Sunday 21 July 2024

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Arnab Goswami ki Ajeeb Dastaan


Arnab Goswami should not have been arrested. His arrest today is obviously ‘political vendetta’. But the fact that he got away in 2018 was clearly ‘political protection’

Every central minister has condemned Arnab's arrest. This shows how vitally important Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV is to the BJP-led central government


The arrest of Republic TV chief Arnab Goswami on Wednesday morning became a huge controversy. Union Home Minister Amit Shah, central ministers, as well as BJP leaders and supporters, strongly condemned the arrest.

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said: "We condemn the attack on press freedom… This reminds us of the emergency days…" Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said: “This fascist move is a sign of undeclared emergency.” Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “Arresting a journalist of the stature of Arnab Goswami… because he was asking questions, is something which we all need to condemn.” Union Minister Kiren Rijiju said: “This is fascist intolerance towards freedom of expression.” Union External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar said: “The arrest of Arnab Goswami is an attack on the freedom of press.” Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said believers of press freedom must come together to fight back this "fascism”. The list could go on and on…

It shows how vitally important Arnab Goswami’s Republic TV is to the BJP-led central government.

But is this really a case of freedom of the press?

It relates to the 2018 suicide case of an interior designer, Anvay Naik. Mr Naik and his mother both committed suicide at his house in Alibag in May 2018. His suicide note said that he and his mother had decided to take this extreme step because of Rs5.4 crore in unpaid bills. It named Arnab Goswami of Republic TV (Rs83 lakh), Feroz Shaikh of IcastX/Skimedia (Rs4 crore) and Neetish Sarda of Smartworks (Rs55 lakh) as being the cause of their death.

Mr Naik’s wife Akshita filed an FIR against Goswami in 2018, saying that the design of the Republic TV studio was the last project her husband did before his death. Mr Goswami denied the charge and claimed he had already paid the victim. The case was closed by the Raigad district police in April 2019. They said that they were unable to find evidence against the accused. It is important to note that Maharashtra was ruled by a Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government at the time. 

Now a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress coalition is in power. Not surprisingly, the case was revived in May this year, after Mr Naik’s daughter Adnya, a national-level tennis player, appealed to Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh that the police had not investigated properly. He ordered a CID re-investigation of the case.

The investigation revealed that Mr Goswami’s company had attempted to transfer the money into Mr Naik’s account after his suicide, but the bank rejected the payment as the account holder was not alive. This, say the police, proves that he actually owed the money.

Actor Sushant Singh Rajput left behind no suicide note. Anvay Naik did. If Arnab Goswami could demand – and secure – the arrest and prolonged incarceration of actress Rhea Chakraborty for Mr Rajput’s suicide when he didn’t leave any suicide note, is it wrong that Mr Goswami was arrested? He was personally named in Anvay Naik’s suicide note…

Mr Goswami was not arrested for his comments against Sonia Gandhi or Aaditya Thackeray. He wasn’t jailed for the communal lies he spun on the Palghar murder of sadhus or about the gathering of migrant workers at Mumbai’s Bandra railway station during the Covid-19 lockdown. He wasn’t held for his ‘witch-hunt’ against Bollywood actors.

If he was arrested for any of them, it would be an obvious assault on free speech. But he’s been arrested for alleged abetment of suicide.

When leftists or liberals are arrested with little or no evidence, as in the Bhima Koregaon case or in the case of anti-CAA protesters being falsely implicated in the Delhi riots, BJP supporters say the law will take its own course. Shouldn’t they then let the law ‘take its own course’ in Arnab Goswami’s case?

BJP state governments have arrested journalists on extremely flimsy grounds. On 11 May 2020, Ahmedabad police arrested journalist Dhaval Patel on sedition charges for writing that Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani may be replaced for mishandling the Covid-19 epidemic… Siddique Kappan, a Kerala journalist, was arrested when he was on his way to Hathras in UP to report on the rape and murder case. He is still in jail. Not a single BJP minister has condemned these completely unjust and arbitrary arrests.  

Arnab Goswami’s witch-hunt journalism is hateful, divisive, and anti-national. Still, I believe he should not have been arrested. His detention is obviously political.

Anvay Naik’s suicide was in 2018, when the BJP ruled Maharashtra. Mr Goswami’s arrest today is obviously ‘political vendetta’. But the fact that he got away in 2018 was clearly ‘political protection’.

Arnab Goswami is getting a taste of his own medicine. But, sadly, it seems India has officially descended into legal harassment and political cases on both sides of the political divide… It’s terrible. But who started the fire?

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.


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