Kuldeep’s homecoming, live on television

BY TERESA REHMAN| IN Regional Media | 11/09/2016
Released by his abductors, a young man in ULFA’s captivity for a month, returns home to hounding by the TRP brigade.


Picture this: it is evening and the house is full of people. TV camera and reporters try to peek in and get some exclusive visuals. A young man who has just been rescued from his abductors reaches home after an ordeal of one month 10 days. He holds on to two of his relatives and is seen visibly traumatised. Just then a TV reporter thrusts the mic at him and asks, “How are you feeling?” The man replies, “How will I feel? Of course, I am happy. Please don’t ask me anything more” and he breaks down. This same scene was repeated on at least three channels, with the ticker ‘exclusive’ following it.

A high-voltage abduction drama of BJP leader Ratneswar Moran’s son Kuldeep by the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) (ULFA-I) was lapped up by the local media. Kuldeep was kidnapped by the ULFA (I) on August 1, 2016 from Tinsukia district in upper Assam and was released on September 9, 2016 in Nampong, Arunchal Pradesh. ULFA (Independent) is the faction of the militant outfit which is led by Commander-in-chief Paresh Baruah. This faction is averse to talks without sovereignity as the core issue. The outfit claimed that Moran is a spy of the security forces and have been informing the security forces about the movement of the cadres of the outfit.

Interestingly, the militant outfit used the media to reach out to his parents. “The video clip showed Kuldeep Moran in a kneeling position, with five heavily armed masked men standing guard, with all six facing the camera. Moran was wearing a green t-shirt. Moran’s father Ratneswar Moran, who is a vice-president of the Zilla Parishad, has some business activities in the Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh that shares boundary with Tinsukia,” reported the Indian Express.

"The anchor screamed, “Here is Kuldeep. He has opened his mouth for the first time in front of our channel.” "

Both the regional and the national media went to town with the so-called ‘ISIS-type video’-- “In a chilling ISIS-style video, ULFA-i demands 1 crore ransom”. Firstpost reported: “United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent) releasing the video of Kuldeep Moran, the kidnapped son of a BJP leader, is seen as a warning to the ruling party in Assam. Though the kidnappers, who have identified themselves as Ulfa cadre, have demanded a ransom of Rs one crore from Kuldeep’s father, money is not seen as the sole motive behind the kidnap. The kidnap is being rather seen as a move to deter BJP’s march in North East by the militant group, which is known for it's anti-BJP stance.”

NDTV wrote: “The ULFA-I, in a chilling ISIS-style video, had demanded Rs. 1 crore as ransom for the release of Kuldeep. It was possibly the first time the organisation has released a ransom video like this in its 37-year history.”

After more a month-long uncertainty, Kuldeep was released and TV channels followed him home. Another channel flashed exclusive on its screen. The anchor screamed, “Here is Kuldeep. He has opened his mouth for the first time in front of our channel.” The anchor went on. “He was kept in the jungles of Myanmar. We will bring you more. We urge our video journalist to show every corner of his house.” Then again the anchor screamed, “We now have his father with us. Let’s ask his father and get his reaction.”

Then comes the father, looking worn out. Still he gives the much-awaited sound bite. He used the media to express his gratitude to ULFA supremo Paresh Baruah. “We were all anguished. I would like to tell Paresh Baruah through electronic and print media that my son is innocent. My son is not a spy. He got wrong information about my son. I am thankful that all media spoke up for me,” he said.

His mother looked hassled but did not miss the opportunity to thank the media and public for helping her son. “I could see my son only through the media. I saw his video on the television channels. I had never imagined that I would see him alive,” she said.

Sitting in Moran’s house was pro-talk ULFA leader Prabal Neog who also was keen to express his feelings to the world through the television channels. He said, “I am happy. It’s a historic moment. It was an inter-continental abduction. For the first time, ULFA abducted someone and took him to another country ie Myanmar and he came back alive. We had requested Paresh Baruah to take personal interest in the matter. I would like to thank Paresh Baruah through the media,” he said.

Meanwhile, another television crew manages to get an exclusive footage of Kuldip lying on his bed and his mother clinging on to her dear son. The reporter went on, “Here, we can see Kuldip’s mother hugging her son. She is emotional. His wife is also emotional. His entire neighbourhood is emotional.”

Obviously, Kuldeep could see the intrusion into the privacy of his bedroom. He sat on his bed. He looked at the TV cameras staring at him. He said, “I feel like I got a new lease of life today.” And yes, the television channels got their share of TRP.

A day after Kuldeep reached home, a channel carried an exclusive ‘sensational’ interview with him. The living room of the house was full of men sitting on the chairs and sofa while the women squatted on the floor. Everyone watched him agog as he gave his interview. Dressed in a white shirt, Kuldeep looked fresh and relaxed. He narrated some of the events during his captivity. He said, “I was given mental pressure to shoot for the video which was sent out to media houses. They recorded my statement with a mobile phone and a small camera. I felt like I will not come back and I repeatedly kept asking him why they abducted me. I was just a petty businessman.”

He gave details of what he ate. “I was usually given rice and dried fish or meat. They guarded me and I was also followed when I went to answer the call of nature. I slept on polythene and small blankets laid on the ground. Each day felt like a year,” he said.


Teresa Rehman is Managing Editor, www.thethumbprintmag.com



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