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Crime and Punishment

The Delhi gangrape verdict evoked a spectrum of responses.

The enigma besetting Narendra Modi’s arrival hung over the media through the week. Everyone from the rookiest reporter to Barkha Dutt tried to read the entrails of the BJP. All reported a perturbation of the humours but failed to deliver a clear diagnosis. The story only revealed the divide within the party, which is not exactly news. So the most important political story remained incomplete until Friday and had to fight for space with the really big one — the judgement and sentencing in the Delhi gangrape and murder case. ABP News split the screen down the middle on Friday, giving the two stories equal play, and it wasn’t alone.

Meanwhile, Rohit Sardana of Zee News packed a bus with young women and started asking them questions. It wasn’t an air-con Volvo, not even an ‘Indian Volvo’. It was a regular Delhi bus, hammered together by ‘bodybuilders’ in Anand Parbat or something, parked amidst some steaming greenery in the muggiest autumn that Delhi has seen in living memory. A mobile Black Hole of Calcutta parked in Delhi, but curiously, neither the guests nor Sardana, in a formal black jacket, seemed to be discomfited. Where did they hide the air conditioners?

Borrowing a line from Mahendra Kapoor’s Filmfare Award-winning song from the 1974 hit Roti, Kapda aur Makaan, the programme was titled Bus! Aur Nahin! Using a bus like the one in which the gangrape had occurred was a slightly weird device, but it broke the monotonous format of the studio talk show, which uses either post-industrial faux Dutch set design or has six little boxes set into a blue screen of death, each populated by a talking head performing a paroxysmal speech act.

It seemed to have been rehearsed, though — it’s unusual to find a group of young people, all of whom know what they want to say and who do not immediately run out of words when they start saying it. The spectrum of feminist responses to the insecurity brought about by the rape wave was clearly articulated, and the debate was widened to matters of law and enforcement by Neelam Katara, whose son was the victim of an honour killing, and the advocate Monika Arora. True, these questions have been discussed endlessly since December last year but since crimes against women have battened on decades of silence, it’s good to keep talking until everyone screams, Bus!

… contd.

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