Social media on Friday erupted in outrage at the callous manner in which an accident involving BJP MP Hema Malini’s car was covered by the media, pointing out that the entire emphasis was on her injuries rather than the death of a 4-year-old girl.
“Hema Malini Injured in Road Accident” said a panel in large type on the masthead of the Hindustan Times in Mumbai, with a smaller headline underneath it saying, “One killed as MPs car collides with another car.” Twitteratis cited this as an example of the VIP culture that had now become rampant not just in the media but in general.
Said one tweet:
Mumbai Mirror had the story on page 5, but the headline followed this trend: “Hema Malini injured in car accident in Rajasthan, 1 killed,” while its stable mate, the venerable Times of India said on page 1, “Dream Girl’s Nightmare: Child killed, Hema Hurt in Road Mishap”, accompanied by a photo of a bloodied actor turned politician. In its Delhi edition, the newspaper only had room for ‘Dream Girls Nightmare’.
The Telegraph, Kolkata was more direct: “Hema injured in car crash,” said the stark headline, completely ignoring any mention of the others. Dainik Jagran, India’s largest selling Hindi paper, had an item on page 1, following the general pattern around the country: “Hema Malini sadak hadse mein ghayal” (Hema Malini injured in road accident.” The venerable Hindu too felt her plight was more newsworthy: “Hema Malini injured in road accident” it informed its readers, while the Indian Express was more balanced, with “Hema Malini hurt, child dead in mishap.”
Hindi newspapers, in general, appear to framed the story better. “Hema Malini ki car se bachi ki maut, khud bhi ghayal” (‘A child killed by Hema Malini’s car, she too is injured’) said Dainik Bhaskar, while Hindustan had “Hema ghayal, ek bachi ki maut“(‘Hema injured, a child dies’).
Television was as insensitive as the English language press. Many viewers complained about what they saw was hypercoverage of Malini’s injuries rather than the death of a child and the injuries to her mother.
The parody Twitter handle, @RushdieExplainsIndia put it succinctly: “A scratch on an Indian celebrity is worth the life of an ordinary Indian.”