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The goons and the media both knew that Mayawati’s statue was to be beheaded!Is the media guilty of promoting a clique of vandalizers, asks ABHISHEK UPADHYAY.

The time was around 11.30 am. A press conference of a little known group, UP Nav Nirman Sena was in progress in the Uttar Pradesh  press club building in Lucknow on Thursday 26th July. Media persons had arrived in good number. Amit Jani, president of this nondescript  fringe group was boasting of his plans to vandalize Mayawati’s statue all over the state. He was asked by few journalists about the timing as to when he planned to do so. A few of them allegedly mocked him for just making baseless claim to get media attention. He immediately accepted the challenge and suggested the media reach the venue in time. To get visuals first and break the story first, the media instantly lapped the golden opportunity and zoomed towards the spot. While the  UP police and intelligence do not seem to have had enough of an inkling of this, the journalists at the press conference, were well aware of the conspiracy in advance.  As a result, they reached the spot in time and got sensational pictures of the vandalizers, in cloud nine position after beheading the statue, with sledge hammers in their hands.

That media was well aware about happening of this crime is now acknowledged by none other than the media itself. Times of India in its story, titled, “Mayawati statue vandalized : Nab vandals or face backlash, warns BSP” provides interesting detail of the development, The statue was broken minutes after the national president of the group, UP Navnirman Sena, told reporters at a press conference in the city that if the state government didn’t dismantle Mayawati’s statues, as promised before the assembly polls, his outfit would do it in the next 72 hours. Cameramen of some TV channels and a few news photographers who attended the press conference apparently had inkling about the Navnirman Sena plans as they were on the spot shooting four members of the group damaging the statue near the Ambedkar Memorial in Gomtinagar.

The Times story very obviously correlates three important facts of holding press conference, execution of the plan and live participation of media persons. Incidentally, the victorious pictures of the perpetrators, taken minutes after they executed their plans got prominentspace in newspapers: See Dainik Hindustan Lucknow edition page 16).Hindustan times in its story titled, “Mayawati’s statue damaged in Lucknow, 3 held” further puts seal on the role of media persons, “The action coincided with a press conference by Jani which was in progress at UP Press Club where he demanded the removal of the statues of Mayawati….. Some media persons were also present on the spot at the time of incident. A constable, Kedarnath Mishra, who was also on duty at the park said that he was unable to take any action because he was unarmed.

In fact, what Hindustan Times story calls a “coincidence” didn’t appear to be any coincidence as such, instead it looked like a well timed approach on the part of the perpetrators to achieve due media attention and good live coverage of the crime. The HT story also established the fact of presence of media persons on the spot at the time of incident. Witness of the crime also proclaimed this universal appeal as well as nature of the media. BBC Hindi has published the statement of Ram Bachan Lal, the guard of Ambedakar Park, Lucknow who elaborated the incident as it happened, “Four youth arrived with media people on the spot. Despite my protest, they took picture of the statue, then after wearing red caps, they climbed atop the statue and damaged its head and hand with sledge hammer.” BBC Hindi has also carried the statement of Lucknow DIG Ashutosh Pandey who promised, “We will very soon work out about the alleged organization Nav Nirman Sena, its leader Amit Jani and the role of alleged media persons.”

Interestingly the media ran the visuals in a  frenzy and a  few of them even claimed that they had the “First Picture”. They played it for hours, and ran the tag, ‘first picture’ along with the image of the beheaded statue on their screen. The incident once again puts media in dock for allegedly promoting a clique of vandalizers. This also raises questions if the self regulation as claimed to be professed by media itself, is in fact a red herring to keep the regulators at bay?

(This article was first published in thehoot.org)

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