Thursday 26 May 2022
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Don’t Dare Call A Terrorist A Rebel

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[dropcap]E[/dropcap]mulating the British media, a section of the Indian counterpart now calls terrorists “rebels”. When somebody hits you, a euphemism used to describe him acts as an addition of insult to injury. Let’s see what they feel about this account of an incident that happened to them in the 1990s.

Today both Zee News and Rajat Sharma’s India TV may come across as apologists of the BJP-led NDA government; so their criticism may not go down well with the lot that is pejoratively referred to as “bhakts“. These media houses should hardly be targeted for romantic descriptions of terrorists. But there was a time when neither propagated ideas of the right wing.

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Rebel Rajat Sharma ransacks Zee office

Resigns, leaves in a huff


Special correspondent

Rajat Sharma was the face of Zee TV, which was, in the 1990s, the Essel Group’s sole television channel, only a part of which was dedicated to news. It was made famous by Sharma’s innovative way of presenting Hindi bulletins replete with English words that the audience found easier to relate to as compared to Doordarshan’s “rajbhasha” where technical terminology communicated through “paribhashik shabdavali” (English-to-Hindi translation of jargon) would make a whole lot of phrases unintelligible [Sharma later launched India TV, beginning with sensationalist sting operations and frivolous reports].

Image result for rajat sharma zee tvBut soon, reminiscent of under editor Dileep Padgaonkar and the owner duo of Jain brothers, the businessman-owner of Zee TV thought that his editor Sharma had grown larger than his shoes, hogging all the limelight. Terrible office politics ensued, which culminated in a ruckus in the media house’s NOIDA office. On the day Sharma had decided he would resign, 3 January 1997, he came to the office with a bunch of goons, hurled unprintable abuses at owner Subhash Chandra Goel (who does not use his surname anymore), ransacked the whole office, threw his resignation letter at the CEO and left the premises in a huff.

Image result for subhash chandra zee tvReacting to the incident, a group of junior staffers told this correspondent that they had immensely enjoyed the pandemonium. “‘ham chaaval ki boriyaan bech-bech kar yahaan tak pahunche hain‘ (I struggled to reach where I am today, selling sacks of rice) was Subhash Goel’s refrain while speaking to any staff member,” said a cameraman who later went on to work with Channel V and who is now a busy freelancer in the Mumbai film industry.

“Why did he have to bore all of us with his rags-to-riches story?” a programme producer said, adding, “What does a baniya understand of journalism? How can he tell us we do not know our job?” He later became a producer with BBC.

“Right,” said a colleague of his. “How does the experience of selling rice make him competent to run a news channel?” the woman asked. She runs a fashion portal associated with several boutiques these days.


Now, Rajat Sharma in the story above is what you call a rebel. Maybe a hoodlum on that eventful day, but not quite a terrorist. In fact, calling such personalities terrorists would be hyperbole. But it does not work the other way round. The bid to lessen the crime of a perpetrator of mass murder with a less offensive description is unacceptable. “Rebel” in particular sounds like a revolutionary, whom many of us look up to for their display of valour for a cause. Sharma’s fight was personal, serving no larger social purpose. His act was that of a rebellion nevertheless.

Yet, one is sure, the owner of Essel Group would have preferred a harsher portraiture of Sharma in the story. And yes, the businessman who issues spiritual sermons these days would also not like you to know that he used to be a rice trader once upon a time and a bad boss in a media house later.

The next time a newspaper or news channel calls a terrorist a rebel or a gunman, it should brace for another revelation of this kind. Hint: What happened when several senior journalists went to Peter Mukerjea and Indrani Mukerjea, looking for a job?

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