Struck by reality

11-year-old commits suicide on not being allowed to take part in TV shows.
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Updated on Jan 04, 2010 06:51 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By Namya Sinha, New Delhi

In a shocking incident, Neha Sawant, an 11-year-old reality TV star from Mumbai, committed suicide on Saturday by hanging herself from the ceiling, apparently after her parents stopped her from participating in a dance show and pulled her out of dance classes so she could concentrate on studies.

While emotional outbursts on reality talent hunts have been the target of criticism, this shocker comes as a reality check on if things have gone too far.

Are you serious?
“Children love such shows, but parents shouldn’t take it too seriously. Let the child enjoy,” says actor Ravi Behl, one of the judges of the dance show Boogie Woogie where Neha had participated. “We see to it that every child who comes in goes back happy.”

There are other instances of conflicting aspirations of parents and children, when it comes to such shows. Madhu Sharma, a housewife from Dwarka, recalls an incident where her maid’s 8-year-old daughter ran away to Mumbai with two friends to participate in dance reality show. When caught, there was no sign of remorse. “TV pe humko dekhte toh kitna accha lagta,” Sharma recalls the girls saying.

Who’s at fault?
“Neha was an extremely good dancer. However, her family pulled her out of the dance classes a few months ago, as they wanted her to concentrate on studies. It was after a lot of convincing that they allowed her to participate in Boogie Woogie,” Neha’s instructor, Shyam Patil, has been quoted as saying, in an interview to a website.

Vaibhav Modi, Creative director of the talent show Chhotte Mian defends the shows and says,”Why do people forget that reality TV shows also provide a platform for kids to display their talent.”

Last Year the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had recommended that kids below 16 be barred from participating in reality TV shows. “Participating in these shows means that a child’s right to study and play gets crushed. They don’t grow up like normal children, as they are constantly living under the illusion of glamour and popularity,” says Sandhya Bajaj of NCPCR. “They can often get depressed if subjected to harsh jibes of the judges,” she adds.

“Instead of the extreme step of pulling the child away from her passion for dancing, the parents should have explained to the child, the need to complete basic education,” says psychiatrist Dr. Jitendra Nagpal.

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