Sonika’s death: How Kolkata media is shamelessly shielding the accused

On the morning of April 29, the people of Kolkata woke up to terrible news — model Sonika Singh Chauhan and her friend, Vikram Chatterjee had met with an accident near Rashbehari Avenue in Kolkata. 

Though the car was a sedan, its airbags did not deploy because the car swerved minutes before the impact and was hit on one of the sides, flipping over.

The side that crashed was the passenger seat, where Sonika was sitting. 

This is what remained of the car, see the enormous impact on its body. Do you think this impact can happen if you are driving at 60 kilometres an hour? (Which is considered very high speed in the busy south Kolkata crossing, by the way).

The driver Vikram Chatterjee and Sonika, who were seen on social media partying some hours ago, were rushed to the hospital. Sonika was bleeding profusely and was declared dead on arrival. Vikram Chatterjee was released from the hospital sometime later with only first aid. The initial diagnosis said that there was no serious injury on Chatterjee.

Here is a picture of Sonika who was quite famous as a model in Kolkata and eventually wanted to shift base to Mumbai. 

Soon after the news went viral on Kolkata media, Vikram got himself admitted to another private hospital again complaining of uneasiness and pain.

He was referred to medical tests like MRI etc which eventually concluded that nothing is wrong with him other than the pain from the bodily injuries that he endured during the crash. 

Kolkata was grieving and the police started their investigations into the case. All was good till this case started taking a bizarre turn, thanks to the Kolkata media which initially didn’t raise any question about how the young model died such a horrific death. 

Vikram Chatterjee called a press conference and every media outlet in Kolkata attended it. There he claimed that he was not drunk and he wasn’t driving at break-neck speed. 

He wore a huge bandage on his head and claimed this in front of media cameras.

This is what he said.

A headline in one of the newspapers after the press conference

The national media raised its brows, questioned the authenticity of the claims. But the regional Bengali media continued to play referee even though it was very clear how and why the accident occurred. The defeating silence from the Bengali local media continued and continues today. They are not up in arms against the actor and merely reporting the developments in the story. No investigation was launched by a prominent channel, the way a national media would take it up.

Meanwhile Vikram Chatterjee surrendered before the court and was granted bail on the same day. The local media kept repeating and playing his words on loop that he was not drunk, neither was he driving at high speed (even though the police concluded otherwise).

Meanwhile, Sonika’s friends took to social media to express their anger, many of them eyewitnesses that he was drinking. Others were friends with eyewitnesses who saw Vikram drinking the night before.

Here, take a look at some of the social media posts.

Social media posts by Sonika’s friends and common friends

No, all this haven’t been able to move the Kolkata media who continues to play referee. He is not being referred to as an ‘accused’ and just as an actor.

His ‘exclusive interviews’ waxes eloquent of him and paints him as a loving friend who is crestfallen after Sonika’s death. Sonika Singh Chauhan’s death is being treated as a Greek tragedy with Vikram being the tragic hero.

Despite the fact that he is an accused and the reporting should be from the police investigation point of view (preliminary findings are already public), the vernacular Bengali media in Kolkata continues to remain meek.

We are so sorry Sonika.

The celebrity starved Kolkata media which lives in its own cocoon, hasn’t woken up to modern journalism yet. Most articles about celebrities that are published and aired are still complimentary and end up promoting the celebrity.

Most of these interviews are done by selfie-clicking journalists who want to party, wine and dine with the page three community and aim to get inside their social circles.

Fearless objective celebrity journalism is rare and hard to come by in the Bengali media in Kolkata.

I was a part of it once and I know this ‘domesticated’ beast well.

I am addressing this blog to the editors of Bengali media in Kolkata.

Please treat this as a crime. Please treat the celebrity as an accused. Please investigate the death rather than merely reporting the developments. Don’t try to shield the celebrity but bring out the truth.

You will get enough opportunities to lick boots but opportunities for true journalism come by rarely.

Seize this opportunity, dear legendary journalists.


Facebook takes down Arjun Bhardwaj’s profile after it was vandalised

I had told you before how a group of students were constantly and incessantly vandalising the Facebook profile of Arjun Bhardwaj.

They were posting memes, jokes and abusive messages in the comments section that were directed towards him and his family.

His teachers, family and friends were watching in horror as it was happening because nobody could do anything about it but constantly report the comments to Facebook.


Arjun Bhardwaj who hailed from Bangalore and was studying in a college in Mumbai

More so, even before the investigations were over by the Mumbai Police, Facebook was, in a veiled manner, suggesting that Arjun had committed suicide which obviously was not helping the poor boy or his family.

It must be remembered here that once your FB account is turned into a legacy account (when Facebook is aware that you are dead), they take over the reigns of your account. There is an option of transferring the rights of your ‘dead’ account to your friends or family but only a minute fraction of the users have done that so far.

The reason is simple: You don’t know when you will die and you don’t want anybody to have a look into your profile page. Even you appoint somebody to look after your page when you are dead, the control remains with Facebook and they decide if they want to take the profile page down. 

It seems Facebook has realised what was happening on the boy’s profile. This is the same page where he last posted a video message before killing himself.

Here is a screenshot of the profile page.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 9.05.30 PM

A screenshot of the profile page that has since been removed

To add insult to injury, Facebook was even advertising on top of the page on how to manage a dead person’s account.

However it now appears that after the outrage, Facebook has pulled the profile page down.

While Facebook has its own policies regarding a dead person’s profile, right now there is no system of filtering abusive messages for a person who is no more there to defend himself. For this function, Facebook relies on the person handling your profile page. However, if you haven’t transferred the rights to anybody while you were alive, then Facebook has no system of preventing abuse.

Abuse on Facebook depends on a system of human reporting.

It is not clear whether the action of taking the page down has been triggered by protests and “reports” or it was a request put forward by his family or the Mumbai Police.

Whoever has done this, my heartfelt wishes to the person.

He has done a great service to the poor kid. It’s good that somebody finally realised that the dead need to be honoured and , ‘No ill can be spoken about the dead’.

He is now safe from the attacks of moronic human beings who have infested the social media platform.


Need help to report these morons on Facebook

A visit to Arjun Bhardwaj’s Facebook profile will tell you what is exactly wrong with today’s generation of college students.

Arjun, a college student, recently committed suicide by jumping off from the 19th floor of a five-star hotel in Mumbai’s Bandra.

Before killing himself, he went live on Facebook to record his act and even posted a tutorial which he called ‘Five Steps To Commit Suicide’.

He was depressed. 

But even as everybody who knew him are mourning his passing away, his Facebook profile has turned into a visible representation of all that his wrong with the students of Arjun’s generation.

Students, who are probably of the same age as Arjun, have come on his profile to post abuses for him and his family. I am posting one of them here.

Some have created a website pages with his photos etc and are openly advertising on Arjun’s profile to get more views. 

One website has gone a step forward, they procured the video from the caches and are letting people download it on their phone. Here is a screenshot.

It has not stung their conscience that this is a person who was ill and urgently needed medicines and immediate therapy.

Some students, like Punit Khuswaha, Virat Satish and Parth Shah have repeatedly abused Arjun and his family in the comments section. Sample this one. It will make your blood boil. 

or this one…

There are countless such comments on his profile and most of them by people of the same age group as Arjun’s.

They have posted memes, jokes, vile abuses and are constantly doing it as you read this blog. Some are instigating others to do so.

Arjun is not there anymore to defend himself. I appeal to all of you through this blog to go and report these morons and help us to clean up his profile. 

Most students — I see these days — are like the ones abusing him and joking about him. All they have are their obnoxious attitude and an equally vile point of view which doesn’t offer any room or respect for views and stands of others.

While most students these days live their lives online and nothing is worth their time except for parties and social media, I know that there is a fraction who still have their conscience intact and know the right from the wrong.

I appeal to all of them to go, hunt these morons down and report them. 

Let’s honour our dead.

There cannot be two points of views on that.


Featured, Obituary

Mani Sir missed a deadline today

When he last came to our college, a little less than a year back, I couldn’t help but notice how much weight he had lost.

He was speaking softly and gasping for a breath as I offered him a seat.

He didn’t accept his customary cup of tea.

He declared that he wouldn’t be able to take classes at our institution for “a long time to come”. 

“Today was the last lecture with my Journalism students. I am going in for a kidney transplant in a month’s time. It will take some time before I am fit again to come for regular classes…”

Before I could react to the statement, he continued…

“…But I have completed my part of the syllabus and I will send you the marks before I take admission in the hospital.”

As I kept insisting that he doesn’t need to bother himself with either marks or completing the syllabus, he kept repeating that he was just keeping his date with the deadline.

“A deadline is a deadline and one must respect it. I have a deadline to complete my course and I haven’t missed it, you see. All along I have respected deadlines and there’s no way that I am not doing it now.” 

That was Mani D’Mello. My senior for many years who never missed a page deadline in his lifetime (It is the deadline when a newspaper page is sent to the printing press. Maintaining this deadline is usually the section editor’s responsibility).

As he went in for the complicated operation and later on, after the successful surgery, I kept on communicating with Mani Sir (as I always called him) over Whatsapp and occasionally, over the phone.

Sometimes we would discuss the news website that he was building. He always used to lament that he doesn’t have good desk hands to curate news effectively. 

Senior journalist Late Mani D’Mello

“Most of the youngsters don’t have news sense, you know. Lot of them don’t even have the concept of a news desk. I have to guide them at every step and rewrite their copies. Looking at them, one understands how online media will become in a few years. Online media is going towards chaos from chaos.”

Though he was unsure about where online news outlets were ultimately heading towards, there was one thing he was absolutely sure of.

It was years of acute work stress that affected his health.

“A journalist’s job comes with such stress that it might kill you. You cannot go on working under duress for such a long time. One day the work pressure will get to you. It was because of years of work-related stress that I developed high blood sugar.  Everything else was just an after-effect. If one worries about retaining the job all the time, how can one work? Tell me, which senior journalist is healthy today. Everybody has one complication or the other.”

Later, when I called him to find out how his operation went, he told me that he has set a deadline to “make a comeback.” 

He also told me that he had a successful implant and he was having immunity suppressants to let the new organ settle inside the body. 

“I have to be a little careful and not go out of the house and into public places. The doctor told me that I am susceptible to infection and that is the only thing I should be worried about. Give me a few more months and I will return to your college to teach. In the next academic year, I will be back. That’s the deadline I have set for myself.” 

I clearly heard him chuckling.

Accordingly, we prepared a fresh new Journalism course for him to teach.

Only this time, Mani D’Mello missed the deadline.