Poetic Justice

By R Raj Rao

REPUBLIC TV founder Arnab Goswami has been arrested in a suicide abetment case. This is a classic case of poetic justice, for Goswami himself has held media trials on his television channel indicting Shashi Tharoor and Rhea Chakraborti, among others, on murder and/or suicide abetment charges. In Tharoor’s case, Goswami noisily claimed that his wife Sunanda Pushkar had been murdered by him, or that he had abetted her suicide. Similar claims were made by Goswami against Rhea Chakraborty when actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead in his Bombay apartment in June this year. Yet neither of these pronouncements by Goswami has been upheld by the courts. Of course, Chakraborty was arrested in August and released on bail after a month. However, this was in a drugs-related and not a suicide abetment case.

Unlike in Tharoor’s and Chakraborty’s case where there is no evidence of abetment, there is actually a suicide note left behind by architect Anvay Naik of Maharashtra that says that he is ending his life due to non-payment of dues to the tune of Rs. 83 lakhs by Arnab Goswami for work done by Naik. Naik’s aged mother was also found dead in his house.

The above incident occurred in May 2018 when the BJP was still in power in Maharashtra and Devendra Fadnavis was the Chief Minister. Naik’s daughter has now alleged that Inspector Suresh Warade who was handling the case at the time hushed it up at the behest of his political masters. The Shiv Sena led Maha Vikas Aghadi government which rules Maharashtra today has ordered an inquiry against Inspector Suresh Warade.

Goswami has been arrested under Section 306 of the IPC. However, the moment he was arrested by the Mumbai Police, the BJP government at the centre went into overdrive and rushed to his defence. They twisted facts by calling it a case of thwarting press freedom, as Prime Minister Indira Gandhi did during the Emergency, while in truth, the arrest wasn’t for anything that Goswami had said or written, but was for the abetment of Anvay Naik’s suicide.

Never before in the history of independent India has the ruling dispensation spoken up so vociferously for a journalist belonging to a private TV channel. This never happened even in the days when the state-controlled All India Radio and Doordarshan were the only electronic news channels that we had at our disposal, although AIR and Doordarshan news anchors were actual government employees whom the government had an obligation to defend.

But is Republic TV really a private news channel? It may be stated here that it is the only channel to which Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has never held a press conference during his entire tenure as Prime Minister, actually gave an interview! Arnab Goswami remains the only Indian journalist who is so privileged that many airlines imposed a six-month embargo on stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra when he heckled Goswami on a flight.

That Arnab Goswami’s arrest is justified is proved by the fact that the Bombay High Court has refused to grant him interim bail. He is currently in judicial custody and has been shifted from the Alibag lock-up to the Taloja Central Jail. Besides, the Delhi High Court has also admitted a case filed by 34 Bollywood production houses and four film industry associations against Goswami and two journalists from Times Now, Navika Kumar and Rahul Shivshankar, for the kind of slanderous campaign that they have been carrying out against the film fraternity ever since Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. Incidentally, the production houses include those owned by top names in the film industry, such as the Khans, Karan Johar, Ajay Devgan and Farhan Akhtar. Even Akshay Kumar, who it will be recalled was one of the first people to donate Rs. 25 core to the PM Cares Fund at the height of the coronavirus lockdown, is also said to be a signatory to the writ petition.

The case also underscores the increasing friction that we have been witnessing in state after state between the Governor and the elected Chief Minister from a rival political party. It happened in Jammu & Kashmir, it happened in West Bengal, and now the Governor of Maharashtra, Bhagat Singh Koshyari, has expressed concern over Arnab Goswami’s security in prison, and has asked that his family be allowed to visit him in jail. But why is such concern not forthcoming when scores of other journalists are arrested for honestly doing their job?

Ever since Goswami’s arrest Republic TV has ceased to be a news channel. All its prime time shows merely concern Goswami’s release. Hard core news, such as results of the Bihar or US elections, is totally absent on Republic TV.  Though it continues to call its news programmes a ‘debate’, they are hardly debates, for there are no dissenting voices; no one speaks in support of Goswami’s arrest, though a large number of us secular liberal Indians believe that Goswami pushed the envelope too far, and in a way dug his own grave. Even when there are debates on Republic TV, Goswami makes sure that he lowers the audio of those who challenge his fascist views, so that they can scarcely be heard and are shouted down by the other side.

We see the usual suspects on Republic TV, ranging from Sambit Patra to former Manushi editor Madhu Kishwar screaming at the top of their voices in defence of Arnab Goswami, mischievously silent about the torture he has inflicted on so many Indians for years through his malicious television shows.  That is why I see his arrest as a much welcome instance of poetic justice.

Perhaps when Arnab Goswami is finally released, he will shift shop to Noida in UP or Gurgaon in Haryana, both on the outskirts of Delhi, where the BJP has its own governments. That will guarantee that he will never be arrested again.

Views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect that of Kashmir Observer

  • Dr. R. Raj Rao is an internationally known Indian English novelist, poet and critic. He was Professor and Head of the Department of English at the University of Pune in Maharashtra. He has also been a Visiting Professor at universities in Canada and Germany

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