NDTV 24X7

Four angry women and one lone male ex-cop do not make for the most balanced debate on Tehelka’s recent sting.

ByMadhu Trehan
Channel Surf: NDTV 24X7
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Tehelka’s excellent sting operation exposing the misogynist prejudices of cops is essential family viewing, excluding for those below I would say twelve years of age. There is the repeated pushing of concepts by cops on tape that women who dress provocatively, drink, get into cars with boys – all deserve to be raped. NDTV, which I call the grey channel because it is always so bland and predictable, got a shot in the arm with this well-planned Tehelka sting.

Nidhi Razdan, valiantly attempted to keep the pitch high by NDTV standards but it invariably fell into the grey area when the clips of the sting were not being shown. Admittedly, the women on the panel are all firebrands and Nidhi kept up with them.

Panel: Shoma Choudhary, Managing Editor of Tehelka; Arun Bhagat, former Commissioner of Police and former Director of Intelligence Bureau; Kiran Bedi, former IPS officer; Vrinda Grover, Senior advocate; and Meena Kandasamy, Writer.

Arun Bhagat became a target for the fire-breathing women when he stopped being politically correct. Nidhi asked Arun Bhagat whether these men should be sacked as Vrinda Grover suggested. Arun Bhagat: “Well, I don’t know. You see, the evidence will turn up, departmental inquiries will be done, different officers will take the decisions, there is an appellate arrangement, so the whole procedure is very long-winded. Ultimately, whether the person will be sacked or will be given a minor punishment is something that will be determined after the departmental inquiry.”

Nidhi, by NDTV standards, lost it. Waving her hands she shouted: “No, no. What do you think? Okay no, no, no. If it’s proved right, if it’s on tape…” Everyone started shouting at the same time.

Vrinda Grover said: “Yes you can. Under the constitution in Article 311 you can sack them.”

As much as I support Vrinda Grover’s views on this issue, I looked up Article 311 in the Indian constitution. It actually states the opposite. That’s how they get away with so much.

Article 311. Dismissal, removal or reduction in rank of persons employed in civil capacities under the Union or a State

1.    No person who is a member of a civil service of the Union or an all India service or a civil service of a State or holds a civil post under the Union or a State shall be dismissed or removed by a authority subordinate to that by which he was appointed.

2.    No such person as aforesaid shall be dismissed or removed or reduced in rank except after an inquiry in which he has been informed of the charges against him and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges. Provided that where it is proposed after such inquiry, to impose upon him any such penalty, such penalty may be imposed on the basis of the evidence adduced during such inquiry and it shall not be necessary to give such person any opportunity of making representation on the penalty proposed: Provided further that this clause shall not apply

Arun Bhagat: “Nobody has the authority to just dismiss them like that.”

Vrinda Grover: “According to the constitution you can under Article 311, you do. I hope you are reading the Constitution.”

Arun Bhagat: “For expressing some views?” (He is incredulous!) “You want to use the Constitutional process?”

(Well, if Arun Bhagat had read the Constitution, he could have told Vrinda Grover about Article 311.)

Vrinda: “For protecting women’s dignity and their bodies please use the Constitution.”

Nidhi: “How can they investigate rape cases if these are their views?”

Arun Bhagat: “That is true. That’s why I said their views are crude and coarse. You forget that I said that. I completely agree with that. But the guillotine may not be the answer. There are other answers. A person who goes to jail has a right to be reformed. These are judgments. Here are police officers who cannot be reformed. What are you talking about?”

Shoma Choudhary then gives Arun Bhagat the third degree as only Shoma can. Sorry, he asked for it.

After that the women make keema out of Arun Bhagat. He cannot be saved.

Watch from 26:05

But, Arun Bhagat did make a revealing point. All the tapes were of cops outside of the NCR. He said these men come from patriarchal societies and carry the same prejudices that they have grown up with. They have not had the social exposure that would open them up to different views or perspectives. While that of course does not excuse them, it does point out that a lot of work needs to be done in non-urban areas if we are to change the way girls and women are treated. It is the banality of misogyny.

Where was Kiran Bedi? Where were Kiran’s usual feisty interruptions? Well it is NDTV. Many put it on at night to put themselves to sleep. But not this programme.  When Nidhi finally called on Kiran to participate and then interrupted her – hey, it’s not often that Nidhi gets a role she can bite into and she was biting…she was on a roll here – Kiran then testily told her off. Why wouldn’t she? Nidhi was interrupting her work on her laptop. Kiran: “Nidhi, can I answer the question properly?” Nidhi retreated.

The programme is worth watching. It shows really good work by Tehelka, since it is thought through and well planned. However, Nidhi’s programme was one-sided. It would have been great if some of the cops caught on tape were also part of the panel. Or at least someone who believes all that the cops espoused on tape, especially that women are responsible for their own rapes, were included. We have had numerous public officials who have voiced this view. The most recent was Karnataka’s Women and Child Welfare Minister, C C Patil who replied to a question about the rise of rape incidents: “I personally don’t favour women wearing provocative clothes. Women should know how much skin they should cover. Rapes are rising because the women wear flimsy and fashionable dresses.” Soon after C C Patil was caught watching pornography in the Karnataka assembly. Enough said.

Clearly more than a National Commission for Women, we need a National Commission for Men that carries out sensitising programmes across the country, in schools, colleges, civil services, corporate houses and any profession that deals with women. Hey, everybody.

The National Commission of Women takes complaints and handles atrocities on women. But it is a band-aid. I do not say NCW does not do the required work. But the cause is not dealt with at all. If there is a dengue outbreak doctors can treat patients, but until mosquitoes are eradicated it will be a losing battle. The National Commission for Men would eradicate the mosquitoes -the cause of the atrocities.  No, not eradicate men but eradicate their prejudices. It could be responsible for educating men from all incomes and societies.

I love and admire Kiran Bedi. Again, where was she? What does it say about what she thinks about NDTV’s programme? Kiran handled being live on NDTV and carried on with her laptop work at the same time. Kiran has a great sense of time management and considering the various areas she is working in, why waste time? Multi-tasking woman on display here. Don’t worry, Nidhi. Nothing personal. Just business – like they said in the film The Godfather.

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