The terms ‘propaganda’, ‘misinformation’ and ‘fake news’ often overlap in meaning. They are used to refer to a range of ways in which sharing information causes harm. Either intentionally or unintentionally. There are three clear categories:

1. Mis-information, which is the false information shared with no intention of causing harm.

2. Dis-information, the false information shared intentionally to cause harm.

3. Mal-information, the true information shared intentionally to cause harm.

Unfortunately, our mainstream media, which perhaps began with the first, went on to graduate in the next and finally became masters in the next two categories.

Sameer Wankhede’s story is a case in point of every bizarre kind of information. This IRS Officer was glorified by our ‘responsible’ media as the ‘Singham’, who harassed Rhea Chakrobarty and her brother Shauvik. He also called in Deepika Padukone, Shraddha Kapur and Rakul Preet, to discuss about their intercepted WhatsApp calls. And all because he felt they were the ‘Nashedis, Ganjedis and Bhangedis’ of the Bollywood Drug Industry.

Wankhede was also known to detain others like Manisha Lamba, Anushka Sharma, Shahrukh Khan, Anurag Kashyap, Vivek Oberoi, Mika Singh and God knows how many celebs and fining them heavily for service tax invasion. He seemed to have targeted models and celebrities, well aware that the media would provide him with extensive coverage.

Everything was going hunky dory until the Cordelia Cruise happened. One of his informers notified Wankhede about a ‘rave party’ where some high-profile targets were expected to attend. However, the NCB wasn’t aware of Aryan Khan’s presence, according to reports later. Aryan was arrested, his cell phone was also seized by the team to ensure he didn't call anyone. Sections of the media have carried reports of monetary negotiations surrounding this arrest.

Sameer Wankhede and his team would have gone on to be successful. But for a ‘Selfie’! The entire deal got derailed as the photo of Aryan Khan with Kiran Gosavi went viral with the information that Gosavi was not an NCB officer. That was when the authorities perked up; that was when Social Media became active; and that was also when Nawab Malik came into the picture.

He held multiple press conferences, where he made serious allegations against what he called the NCB’s wrongdoings. He said that his son-in-law was also targeted the same way. He even brought out an incriminating letter of Wankhede’s questionable role in his organisation, also naming some top officials. Of course, nothing happened because the media royally chose to ignore it. Oh wait. Something did happen. Nawab Malik was arrested in a money laundering case in connection with a 1999 land deal and is still languishing in jail.

But thanks to the Internet (where the letter can still be found), a closer look reveals secrets that suggest something was not only fishy, it was dubious and dubitable. The rest is history. Everyone knows about the sensational drama that carried on for days with everyone glued to the Idiot Box while Aryan languished in jail for 27 days. When there was no proof or evidence found, he was finally released.

What amazes me is how some can be jailed without any reason, and how some are let loose or not even arrested. Even when there are glaring truths implicating them. What also amazes is how Sameer Wankhede was made an instant star by the media and the IT cell. He was termed as the ‘Real hero who has shaken up REEL heroes’. Several people came in support of Sameer Wankhede and the NCB for the great service they were doing. Even fans of Sushant Singh Rajput started a trend – ‘SSRians Support Fearless NCB’.

And of course, the WhatsApp University was agog with messages of how ‘an officer like Sameer Wankhede and his team who are working tirelessly for the nation, should definitely get appropriate protection from the centre.’

Of how ‘As a nation we should be proud of our agency (Narcotics Control Bureau) to have taken down several drug peddlers’.

Of how ‘Sameer Wankhede is known to be a fierce officer, unsparing when it comes to breaking the law.’

Of how ‘He is a man with high integrity and high ethics’.

But today, when the same man is being raided by CBI there is pin-drop silence from all. But what is even more disturbing are the gory details that are emerging daily. And what is scary is how vulnerable we are.

If someone powerful wants to ruin us, there is practically nothing we can do about it. Our law enforcement agency was founded to counter the thieves, the dacoits, the goondas and the dons. We were secure because we could trust the police. To help us gain information from the North, East, West and South (an acronym for NEWS) we could always rely on the media. When any other system failed us, we had leaders, bureaucrats and state representatives to support us.

But unfortunately, as life progressed or rather deteriorated, the line between good and bad, right and wrong, weak and strong, has slowly started to blur.

When those who are supposed to protect you, suddenly kidnap, harass and resort to extortion, then who does a common man turn to?

What do you do when the fourth pillar of Democracy also joins hands with sleaze and uses the ‘Big Lie’ technique as a psychological warfare for brainwashing the public?

Who do you turn to?

Earlier for every problem we also had a solution. But what do you do when the solution itself becomes the problem?

But the biggest question of them all is, how do such ‘daring’ officers pop up from nowhere and continue to prosper, no matter what? Who creates them? Or is Sameer just a pawn in a much bigger game?

Nargis Natarajan is a writer. Views expressed here are her own.