India TV has brought on its first major expose, which displays shocking pictures of sadhus from the Swaminarayan temple, asking women devotees to have sex with them. The women in a trance of devotion comply. The camera goes on to capture ruthless exploitation of these women, often with the promise that they would be blessed with children. On another sensational chord, the Gujarat police have used the CD's available with India TV to swoop down on the Swaminarayan sadhus.
Says Rajat Sharma, Chairman, India TV, "The CD's unveiling morbid sexual acts in temples in Surat and Rajkot would be telecast on our channel but every effort is being made to ensure that adequate confidentiality is maintained about the identities of the victims. Also, strict standards and procedures (S&P) norms were promised in the editing and masking of explicit sexual content within these CD's."
India TV has, however, not disclosed the exact modus operandi adopted in this sting operation. However Sharma states, "Well, all I can say is that previous operations of the kind displaying sadhus in compromising situations are often concocted with the subject being lured or trapped into the act. Here, we just recorded all that was going on. We never tempted or trapped the subject. It was clinically done and you can be assured that it's not a move towards sensationalism or deriving mileage out of sexual acts. It's a sensitive matter and we have treated it accordingly. In the same breath, the story does not intend to shock the audience, as much to keep them informed on the stature of exploitation that goes on, in the name of religion."
Sharma says, "We are a responsible news channel. The one thing that differentiates us from our counterparts is that, we don't create sensation…we just capture it. It's what you call responsible reporting. We have similar such big stories in the pipeline which we intend to reveal soon. Needless to say, that the stories have not been easy to fetch…and it displays journalism at its very best." The Swaminarayan cult is popular across various centres in Gujarat and elsewhere. India TV has assured that it has neither intention to cause harm to rightful activities of the sect, nor will it say anything that implies any negative connotation for the innocent members of the Swaminarayan sect.
India TV believes that in certain regions in the north, it has scored over Star News and Zee News as far as distribution is concerned. Sharma says, "We have the distribution front covered, and we are now accessible to most viewers across the country. In certain regions of the north, our distribution has exceeded that of Star News and Zee News."