Waking up to broadsheets splashed with photographs of chief minister Naveen Patnaik with a catch line “Odisha is proud of its transformative leader,” was a bit difficult to digest on a day like this. The newspapers never seemed so abhorrent like today. Because it was not even 24 hours that the much talked about and politicised Kunduli gang rape, that shook the state after the victim came out in open about the trauma she faced in the hands of ‘men in uniform’, had ended with her suicide.
The fact that the CM’s office or his PR department had released the advertisement on a day like this is as much disturbing as the very absence of sensitivity by people like us in the media; here it’s only the print medium, agreeing to make it their jacket that directly or indirectly pushed the suicide story to page number three. Revenue generation is important but it is equally important to be sensitive to an issue that rattled the conscience of one and all. A news report that could have hogged bold banner headlines on the front page had it been a Kolkata or Delhi, was pushed to a two or three-column story in an inside page. After all, most vernacular dailies and national dailies have a wide reader base. Let’s accept it, not many readers including even the supporters of the ruling party, would have had a pleasant look at the cover page. The ad could have waited for any other day.
The state mechanism, in last few months, that was working in collusion to wrap the matter up was caught on the wrong foot with the news of the suicide. That too, at an ‘inopportune’ moment when the CM was addressing a gathering of thousands on his Ideal CM award ‘feat’. In fact, if news reports are to be believed, by the time the CM landed in the city, the victim had succumbed. Whether the news was kept in abeyance to complete the ‘rousing reception’ or it actually broke at 4 pm instead of 2.30 pm when she was declared dead, is anyone’s guess.
However great maybe the reason, celebrations could have waited, for a day, days or weeks. The CM has been here for the last 18 years and will continue as long as the mandate favours. The gang rape victim was no more and it was expected of an aware government to have turned sombre instead of continuing the music of joy that was deafening given the loud cries from Kunduli. In fact, eulogies are spoken and written about an erudite CM for his upbringing, education and lifestyle. At least he could have shown the state some solemness to put a stop on making his ideal CM-ship a reason to rejoice at a time an incident like Kunduli has shamed mankind!