Half Truths: Satyamev Jayate (The death of love?)

Let us just say that the June 3 episode of Satyamev Jayate was like watching a concoction of Mughal-e-Azam, Bombay and Mera Gaon, Mera Desh. Add to that a love guru.

First, let me get this out of the way. I am simply amazed that people who are glued to television, read the newspapers, surf websites look on what is around us as a “Bingo!” expose.

Caste, class, religious, economic status barriers between couples have always been there. It is tragic when people have to suffer because of it, but not all such love alliances end up happily. The host refuses to touch upon that. He is on a mission and this time it was to see that people who found each other got married. There was no attempt to understand the compulsions.

Everybody loves a lover, but is it all about ‘honour killing’? There is absolutely no doubt that the khap panchayat in Haryana has been interfering in such alliances. One of the groups was there with its members, and while what they said was bizarre – one mentioned how even in England tradition is more important than the law – it ended up as a comic diversion.

Aamir Khan gave his spiel about the Indian Constitution and how the panchayats were running contrary to it. This is now along expected lines. He is the man upholding the Establishment of a free, democratic country. He does not live in those villages and small towns. Action has been taken against these panchayats, but we just might get news about more, all thanks to our Mission Man.

Will he dare talk about organisations like the Sri Ram Sene or the Deoband fatwas that publicly humiliate lovers?

Why does the show invite people whose cases are subjudice to talk? This is a convenient ruse to steer clear of asking inconvenient and pointed questions. What we get is to skim the surface. He did not touch upon caste dynamics, religious differences, and if I may say so even physical debility (one of the men was on crutches)?

Then, he brought in this Sanjay ji who assists those who have problems. He was the court jester, throwing one-liners on how love conquers all and the older generation should realise the folly of their views. How many people can he help? Most of these runaway couples are from small towns and it is important to know how they will subsist.

There have been lovers immortalised on screen and in literature, and there are lovers in real life. There are crimes of passion. There are hurdles – some created by outsiders. When there was such an opportunity, he copped out. The case is in court.

Then what was the purpose of sitting and witnessing a mother’s tears?

This was surprisingly no different from when the case was first reported. Let me reproduce this from my piece written then, in 2007:

His skull was smashed and his body thrown on the railway tracks. The police in Kolkata claimed that Rizwan-ur-Rehman had committed suicide. His diary and complaints to human rights organisations show that he was being threatened by the cops for marrying Priyanka Todi, the daughter of an influential industrialist from a Marwari family, traditionally considered clannish.

This was less than a month after their wedding. The girl has disappeared; the voice of the criminal party is barely heard and the victim’s family is hounded by the media. In a most appalling move, Rizwan's brother and mother were in the studio for a panel discussion on one of the private channels. At one point the anchor asked the audience to put up their hands if they believed he could have been forced by circumstances to commit suicide. This was media interference in legal matters. Is this how justice is conducted?

Later, the lights were dimmed to show us how Bollywood has portrayed inter-religious alliances. This was demeaning and facile.

The screen captured the father, a butcher, brandishing an axe. The young man was pleading with him to let him marry his daughter. He glowered in return, screaming. The girl cowered in a corner wearing a veil, but her eyes dripped pain. For the sake of cinematic licence they showed the eyes and the face. Our beauties are not to be hidden.

The lover, his ardour not lessened, grabbed the weapon and then the girl’s hand, slashing her arm near the wrist, then his and letting their blood mix. All differences were wiped out in that one melodramatic moment.

Why is it disgusting? It isn’t about Hindi cinema but about how a serious discussion on inter-religious marriage that led to a tragic death chose to use clips from movies; this particular one ended the montage, while the brother and mother watched. The brother said that this in fact was Rizwan’s story.

No, it is not. Not all Muslims are butchers with axes. The sly media devil is creating a most dangerous trend. Rizwan was educated at St. Xavier’s college in Kolkata; he graduated with English Honours. He had ambitions of being a journalist, but due to financial pressure chose to be a graphic designer. They are not a poor, but a middle-class family.

Middle-class does not sound exotic enough when you talk about Indian Muslims. Poor, shabby, illiterate look great.

Communal divisions are getting more pronounced. Disturbingly, while the youth are prone to making choices, they are increasingly making pro-clannish choices. The voices of dissent are not rising against the status quo but for it.

I’d like you to read the full article Two Lovers and the Funeral of Secularism if you can. It may not make you cry, but perhaps you’ll think again about what you already know?

There are muffled sounds about how the tragic cases on the show appeal to the sensitive. Listen, some of us have been through stuff, or seen it up-close and wept our eyes out. We do not need to be given lessons in sensitivity only because someone’s tears on screen move you. This has become a cathartic herd instinct where everyone gathers at 11 am on Sunday to publicly mourn something or the other. If only they could purge the hype.

(c) Farzana Versey


  1. Aamir Khan cannot change the society. I do not think even he has high hopes about that. He is addressing a country where the majority is illiterate. His programs cannot and should not appear like 'hard talk'. I am glad he is managing to avoid major controversies. His program is about awareness.

    And yes, with Aamir Khan presenting the show there will always be a bit of Masala. And you cannot blame him for that. The so called journalists in India are in fact entertainers and commentators. And it so happens that Aamir is better entertainer than they are.

  2. Anon:

    The illiterate masses you are concerned about do not constitute the audience. I would like to see how much awareness will be there among all those who are celebrating the celebrity. We have seen this sort of superficial concern with the people's movement and how it fizzles out.

    Here it enters homes.

    I agree that the media persons too are 'entertainers'. His being a better entertainer does not alter the context of what such entertainment means when dealing with social issues.

    Incidentally, I mentioned it earlier, he and his research team have to look at the entertainment of the lesser entertainers to make the how happen.

    PS: Since you are concerned about awareness, did you read my piece that was linked? I ask because whether you agree or disagree it would show how attracted or not you are to 'masala'. I would fully understand your proclivities then, but would not adhere to them.

  3. FV,

    I support inter-religious marriages as long as:

    1. No conversion out of Hinduism is involved.
    2. The children of such alliance are brought up as Hindus, with Hindu names.

    Unfortunately, we so far have no law in this country to this effect. Hopefully, the situation will change, sooner than later! :)

  4. You have a valid point when you say that SMJ’s team has to rely on the MSM for their stories. I must admit that I was already aware about most of the stories aired by SMJ because they were already covered by the main stream media.

    But I find it difficult to agree with the assertion that the illiterate masses are not the audience of SMJ. And there are of course those who are literate but not educated like the one who has left a comment about protecting the hindu faith when it comes to inter faith marriages.

    I believe that every society in the world has a minority which constitutes its intelligentsia. I also believe that it is the responsibility of this intelligentsia to communicate the failings of the society to the masses. It all comes down to communication and to that extent I believe Amir Khan has done a good job. He has succeeded in grabbing the attention of the otherwise careless masses.

    With the advent of the 24 hours news mediums in India, the masses have been fed Masala and gossip in the garb of ‘News and Analysis’. That is what the masses respond to. A lot of people see Amir Khan as a journalist of some repute because they see him present the same kind of gossip and entertainment which is presented as ‘News’ by the self proclaimed journalists on the 24 hours ‘News’ channels. But I see two major differences between the MSM and SMJ.

    a. While most people watch the MSM with a fair degree of scepticism, Amir Khan has managed to gain the trust of the masses.

    b. With all the Masala and Gossips SMJ also manages delivers a social message.

    I believe Amir is right in not dragging in polarising issues like the actions of Ram Sene and Deoband because that would divert the attention from the main issues. This way he can remain on the message.

    PS: When you wrote about the ‘peoples movement’ I believe you were referring to the so called anti corruption movement launched by Mr. Hazare. To that I only have to say that I am not a believer.

  5. We have to push in for health sector reforms! We need to have a functioning regulator and a proactive ethics and vigilance committee. Kudos Aamir!


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