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Indian Media’s Love for Naming and Shaming – The Jasleen Kaur Case

Is the Jasleen Kaur case a reminder for the Indian media to not malign a possibly innocent man?

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Not satisfied with an FIR copy, St Stephen’s student Jasleen Kaur sought retribution on social media against her alleged harasser Sarvjeet Singh. On August 24, she put up a Facebook post along with Sarvjeet’s photograph that she wanted to be “shared so many times that it lands up on his family’s Facebook walls”. Jasleen alleged that Sarvjeet harassed her at a traffic signal in Delhi’s Tilak Nagar on August 23.

Understandably, mainstream media sensed a potentially viral story and played up the story of a “braveheart”, who “single-handedly took on her harasser”, while a “mute public watched on”.

No attempt was made to get the other side of the story, or for that matter, to conceal Sarvjeet’s identity – his photograph was plastered across news channels for millions to see.

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Is the Jasleen Kaur case a reminder for the Indian media to not malign a possibly innocent man?
The original photograph clicked by Jasleen Kaur was shared by more than 20,000 people on Facebook. (Photo: Twitter/@JasleenKaur89)

Is “Not Looking Apologetic”  A Crime?

India’s leading English channel wants India to fight back. With words like “pervert” and “lout”, Times Now seemed pretty convinced about Sarvjeet Singh’s guilt.

Is the Jasleen Kaur case a reminder for the Indian media to not malign a possibly innocent man?
Due to paucity of time and space on a screen, news channels put accusations like “lout” or “pervert” in quotes to deflect defamatory charges. (Photo: YouTube/Times Now)

This is how Sarvjeet was interrogated by the media:

1. Men like you misbehave with girls, you are arrogant about it and are unafraid of getting caught [...] you should apologise, Sarvjeet. You should apologise on camera!

2. Why did you run this propaganda that she is from Aam Aadmi Party? You and your family should apologise for your behaviour on the roads. But your family turns around and says “our son is innocent”. Even now, looking at your face, there is no regret. This is very shameful.

Sarvjeet has a one line reply that seems to answer most questions – Is Jasleen right just because she’s a girl?

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Walking Off A Debate = Guilty?

Meanwhile, a Hindi news channel, seeking the truth of whether the Tilak Nagar incident was “real or just a publicity stunt”, got it all wrong. The debate was pegged on an eyewitness account that contradicts Jasleen’s version of events.

But Jasleen walked out of the frame, accusing the channel of not honouring her pre-condition by confronting her with the eyewitness and Sarvjeet’s mother on a panel discussion.

Is the Jasleen Kaur case a reminder for the Indian media to not malign a possibly innocent man?
Jasleen walked out of this panel discussion on Zee News. (Photo: YouTUbe/Zee News)

But hot in pursuit of the truth, the news anchor, tries to make Jasleen stay:

Just like you, Sarvjeet is also being mentally harassed. You should not run away from our questions. If there is truth in what you are saying, you should come back and face our questions.

Her conclusion – “Jasleen has walked off because she could not take the heat of our questions”. Clearly this appears more like a judgement, than an observation.

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Definitive, With No Room For Doubt or Actual Investigation

Social media FIRs have resulted in instant judiciaries passing multiple judgements on the basis of half-baked facts. In this case, mainstream media and even the Delhi Chief Minister who announced a bravery award and Rs 5000 in cash for Jasleen Kaur, gave good competition to the quick trigger online justice system.

Is the Jasleen Kaur case a reminder for the Indian media to not malign a possibly innocent man?
Screen grab from the video that made the Rohtak sisters infamous. 

Rohtak Repeat

The emerging facts of the Jasleen-Sarvjeet saga bring back memories of the Rohtak sisters. A video of them beating up their “molesters” could not be traced to its source. After failing a lie-detector test, the Haryana government was left red-faced after announcing a Bravery Award. And the boys? Their careers were pretty much destroyed with the Army refusing to recruit the two hopefuls.

Is the Jasleen Kaur case a reminder for the Indian media to not malign a possibly innocent man?
25-year-old Misbah Qadri, who claimed to have been denied a rented flat in Mumbai because of her religion. (Photo: ANI screengrab)

Nuisance Neighbour

Similarly, a woman in Mumbai claimed brokers refused to let her have a house despite a signed agreement because of her religion. The media made a hue and cry about religious discrimination. But nothing was heard when it came to light that the woman was denied a house because her neighbour had described her as a nuisance.

Is the Jasleen Kaur case a reminder for the Indian media to not malign a possibly innocent man?
Members of a mob raise their hands to take photos of a man, top centre, accused of rape after he was lynched and hung in the city landmark Clock Tower in Dimapur, Nagaland. (Photo: AP)

Nagaland Tragedy

But a more dangerous example was set in Nagaland when an accused rapist was dragged out of jail by an angry mob, stripped and beaten to death. He was later found to have been wrongly accused.

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It’s hard to know the truth, even harder to report it. But when even the Delhi Police Commissioner, while promising an unbiased investigation, refuses to make an off the cuff comment, who is the media to arrive at any conclusions?

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