Out of Control

As the Delhi rape story winds down, another week brings a story of violations of another sort. Now that a gruesome military atrocity has got airtime on the national news, it turns out that ceasefire violations at the Line of Control are routine. Arunoday Mukharji of CNN-IBN reported a tally of 72 last year. Srinjoy Chowdhury of Times Now trumped him with 117. "One every three days on average," he concluded witheringly, and the news anchor slid into an inflamed rant about hobnobbing with the Pakistanis at the highest level while their soldiers murder and torture ours.

The LoC story triggered an arm's-length race between leading English channels. "Believe it or not, we are just 20 km from Pakistan," said Arunoday Mukharji, almost on location. Well, believe it or not, zillions of Indian tourists have been much closer to Pakistan. Set aside the hordes who have visited Wagah to marvel at the competitive frog-marching and cancan-kicking and candle-lighting. Even discounting them, millions have travelled border-wards on the backs of fractious camels at the dunes of Sam Dhani, near Jaisalmer.

Camel-drivers wave dramatically in the general direction of the border, which is always just beyond the furthest visible dunes. Mukharji had an even more dramatic backdrop — a mountain range in whose lee the LoC lay, he said, with the Pir Panjal shimmering like Shangri La in the distance. But he dropped anchor at that point, which was the honourable thing to do.

Meanwhile, Times Now had intrepidly infiltrated its reporter Pradeep into the heat of battle. He had gone right down to the barbed wire. Steely spaghetti looped across the screen. An icon on the screen read, "KG Sector, Poonch", while the anchor announced a "first-hand account of the situation at ground zero." The footage, shot at night, was prominently timestamped. It was as if the channel anticipated that its coverage would be questioned and was packing the screen with alibis.

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