In the Defense of Freedom of Press: Arnab Goswami’s Arrest and the Questions Therein

At the same, we as society too need to stand up to the authoritarian governments and make them accountable as provided in the article 19 (1)(a) that assures us of freedom of speech and expression.

A team of Raigad Police came in with a large of contingent armed with weapons such as AK- 47 guns and arbitrarily arrested Arnab Goswami, the Editor-in-Chief of Repulic TV in the wee hours of 4 November, 2020. It’s important to note that the Raigad police contingent included some of the encounter specialists from the Mumbai police. The alacrity and the manner with which this all was done has sent shock waves across India provoking people to  come on the streets in the defense of freedom of press, speech and expression. Most importantly this is being done on a day when the US election is expected to take over news space on our electronic, print and social media. Therefore this action on the part of
Government of Maharashtra and Raigad police demands a thorough scrutiny.(arnab goswami latest news)

Some of the so called pseudo-intellectuals are seen supporting his arrest saying this has nothing to do with Arnab’s journalistic endeavors and therefore there is no need to make hue and cry out of it. Moreover some of them seemed cheering up and rejoicing on the development. But that should not surprise right thinking people as these characters have every now and again shown their shallowness and exposed themselves.(arnab goswami latest news)

What are the charges against Arnab Goswami? The case dates back to May 2018 when a 53 year old Mumbai based architect and an interior designer Anvay Naik, owner of Concorde Designs Pvt. Ltd. committed suicide along with his mother at his house in Alibag that comes in the jurisdiction of Raigad police. He purportedly had left a suicide note mentioning he was compelled to take the extreme step due to nonpayment of dues by Feroz Shaikh, owner of IcastX/Skimedia and Nitesh Sarda, owner of Smartworks along with Arnab Goswami who owed Rs. 4 crore, Rs. 55 lakh and Rs. 83 lakh respectively. A case under section 306 of the IPC was registered against the concerned. After due course of investigation the Raigad police had concluded that they did not find enough evidence to carry on with the case. After Raigad police’s submissions in the local courts, the case was closed in April, 2019.’

The 2019 legislative assembly elections in the State of Maharashtra witnessed a political crisis with no single political party being able to prove their majority. People in Maharashtra had given a clear mandate to the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, each winning 105 and 56 seats that form a clear majority in 288 members Maharashtra Legislative Assembly. However, Shiv Sena defied people’s mandate and formed the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government along with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Indian National Congress (INC) with Shri Uddhav Thackeray as the Chief Minister on 28 November, 2019. It was at this point in time that the political situation in Maharashtra took a dramatic turn with MVA government
adopting all unscrupulous means to hold on to power.

Adnya Naik, daughter of deceased Anvay Naik’s daughter went to the Police again in May, 2020 and appealed to them saying the case of her father’s death was not investigated properly. Therefore that needs to be reopened again. Mr. Anil Deshmukh, Home Minister of Maharashtra twitted on 26 May, 2020 stating that he has ordered a CID re-investigation into the case. The following twit by Mr. Deshmukh has no mention of Feroz Shaikh neither does it mention Nitesh Sarda. Therefore we need to look into mala fide intents involved and also the socio-political developments during this time in the State of Maharashtra  On the fateful night of 16 April, 2019 some anti-social elements allegedly having their religio-political affiliations killed Kalpvrikshagiri Maharaj (70) and Sushilgiri Maharaj (35) belonging to the Juna Akhara along with their driver Nilesh Telgade (30). This brutal killing of the two revered Sadhus, who were on their way to attend funeral of their Guru Mahant Ramgiri Maharaj in Surat, took place at Gadchinchale village of Palghar district of the Raigad division.

The Chief Minister and his government initially tried to brush this heinous crime under the carpet but had to face severe backlash from people in Maharashtra and across India. While many pseudo-secularist journalists in the electronic and print media chose to remain silent on the issue, it was Arnab Goswami who highlighted the issue. His relentless reporting on the issue sent shivers down the spine of MVA government and power hungry politicians acting on the behest of their political masters.

It was here that the political vendetta started against Arnab Goswami. A case under IPC sections 153 (giving provocation to cause riot) and 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on the basis of religion) and other sections was registered against him following his 21 April, 2020 talk show "Puchhta Hain Bharat" on killing of Sadhus. On this show, he had asked if it was a crime to be Hindu and wear saffron and whether the people would have remained silent had the victims been non-Hindu. An FIR was also registered against him for gathering migrants outside Bandra railway station.

The Repblic TV’s ceaseless coverage investigating into the various angles involved in the Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case had further exacerbated enmity between Arnab Goswami and the Thackerays and Mumbai police. In hurriedly convened press meeting on 8 October, 2020 Mumbai police Commissioner Mr. Parambir Singh had leveled charges of TRP scam against Republic media network. On yet another occasion a show cause notice was issued to him by Maharashtra Legislative Assembly to initiate breach of privilege motion. These efforts do indicate at the MVA governments dubious functioning aimed to suppress freedom of press and freedom of speech and expression.

Moreover, these attempts should not be seen in isolation. The BMC had demolished a part of actor Kangna Ranaut’s office and bungalow at Pali Hill on 9 September, 2020 for her being vocal on Sushant Singh Rajput’s death case. Furthermore, Mumbai police hounded television journalists for allegedly obstructing BMC officials from doing their job and gathering a crowd. Shiv Sena goons assaulted a navy veteran Madan Sharma for allegedly sharing a cartoon mocking Thackeray on a whatsaap group. Sunaina Holey, a 38-year-old woman was arrested by Mumbai cyber police for allegedly sharing a comic picture of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Aditya Thackeray on social media. Rahul Tiwari, a resident  of Wadala was beaten up and his head shaved for criticizing Thackeray for comparing the  action against Jamia Nagar rioters with that of Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919. One can  site such innumerable cases when journalists, social activists and individuals were harassed for being critical of the Thackeray family or the MVA government.

The Thackeray government has miserably failed to tackle the covid-19 pandemic. Instead of catering to the needs of people, certain ministers were found partying with their friends when the lockdown was still in force. Recently pictures of French President Emanuel Macron were pasted and trampled upon on the roads of Mumbai by certain radical Islamic groups. Many  properties of dreaded criminal Dawood Ibrahim are standing toll in Mumbai. Mr. Uddhav  Thackeray, a son of revered Balasaheb Thackeray, would be much appreciated if shown some spine in acting against such elements. The kind of autocratic behavior that his government has exhibited since he has become the Chief Minister would only bring disrepute to the legacy that he inherits.

Furthermore, vibrant media and civil society are the hallmarks of well functioning democracies. Any attempt to suppress them will only project autocratic character of the politicians that are hell-bent on clinging to the power. Therefore it’s incumbent on the government to prove that they are accountable and discharging to needs of people. At the same, we as society too need to stand up to the authoritarian governments and make them accountable as provided in the article 19 (1)(a) that assures us of freedom of speech and expression.


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