Murder accused dad kills himself, finds support online
It was a case that rocked the conscience of the nation. An influential businessman in Hyderabad, Maruthi Rao, got his daughter’s husband killed by hired goons. The young man, Pranay Perumalla, was hacked to death in front of his pregnant wife, Amrutha. His crime? He was Dalit. Maruthi Rao was arrested, along with the other accused, but he was released a few months ago. Earlier, this month he committed suicide in a hotel room.
The honour killing had sparked a wave of outrage within the state and outside but soon enough, a barrage of trolls began shaming and defaming Amrutha online. These trolls, belonging to the dominant castes, including the Vyshya community of which Rao was a part, were upset that Amrutha filed a complaint against her father and ensured that he was punished. The vile comments she got on a page she had started, named ‘Justice for Pranay’, included slut-shaming, calling her a ‘curse’, ‘poison’, a ‘virus more dangerous than Coronavirus’ and more.
Even more disturbing was the support that Maruthi Rao received from this online community, with people hailing his ‘fatherly love’ and how ‘he was able to kill and die for his daughter’. Some hailed him as a ‘legend’ and a ‘king’, yet others changed their profile pictures to his photo. Even today, there are innumerable fan pages for Maruthi Rao on social media.
Prominent among his supporters was Rajinikanth Vellalacheruvu, a popular news presenter and host from TV9 Telugu. He tweeted ‘Keeping aside the bad things of Maruthi Rao, he has a father’s love that is capable of killing and dying’. The channel itself followed a hugely insensitive and distasteful narrative that indirectly promoted the online abuse of Amrutha.
Some of the statements made by the channel included asking Amrutha to go back to her mother since it was ‘Maruthi Rao’s last wish’, praising the love that Rao had for his daughter and how he ‘hoped that his death would melt his daughter’s heart’ and whether the ‘distance which grew due to the murder, will be bridged due to the suicide?’
Malvika Binny, assistant professor, SRM University, says this is due to the peculiar situation in India where caste and patriarchy are intermeshed, leading to an unique system of oppression and hierarchy. The huge focus on family places emphasis on protecting the family’s ‘honour’ which also translates into caste honour.
“BR Ambedkar and others such as MN Srinivasan and Sumit Guha have argued that it is endogamy (the custom of marrying only within the limits of a local community or social group) which sustains caste in India; hence Indian parents are paranoid about their children marrying into lower castes because upper caste status is equated with not only ritual purity but also social supremacy. So your offspring marrying into a lower caste is not only the loss of ritual purity, but also of caste privileges,” she explains.
Dr Sugami Ramesh, senior consultant, clinical psychology, Apollo Hospitals Bannerghatta Road, adds mostly people do not think from the other person’s point of view and form biased opinions instead. “They are usually not empathetic and instead prefer to follow the popular opinion on social media or other platforms.”
Are regional channels playing to the gallery?
While over dramatisation seems to be a hallmark of most Indian news channels, distasteful reporting that highlights sentiments rather than facts could be symptomatic of a larger malaise, Malvika says.
“The fact that most regional channels are playing down the caste angle in the issue is a case of deep rooted prejudices being masked by a thin veil of ‘modern’ values. The non exploration of the caste question involved and branding the act of caste violence as fatherly love is an act of the media being reluctant to challenge pertinent questions which plagues contemporary India and reducing the issue to that of a single family’s situation.” “A 2019 survey (by scroll.in) reveals that about more than 80 per cent of all managerial positions in regional news channels are also manned by people from the upper caste; hence the defence of Rao’s gruesome act might be also a larger reflection of the worldview of the media houses on caste,” she adds.
Kannada television channels incite hatred
Though there are many examples of problematic reportage, the most recent one would be how student activist Amulya Leona was targeted. While it is understandable that her slogans supporting Pakistan have upset many, she has over and over again clarified that she was misunderstood and not allowed to complete the point she was making.
Even if we disregard that, television anchors baying for the 19-year-old’s blood through their shows and advocating physical violence against her is irresponsible, unenthical and maligns the image of the media as a whole
Courtesy : DH