No #JusticeForPranay or #EndCaste hashtags. No ‘Nation wants to know’. National TV channels have ignored the caste crime, leaving only Telugu channels to cover the story.

Why didnt Pranays caste killing evoke outrage on national TVCourtesy: Facebook/Amrutha Pranay
news Opinion Sunday, September 23, 2018 - 11:53

National TV channels are important tools that can highlight issues, collate public support and demand justice by incessantly focussing on the topic. The Jessica Lal murder case of 1999, the gruesome rape and murder of Nirbhaya in 2012, the mysterious murder of school student Pradyuman in 2017, are some of the examples where media not only reported the stories but became a part of the solution, to deliver justice. In the Jessica Lal case, the channels actually followed it up in the legal corridors for years, even after the accused Manu Sharma was acquitted by a trial court in 2006, and the High Court took up the matter and convicted him.

Nothing of this sort has happened after the broad daylight murder of Pranay Perumalla Kumar, a Dalit man from Miryalaguda, who was hacked to death for daring to marry Amrutha Varshini, an upper caste woman. Pranay was killed just as he was coming out of hospital with a 5-months pregnant Amrutha, and his mother.

One would argue that TV gauges TRP and viewership in order to qualify a story on prime time. Thus, not every crime or murder makes it to prime time. But even from a TRP perspective, the horrific story of Pranay’s murder had everything that Hindi and English national channels needed. A duo falling in love in school; the woman eloping with the man against the wishes of her parents; a beautiful wedding video shoot shared by Amrutha on social media; a shocking, gruesome murder; an upper caste father’s alleged involvement in the murder of his own son-in-law… It had everything. But the channels didn’t even move a muscle after learning that the murder was planned by Amrutha’s father, while she was pregnant.

And yet, the national channels were completely indifferent to this romantic-story-turned-ghastly-murder. And the reason for this indifference is perhaps the caste angle. The reason, is clearly Pranay’s caste.

Amrutha, Pranay and the media’s indifference to caste issues

Maruthi Rao, Amrutha’s father, admitted, “I am more concerned about my status in the society than my daughter. I am not worried about killing Pranay. I was prepared to go to jail and planned the murder.”

Nalgonda SP AV Ranganath confirmed that it’s a “pre-planned caste hatred” case. Clearly, the father couldn’t digest the fact that his daughter had eloped with a Mala (SC) boy.

Even senior editor of India Today, Rajdeep Sardesai, admitted to the national channels’ neglect of the story, albeit incorrectly attributing it to the “distance” of the crime scene from Delhi.

It was a scene perhaps as gory as scenes from Marathi blockbuster movie Sairat, where an inter-caste couple gets killed by the family of the upper caste girl.

Whether its Shankar and Kausalya, Madhavi and Sandeep, or Amrutha and Pranay, the media has never dwelled on the caste-hatred that is driving the murders of Dalit boys.

Madhavi and Sandeep are yet another inter-caste couple attacked by the woman’s father within days of Pranay’s murder.

Why don’t channels pick up caste issues on prime time?

What is the reason caste issues hardly get prime time coverage? One possible explanation could be that the anchors of the TV channels, who don't come from the “lower castes”, appear extremely uncomfortable discussing the intricacies of the caste system, preferring politicised cases instead, involving the BJP-Congress binary. Discussions around caste privilege and “pride” and the resultant murders of “lower caste” people, is what they appear uncomfortable with.

When we will see prime time debates on caste related crimes, ways to annihilate caste, with a  panel of erudite social workers and anti-caste activists?

In Amrutha’s case, channels should have made hashtags like #FightCasteSystem or #JusticeForPranay and invited inter-caste couples and anti-caste activists. But this was not to be. Even after similar instance in Hyderabad where a father attacked his own daughter and son-in-law for inter-caste marriage, channels did not make the caste system a prime time news.

As Amrutha battles for justice, nearly no Hindi or English Channel reporter has gone to Pranay’s house to talk to Amrutha or their grieving family. It was left only to the Telugu channels.

The incident shows mirror to all of us and to our society. If we have to remove caste system from our society, then we must acknowledge, debate and address the problem. Turning a blind eye will only take us backward.

Kausalya, whose husband Shankar was murdered in 2016, is a anti-caste crusader now.

Even Amrutha Pranay has vowed to uproot the caste system, fight caste-hate killings and live for her child she’s carrying. She has a long battle ahead, beginning with delivering justice to her husband.

Can’t the national media help Amrutha and Kausalya in their fight?

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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