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'We should plug this leak once and for all'

Vishal Dadlani
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December 02, 2008

The terror attacks on Mumbai has shaken many to the core, but very few of us are actively doing something to better the situation.

Composer Vishal Dadlani [Images] of the Vishal-Shekhar duo has taken up a cause that he believes will protect the lives of the security forces during anti-terrorism operations.

He has taken a stand against the live telecast by news television channels, which he says, exposed the plans of the military and National Security Guard as they tried to overwhelm the terrorists and rescue hostages.

Vishal tells Ronjita Kulkarni why he took up this cause.

What made you take up this issue?

Watching the live minute-by-minute broadcast of what was going on with the (armed) forces, what they were planning, how they were entering (the buildings), their strategies, their positions was very fascinating, but very morbid as well because it may have been available to the terrorists as well. And that's very dangerous for national security.

This information should be classified but the television channels were broadcasting it. They were trying to outdo each other in getting closer to the action and giving more details. They pointed their cameras away about 40 hours into the operation -- maybe because the ministry instructed them to do so.

As a citizen of the country, I felt that our forces lost a certain element of surprise by being put in a position where every movement was aired live on television. And I figured no one else would do anything about it, so I decided to give my time. I've put up a petition, created a Web site, I have legal advisors... I'm going to take it as far as it goes, and hopefully, the courts will issue directives to enforce a certain code of conduct.

I don't want to blame any channel. Whatever has happened has happened. We are all in a sad and angry time right now. But if this, god forbid, were to happen in future, we need to be prepared. We cannot have our forces put in a position of disadvantage by our own channels.

And we should not allow terrorists carry out their propaganda on our channels (by airing a live phone call from a terrorist). That is unacceptable.

The channels should not be calling guests (in the Taj Mahal hotel [Images] and the Trident hotel) and giving out their positions -- that these are the locations of the biggest suits where the richest people could be hiding. They're actually doing a major disservice. I don't know how much of the coverage actually affected the forces but I know it could have. We should plug this leak once and for all, so that it never happens again.

Were you watching the live coverage?

I watched throughout, for the entire 65 hours.

Don't you think news television is catering to our hunger for news and information?

Well, 1,400 people signed up on my Web site saying they did not want to see that.

But they did watch the coverage.

They did, because it was on. But my objection is not that the news was taken to the people, my objection is that it could have gone to the terrorists.

There are so many channels, it has become a race. They try to outshout each other. Everything is more sensational than the next. That's very unhealthy.>

And anyway, whatever the demand of the audience, to compromise the safety of the military where people are laying down their lives or their safety for our safety, is not acceptable to me.

We need a law that says these are your rules. When there is a military or anti-terrorist operation, you can't broadcast that live.

How far do you think your campaign will be successful?

I can't answer that. It depends how many people will sign up. We hope that the courts will take cognisance of the petition, make it a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) so that things can move faster. I'm not asking for anything major. I'm only asking for basic humanity and decency on the part of the channels. It can be formulated and put out in one day, if there is a will. If the court takes cognisance of it, the code of conduct can be in place by next week!

I am the least socially conscious person, possibly in the world. I've lived my whole life for myself, my family and the people around me. I've never done anything for the greater good.

This is the first time I've given 48 nonstop hours of my life for something that has a greater purpose. I know this is not the only thing that needs to change, there are many things. But I think it needs to change immediately.

There is a possibility that nothing will come out of this. Yes, let's face it. But I have made it my mission to try and see that something comes out of it. I should have at least 1,000 signatures on the petition by tonight. Tomorrow morning, I will take it to court. If nothing happens after two, three days, I'll do it again. If nothing happens even after that, I will find some lawyers -- people who feel just as strongly about it -- and through them, we will file it in court.

What made you take up this particular cause among so many others?

Because I thought it was important to save our soldiers' lives, who are risking it for us.

Is anyone from the film industry supporting you?

I'm hoping that they will. There are a lot of singers, who're supporting me.

I'm hoping that the big names will sign the petition. I will speak to some of them. But what matters in the end that a large number of people sign it, whether they're famous or not doesn't matter.

If you want to join Vishal's campaign, please click here

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