The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Akshardham attack on TV

New Delhi, May 13: Wearing its jingoism on its sleeve in a manner that embarrassed even deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani, television channel Zee News today screened its video film, Operation Akshardham, on the militant attack in the temple near Gandhinagar last September.

Advani was the chief guest at the special screening of the film, the second in a series on terrorism after the video reconstruction of the December 13, 2001 attack on Parliament.

“This is neither a piece of fiction nor is it factual like a documentary,” Advani said of the moving images that were touted as an in-depth investigation into the killings and the operation by the National Security Guard that followed. “This is a reconstruction of events on the basis of available information. I thought Zee’s effort on the December 13 attack was better and a courageous effort.”

Advani, who in a lighter vein apologised for speaking like a film critic, said the film should have highlighted the importance of the Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar. Unwilling to be harsher in his criticism, the deputy Prime Minister used the occasion to air his views on media responsibility.

“It is important for the media to educate people on the war against terrorism. In that sense, Zee News’ effort is commendable,” he said. Advani then moved on from the film per se and stated that the media should seek to encourage trust in the effort against terrorism.

“There will always be a lot of things that will not enhance the image of the country. But to move ahead, you should be able to pick out what is really contributing to creating optimism and what is really contributing to creating pessimism and cynicism,” he advised.

Operation Akshardham, the 40-minute video venture, will be premiered by Zee News on May 16 at 8 pm. It is quite impossible to define a slot for it. It is neither journalism nor a narrative nor a TV version of the literary genre that has come to be called “faction” — a mix of fact and fiction.

The film does not delve into the operation inside the temple and cultural complex that left about 40 killed and involved a counter-terrorist battle by NSG commandos who were flown from Delhi.

In the main, the film dwells on reconstructing the ISI recruitment of the Lashkar e Toiba to attack the temple and the militant outfit’s despatch of two youth for the operation. This reconstruction, too, is based on the official version of events as given out by the police and the CBI. There is no detail that is not widely known and reported. The exclusivity of the film lies in the use of an Ambassador taxi hired by the militants to get to the temple from the Ahmedabad railway station.

Given the timing of its release — when Delhi has made peace overtures to Islamabad — the film looks suspiciously like a cheap publicity stunt.

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