By India Today
Monday Nov 1 2:48 PM
A smalltown widow claims she was taken for a ride despite being promised justice on 'Rakhi Ka Insaaf'
Drama queen Rakhi Sawant seems to have hit a new low on reality TV. After conning viewers with her marriage stunt, Rakhi Ka Swayamvar, she is doling out 'social justice' on Rakhi Ka Insaaf. Inspired by The Jerry Springer Show, she is supposedly solving problems ranging from domestic strife and adultery to incest and casting couch woes.
The low point lies in the fact that the show grossly adds voyeuristic appeal to a victim's trauma using spy cameras to record his/her private life, instead of addressing sensitive issues honestly. Rakhi is using her fame abundantly, because makers of the show convince participants to reveal their sordid tales on camera with the assurance that the reality TV star will solve their problems.
"We are not getting into legal aspects of solving problems. The show is about discussing issues that we consider taboo," defends Sameer Nayar, CEO, Imagine TV, the channel airing Rakhi Ka Insaaf.
Rakhi insists she wants to bring peace in the lives of sufferers, and adds: "We need to discuss such topics rather than shun them. The reality about this 'reality show' however seemed totally different when we contacted one of the participants. It also made the fact obvious that the sting operations done to "unearth the truth" grossly impinge on right to privacy of an individual.
SHABINA Sheikh, 35, is a widow from Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh, who lost her husband in an accident. A compensation amount was given to her 13-year-old son Anees after the husband's death.
Anees lives with Shabina's three sisters because he is scared of a man called Shabbir who stays with his mother. Shabbir, he said, used to beat him up. While Shabina claimed Shabbir was like a brother, it was later established that the she was having an affair with the already-married man.
Shabbir subsequently left Shabina because his wife didn't give consent to his second marriage. Shabina came on the show demanding that the compensation money and her son be returned to her because she has nowhere to go now.
The point here is not about who is morally or legally in the right. Questions can be raised over ethics if you consider Shabina was reportedly convinced by the producers that revealing her private life could mean her getting back Anees and the money. This, despite the fact that Rakhi's judgement on the show has no legal validity. Importantly, Shabina now claims she was not aware her private life would be shot on spy cameras.
OVER TO SHABINA
"I am an uneducated person and I don't understand what spy cameras are. Some people from the show Rakhi Ka Insaaf approached me promising that they would highlight my problem. I would get justice on a show conducted by Rakhi Sawant", they said, adding that I would be compensated for revealing my private life.
I earn around '100 a day making incense stick. When the channel approached me and my family, they gave me '25,000 and '10,000 to my sisters. They also gave us train tickets to Mumbai, besides lodging facility in a hotel. We were made to sign a legal contract that I couldn't read. When they explained it, none of us quite understood any of it. I appeared on the show because the channel promised to settle the dispute I was having with my sisters.
Rakhi Sawant, I was told, would help me get my son back. When I asked specific questions on how the shooting would be done, the producers gave me some vague a second marriage is possible if the first wife gives consent. However, when Shabbir sought consent for a second marriage, his wife threatened to commit suicide. He withdrew from the scene not wishing to invite trouble. He has cut all ties from me.
So, Shabbir has gone back to his wife and four children, Rakhi Sawant has moved over to a new 'victim', and I have nowhere to go. Another thing that bothered me was the presence of so many people in the studio when the shooting was going on. Agreed, the show is watched all over on TV, but discussing one's private matters in front of so many strangers was unsettling.
When Rakhi entered the studio, she comforted me saying there was no reason to be frightened. I just had to give simple answers to the questions she asked, she said. I felt she would genuinely help me get my son back. The situation however changed once the shooting started. Rakhi started talking in a way that left me intimidated. Worse, the audience started to accuse me on moral grounds. When they showed the film clips shot on spy camera, they actually answers.
I now realise that they were vague because my son or my right to the compensation money was never on their agenda. I feel sad because, instead of addressing the issue of my son's custody, the channel chose to play up my relationship with Shabbir. On the show, Rakhi exploited this bit to entertain the viewers. She pointedly kept asking me what my relationship with Shabbir was. I kept answering he was my brother because I was aware whatever relationship I shared with Shabbir was not acceptable in society.
Rakhi then grandly announced that she would now show some film clips that would shock everyone. And she went on to show some rather intimate moments I had shared with Shabbir. I am not aware when they had deployed hidden cameras in my house to film such dirty shots. I come from a small town and my life is finished after TV has shown me, a widow, getting intimate with a married man. My neighbours, relatives and even my son Anees disowned me.
Anees says he wants to live with his mausis (aunts) and has nothing to do with me. Faced with embarrassing questions, I find it difficult to step out of home now.
On the show, Rakhi had assured that everything would be sorted out. She had instructed that Shabbir would marry me because, according to Muslim personal law, came up to attack me. They picked up chairs to hit me and some of them even said that people like me should be beaten up because I had shamed relationships.
My question is, who gave them the right to decide? There were a few security guards who prevented an ugly situation. Still, it was scary and I started to cry.
The people who had contacted me for participation in the show had promised that they would show only the truth. The outcome was extremely horrifying. People in my community have now threatened that they will ostracise me as well as my parents.
It is very sad that some people are using television to embarrass poor people like me, in order to make money. Even my sisters, with whom I don't exactly have a great relationship, later admitted that we all should have kept away from the show and avoided a situation like this.
After all, instead of sorting out our problems, the show has only created a new set of problems for me. I have been truly taken for a ride.
Once the shooting was over, Rakhi came to me and said that I was very courageous. She also assured that if there was any problem in future I should be free to contact her. But I have not been able to contact her, nor has she made any attempt to talk to me.
I came on the show only to get my son back. But the way my personal life was exploited has left me miserable. I have moved to a locality where my relatives won't find me. All I want now is to go back to my parents and lead a quiet life.