Kapil Kajal | Feb 25, 2020 | 11 min read
Karnataka accidents: Media ignores BJP leader’s son, goes after Cong MLAs son
By Kapil Kajal @ KapilKajal1
On February 11, two luxury car accidents took place in the state of Karnataka. One accident which occurred in Bengaluru involved a Bentley injuring four people, whereas the second one took place in Ballari district and involved a Mercedes. Two people lost their lives in the second accident including a pedestrian and a passenger of the car.
The common thing in these accidents is that both the accidents involved sons of two very prominent politicians – Nalapad Ahmed Haris of the Congress and R Ashok of the BJP.
The newspaper coverage can be seen quite divided when it comes to both the accidents. The Mohammad Nalpad (Haris’ son) case found a place on the front pages of all the major English dailies like Times of India, The Hindu, Deccan Herald, and The New Indian Express. However, the second case involving Sharath, BJP Minister’s son, found no space in these newspapers, except the Times of India which dedicated a small space within the Nalpad story mentioning no name of the minister, the party or the person allegedly involved in the Ballari accident case.
‘Nalpad makes headlines again’
Deccan Herald (DH), a Bengaluru-based daily covered the accident by Nalapad’s son and provided information including his past criminal records. Some part of the report reads, “Mohammed Nalapad — who catapulted to national notoriety for brutally assaulting a youth in a Bengaluru pub in 2018 — is in trouble again. Son of Shanthinagar Congress MLA N A Haris, Nalapad rammed his high-end Bentley car into a motorcycle, autorickshaw and a car on Sunday afternoon near Mehkri Circle, severely injuring the biker. Based on eyewitness accounts, traffic police have issued a notice to Nalapad.”
DH report further reads, “The auto-rickshaw suffered damage while woman passenger Sabiha and her six-year-old son were injured. Soon after the accident, the driver had fled the scene, allegedly in his friend’s car. Interestingly, the central government website ‘Vahaan’ shows that Bentley Continental GT with Telangana registration (TS 09-0009) belongs to ‘Driven By You Mobili’, a car rental company in Hyderabad. The luxury vehicle costs Rs 3.5 crore to Rs 5 crore in the market.”
Another newspaper, ‘The Times of India’ in its report covered the whole accident scene and was seen convinced with “Haris Jr’s” involvement in the case. In one of its report for the case on 12th Feb, the lead of the story reads, “Investigations into Sunday’s Bentley car crash have taken an interesting turn with traffic police issuing a notice to Mohammed Nalapad Haris, son of Shantinagar MLA NA Haris, for allegedly sending his private gunman to own up responsibility for the accident.”
The New Indian Express, a leading newspaper, in its lede of the report for this incident said, “Mohammed Haris Nalapad, son of Shantinagar Congress MLA NA Haris, is in news for wrong reasons again. He has been accused of causing a series of accidents, leaving four people injured, and escaping from the spot.”
The Hindu also monitored the accident and gave the readers every information regarding the case including the bail as well. In one of its reports, The Hindu headline reads, “Mohammed Nalapad gets station bail in car accident case.”
Not only newspapers, news channels and Digital media also covered the accident extensively. News18, India Today, India TV and Republic TV carried the news in their own style. Republic TV’s headline said, “VVIP Brat Surrenders Before Police, Claims Innocence After His Bentley Injures Four.”
From the registration number of the car to the cost of the car, extent of injuries of the victims, the CCTV footages which show the presence of Nalpad, place of the accident, Commissioner’s Quote, getting bail, earlier cases against the person to the FIR lodged against Nalapad’s son, media covered the accident very nicely and the way good reports need to be covered. Every angle of the story can be seen in the news reports that say that Nalapad was involved in the accident. The media deserves a pat on its back for its reportage on this incident.
Media finds BJP minister’s son not worthy enough
However, at the same time, there is one more accident, in which BJP’s R Ashok’s son was allegedly involved. The incident was either not reported or toned down to the extent of naming neither the minister nor his son. Though the Times of India managed to put a small box on the front page inside the Nalapad story, it mentioned no name of the minister or the son and just mentioned ‘sources claimed the car was being driven by the son of a Karnataka minister.’ It also mentioned that the cops denied the involvement of the minister’s son. Bangalore Mirror, ANI etc just stated the incident and interviewed R Ashok where he is saying that his son was not involved in the accident.
Bangalore Mirror in its report with the headline “Revenue Minister R Ashok dodges queries about son’s role in crash” said, “Revenue Minister R Ashok’s son is alleged to have been present in the car which was involved in an accident at Ballari, killing two persons, including a car passenger. However, it is not clear if the minister’s son was in the driver’s seat. His name does not figure in the FIR either.”
The ANI in its report also let BJP leader and Karnataka Revenue Minister R Ashok refuse the presence of his son in the car saying that the matter was still under investigation and that they did not have anything to do with the said car.
The Hindu also reported the incident with the headline, “Police deny involvement of Ashok’s son in accident.”
Some tried to ask hard questions in Mercedes case
When the major newspapers and news channels failed to pose hard questions in Sharath’s case unlike Nalpad’s case, there were some publications which were still on their journalistic duties.
The Deccan Chronicle, which wrapped up its print edition in Karnataka very recently, in its report stated, “In a shocking development, the CCTV footage of an accident involving a Mercedes Benz car that killed two persons on February 10 is said to be missing from cameras installed along the national highway.”
The News Minute (TNM), which covered the story very extensively in its report with the headline “Karnataka minister R Ashoka’s son was allegedly in car that mowed down a man”, said in the report, “A Mercedes Benz car crashed into a tea stall on Monday near a petrol pump in Karnataka’s Hampi killing two people Ravi Nayaka and Laxman Nayak and injuring three others. The media reports emerged that the car was driven by Karnataka Revenue Minister R Ashoka’s son, Sharath. The report also stated that Sharath fled the scene of the crime soon after the accident occurred in another car. The car with license plate number KA05MW0357 was speeding along the national highway at around 2.45 pm on Monday. The car is registered to National Public School in Bengaluru. The Ballari police have denied this allegation, however, eyewitnesses have told news channels that Sharath was in the car. The FIR, which TNM has a copy of, states that Rahul, a 29-year-old resident of Bengaluru’s Jalahalli was behind the wheel. The impact of the accident has grievously injured fellow passengers Shivakumar, Rakesh and Varun.”
Two men who claim to have witnessed the crash told Public TV, “The car tried to manoeuvre around a lorry that was parked on the side of the road but the driver lost control and rammed into Ravi. It dragged him for some distance and also toppled a board. An ambulance came later and took Ravi’s body. The car passenger’s body was taken by a new SUV that came to the scene later.” added the TNM report.
Republic does a ‘damage control’
Initially, the report done by Republic TV ‘BJP brat vs Cong brat’ looked like giving an opportunity to the BJP minister R Ashok to say that his son was not involved instead of confronting him in the real Republic style.
But Republic TV in its other report claimed to have access to the video in which the BJP minister’s son “could be” seen fleeing from the accident site. The report said, “In the fatal Bellary car accident case which allegedly involved the Karnataka Revenue Minister R Ashoka's son, Republic Media Network has accessed a video in which the BJP leader's son could be seen fleeing from the accident site in a pickup truck. He is seen visibly injured after the incident in which two people were killed.”
While broadcasting the incident when the anchor asked the reporter if the video can be used as evidence for the minister’s son, the reporter Pooja Prasanna replied, “It is curious that SP of Ballari had vehemently denied any role of Sharath and even his presence at the location where the accident took place in the Ballari when they were on the way back from Hampi to Bengaluru, but the first photograph that we have accessed several days ago also proves that he was very much present and also sustain several injuries. This video also clearly shows that Sharath was right next to that red Mercedes which was involved in the accident. The mortal remain of the deceased was also seen and Sharath himself has sustained injuries in his right hand and as soon as the pickup truck takes off, we can also see him in this video ducking to make sure that he is not visible to anybody who is either recording or even on their way from that location of the accident to the hospital. Now place this together to the several other testimonies be it that of a doctor of the hospital who went on record to say that he was told that people who are involved in that accident are close relatives and people close to R Ashok which is why he was pressurised to conduct the autopsy in a very hurried manner because it has to be brought back to Bengaluru and also several eyewitnesses go on to say that they have seen Sharath at the location which is charge that was denied.”
Attempt to downplay the case: Journalists
Despite the fact that this a serious case which has killed two people, the media preferred to give the priority to the incident which had injured four people. The media covered one incident very extensively which needs to be done but it chose to ignore another incident completely. While the crime reporters easily get the news as trivial as somebody falling from the bike, chain snatching, robbery etc, were they not aware of this issue?
A Marathi news portal, MaxMaharashtra's founder and editor Ravindra Ambekar said, “Local crime reporters must be aware of the issue. But usually, politicians are the biggest advertisers so 90 percent media or newspapers suppress the story of a politician in power these days. Nowadays only a few are doing stories rest is PR work. Not taking a stand called neutrality, and it’s dangerous for the industry.”
Aditya Sinha, Editor in Chief, Deccan Chronicle and former editor in chief of DNA and The New Indian Express, said, “I think suppression of a story has increased recently. Recently, the media as a whole has been under a lot of pressure not just in India but in the whole world. It has to do with the rise of populism in the world and the populist leaders. So whether it is the US, Turkey, Philippines or India, one of the major targets of the populist leaders is the media so it is under a lot of pressure. That is one factor. Either they become totally the mouthpiece of ruling or they have to keep quiet. The second thing is that many media owners have other business interests as well. So the government knows this of course. So if they write against the ruling party or members of the ruling party, their other business interests get threatened.”
“Ultimately if the media owners support the journalists, the journalists can report freely but in our country, the media owners tend to suppress their journalists. The vernacular newspapers, they feel the most pressure. The Uttar Pradesh MLA who was accused of gang rape, it should be played up, similarly, the car accidents in Karnataka, both of them are underplayed,” he added.
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