Sambit Patra Did Not Cause Rajiv Tyagi’s Death. But the Nature of Indian TV Debates Must Change


Sambit Patra Did Not Cause Rajiv Tyagi’s Death. But the Nature of Indian TV Debates Must Change

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

In the latest bit of unfortunate news to grace timelines in 2020, Congress spokesperson Rajiv Tyagi died of a heart attack on Wednesday. He was 52 years old.

The leader appeared on a TV channel debate from his Ghaziabad home, hours before news broke of his death. Soon after the debate concluded, he began complaining of chest pain, and fell unconscious. He was declared dead at a hospital later that evening.

The sudden demise of the popular Hindi news spokesperson left Congress leaders heartbroken, with several of them tweeting their condolences. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the death came as a personal shock and would cause irreparable damage to the party.

Her brother Rahul said the Congress had lost a tiger in his tribute.

As the Congress rushed to post condolences, however, a conspiracy was brewing on Twitter. As the news broke, several handles appeared to blame BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra for having given the Congressman a heart attack with his aggressive questioning during the Aaj Tak debate.

And this wasn’t just a one-off statement. The hashtag “arrest Sambit Patra” soon began to trend on Twitter.

A clip of Tyagi looking uncomfortable during the debate was shared as proof that the cardiac arrest was a result of him not being allowed to speak. A number of clips showing the BJP spokesperson Patra at his aggressive best were also shared as evidence.

The BJP spokesperson was also accused by several social media handles of being an expert at bullying and character assassination.

One member of the Congress party went on to urge Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi to consider boycotting all future debates, because of how they were spreading hatred.

Some, on the other hand, let common sense prevail, and held back from blaming Patra. They instead argued that the very nature of TV debates had to change, and that panellists should be more respectful towards each other in the future.

Patra, meanwhile, tweeted his condolences for the Congress spokesperson as well, calling him a friend, and saying the news had left him speechless.

This is, of course, not the first time we’ve seen Twitter take matters into its own hands. Over the last few months, following the unfortunate death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, social media has been rife with allegations against Rhea Chakraborty and several big names in Bollywood. With allegations now hurled at Sambit Patra as well, hopefully social media doesn’t turn into a kangaroo court.