SARATHI SCANDAL // Ten Questions the Television Channels are Afraid of Answering

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa was subjected to massive blackout of all information in the television channels for minimum five days as they were schizophrenically engaged in sharpening mass mania against suspected sexual offense of a fellow called Sarathi Baba, considered by gullible people as an incarnation of God.

On August 9, well known young intellectual and thinker, socio-cultural activist Sahasranshu Mohapatra addressed an OPEN LETTER to the Television Channels and their pampered panelists designating them as “Demigods” of Orissa who are well equipped to raise any noise they like at any time on any issue of their preference. As a citizen with the right not to be overwhelmed with anarchic use of media power, he has asked ten questions to the “Demigods” in his “open letter”.

The Television Channels and the persons he has named in his open letter posted in social media are yet to answer him.

I consider it a correct step of a bright young man whom everybody who knows him takes as a conscience keeper of the society.

Let the channels and the panelists named by him come forward with appropriate answers, if they have any, to the questions raised

His ‘Open Letter’ is reproduced below:

Dear Demigods of Orissa,

The flag bearers of morality in private (yes private because you set moral standards for personal lives of individuals as well) and public life, after the relentless coverage of the ‪#‎Sarathisaga‬ since last five days I am writing this OPEN LETTER to you all out of fear, concern and frustration as a concerned Oriya.

My fear is you might tomorrow get hold of a photograph or a video clip of me hanging around with a woman (May be someone enjoying high status in public life) and then set high moral standards, a moral code of conduct for me and when I fail to meet that (which obviously I will fail) you will hound and destroy my life as you have done in the case of the girl concerned (sorry the mysterious girl, as per your words) in ‪#‎Sarathisaga‬.

I hope Mr Satya Nayak of Zee Kalinga, Mr Manoranjan Mishra of Kanak TV, Mr Ardhendu Das of Prameya News7, Chief Editor of MBC TV, Mr Navin Das of Nirbhay and Chief Editor of Pragativadi – you all would answer the following questions. I have few questions for the Orissa Union of Journalists (OUJ) also, so mentioning Mr Prasanna Mohanty.

I have mentioned all these names because I follow you all closely for my daily peg of news.

I follow OTV but not mentioning it for obvious reasons.

I don’t watch Prameya News7 but can’t avoid as all the questions begin with the Prameya’s relentless “90 hours coverage that has made a newly launched channel No 1” (by their own admission).

Here are the questions:

1. What was the issue here in ‪#‎Sarathisaga‬- moral turpitude, illegality and some kind of criminal act or sexcapade involving Sarathi Baba?

2. If it’s about morality yes you can question the lifestyle and living of a religious preacher who calls himself an incarnation of the god. But who gave you the right to question the morality of the girl and set moral standards for her? Does an adult girl need your consent where should she travel, who should she be staying with in a hotel?

3. If it’s about travelling to Hyderabad and staying in a Hotel with an adult girl under which law of this country it’s a criminal act? At the same time if there was criminality by hounding the girl and making her identity public have you not assassinated her character and cast aspersions on her conduct? Are you not further victimizing a victim of the crime (as you call it not the law)?

4. If it’s about sexcapade, has the girl concerned lodged an FIR or a police complaint regarding this? In the absence of a formal police complaint how does this case qualify for such relentless coverage?

5. Hope you all know under section 228A of IPC making public the identity of a rape victim is a punishable offence. Also the SC guidelines on sexual harassment victims don’t allow revealing the identity of the victim. Have you all not committed a crime by making the concerned girl’s identity public and showing her photographs, hounding her family for bytes?

6. Be it ‘Mahaprabhab’, ‘Explosive Exclusives’ or ‘Relentless coverage for 90 hours’ now Sarathi Baba has been sent to police remand. He has been charged for cheating, forgery, promoting superstition, criminal intimidation and criminal conspiracy among other charges. What is new in it? Tell me one charge that we all were not aware of earlier or nobody had alleged about such criminal act in the past? Why you all were silent then and now firing from the shoulder of a Dalit girl?

7. Is the objectivity of the newly launched news channel Prameya News 7 full proof? When you are setting high moral standards for all, should not the channel’s morality or that of the organization running the channel be put to public scrutiny?

8. The Orissa Union of Journalists strongly reacted to the police atrocity in Kendrapada because media persons were also not spared. But does not the OUJ agree with the fact that the media houses with their brazenness and shameless coverage of a non-issue created a vitiating circumstance that gave opportunity to the Orissa police to unleash its brutality?

9. When with your irresponsible behavior you create a circumstance that can make anyone vulnerable and create a volatile situation why do you complain if you at all become a collateral damage? Will OUJ take ‪#‎Sarathisaga‬ as a test case and set up guidelines for the media houses in Orissa, at least for its members? Remind you NBA learnt its lesson after 26/11 coverage.

10. Was this story needed such a relentless coverage round the clock for five days? Could this story have been presented in a better way without recklessness and brazenness? Is it such a big issue that is Orissa confronted with today? Will OUJ ask its members to introspect and also take steps to prescribe a set of code of conduct like all the demigods set it for all others?

I am a kid before all the demigods mentioned above. I’ve grown up watching and reading you. If this is the standard you set for us kids, then think what kind of future are you all going to create?

Hope you all will answer the above questions. After all the demigods have the power to make or break (sorry destroy) anything and everything, at least in Orissa.

Please answer my questions, so that I don’t live in fear and apprehension. With your permission may I hang out with a woman (who could be a public figure), yes if at all that meets the moral standards set by you all.

Regards,
A kid in Media block who follows you all for his daily peg of news.

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