Here is a letter I sent in to the Mid-Day for its problematic reportage on the TISS rape case.
FROM THE MID-DAY WEBSITE:
TISS rape accused was the ‘nicest guy’ in school: Blog
By: A correspondent
Mumbai: They may have been accused for raping the TISS student, but friends of Vinamra Soni (21) and Jaskaran Singh Bhullar’s (20) have not given up on them. A friend of the two has floated a blog appealing netizens to give Soni and Bhullar a second chance. The blog titled ‘They din’t do it’ (sic) created by their schoolmate Tarush Agarwal, who studied with the duo in Loyola School, Jamshedpur, requests the public to hear their side of the story before passing a judgment. In his post, Tarush writes: “I will continue to write to defend my best friends, for I firmly believe they could not commit this heinous crime. I would like to mention, Jask, apart from being the bearer of the friendliest, nicest, and cutest guy trophy is also a brother of three adorable sisters and he respects women.” In an e-mail response to MiD DAY, Agarwal who is currently in USA, said, “Through this blog, I want people to know that there could be a different side to the story. I want them to know that Jaskaran and Vinamra are nice boys, who do regular guy-like things, but at the same time have a strong influence of Indian culture.” Tarush also mentions in the post that Soni and Bhullar were in a train when they heard of the case being filed and were consequently asked by their parents to get off the train, wait for them and then surrender to the police.
My letter to Mid-Day:
———- Forwarded message ———-
I am writing in response to your article “TISS rape accused was the ‘nicest guy’ in school: Blog” which appeared on page 5 of your newspaper on April 23, 2009. It seems immaterial whether Jaskaran Bhullar, one of the six accused in a gang rape case, was the ‘nicest guy in school’ or whether he ‘respected women’. Such character affirmations only tilt public opinion in favour of the six accused. This is especially so since the other accused in the case, Vinamra Soni, whose ‘good character’ is also vouched for by the writer of the blog, has publicly cast aspersions on the victim.
Besides, why is so much space being given to the blog posts of Tarush Agarwal, the best friend of the two accused mentioned above? Why are his opinions being deemed newsworthy? Agarwal has also been quoted as saying that Jaskaran and Vinamra “do regular guy-like things but at the same time have a strong influence of Indian culture”. It is clear from this comment that Indian culture is supposed to imply good, upright behavior and it is insinuated that those who are not Indian, the victim in this case, may be loose, forward and not upright. I find this kind of reporting terribly biased and one-sided and am shocked that you would publish it.