Mumbai, Nov 11: Being my own boss comes with a certain set of privileges, the biggest one being that I get to wake up late more often than I used to as a salaried employee. November 4 was one such day, when, having worked till late the previous night, I gave myself an extra couple of hours to sleep in the morning.
Which is why by the time I woke up, all hell had broken loose on every social media platform known to man? Or at least to me. I had multiple unread notifications on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, all telling me the same thing: the Raigad police had arrested Republic TV head Arnab Goswami.
Truth, rumours and propaganda around Arnab Gowami’s arrest
Of course, it wasn’t that simple. Getting to that one line of unadulterated fact required me to first sift through several layers of rumours. The first one was that uniformed policemen had barged into Mr Goswami’s residence and assaulted him heavily before dragging him away. The next was that the Uddhav Thackeray government had launched an attack on the freedom of the press. This was followed by more propaganda: the price of being fearless, the cost of ‘exposing’ the ‘Sushant Singh Rajput murder’, the ‘vendetta’ against Mr Goswami for his ‘fearless reporting’, the ‘need to be united and stand behind one of our own in this time of crisis’, and so on and so forth.
It took me several minutes of reading news articles on multiple platforms and more than a few calls to my own contacts to ascertain what exactly had happened:
Mr Goswami had been placed under arrest in connection with an abetment to suicide case registered against him and two others in 2018.
Why was Arnab Goswami arrested? The facts of the Arnab Goswami – Anvay Naik case
Before we proceed any further, it is imperative that I lay the facts of the case in simple terms. Anvay Naik, an interior designer staying in Alibaug, was found dead along with his mother Kumud in their bungalow in May 2018. Post Mortem examination confirmed that Anvay had died by suicide while his mother had been strangled to death. Effectively, it appears that Anvay first killed his mother before dying by suicide.
The police also found a suicide note written in English, in which Anvay stated that Mr Goswami and two others owed him dues upwards of Rs five crore in exchange for interior designing jobs.
In Mr Arnab Goswami’s case, it was the designing of the Republic TV studio, for which he never paid Anvay. Meanwhile, Anvay was steadily sliding into debt and facing harassment from his creditors, which allegedly drove him to take the extreme step.
Two things occurred as the day progressed:
- Firstly, Mr Goswami and Republic TV went to town peddling the ‘attack on the freedom of the press’ theory to anyone who would listen.
- Secondly, it became increasingly clear that his arrest was anything but that.
Mr Goswami himself gave a sound byte outside the Alibaug court, talking in a weepy voice about how he was ‘assaulted’ and how the Uddhav government was targeting him.
The actual reason for outrage, if at all we need any more of that cursed emotion in our life, should be the fact that despite a suicide note clearly mentioning the name of three people, no action was taken against them for two years.
In fact, and trust me, I struggled to believe this myself, the case was closed by the local police during the earlier government’s tenure for ‘lack of evidence.’
What does the law say about abetment to suicide?
Once again, it is important to understand a few things before we proceed. The law places great importance on a suicide note in an abetment to suicide case, with the assumption that a dying man has no reason to lie.
Based on this assumption, a suicide note and a dying declaration are taken to be ironclad pieces of evidence in abetment to suicide and murder cases, respectively. And when there is such undeniable evidence in a case, it is extremely suspicious for the police to close a case citing ‘lack of evidence’.
When the victim himself is dead, what better evidence can an investigating agency have if not a suicide note written by his own hand?
Again, I made multiple calls and confirmed what I had already been told in 2018: that a suicide note with Mr Goswami’s name existed. It was only then that I took to social media to state that his arrest had nothing to do with his journalism. And I say his journalism because only he would call it that.
More propaganda about Arnab Goswami’s arrest
I was not alone. There were, thankfully, scores of sane voices saying the same thing, negating the attack-on-press-freedom theory. And once this narrative had been effectively negated, the propaganda machinery switched gears. Suddenly, social media posts started talking about how the police ‘barged’ into his house, how he was ‘assaulted’, how he was treated ‘without respect’. We’ll just let that last one go.
A video was circulated where a man was seen being kicked mercilessly, with the allegation that the man was Mr Goswami. Fact-checking websites – the boons that we have in this day and age – swung into action and the video was found to be an old one of the UP Police assaulting a suspect.
Then came the trump card: that the Maharashtra government was pursuing its vendetta. And here, in my humble opinion, we need to pause and think.
Point, Counterpoint: Is Arnab Goswami guilty?
In the last few months, the Mumbai Police have registered multiple cases against or involving Mr Goswami. Two FIRS against him accuse him of giving a communal spin to incidents during his ‘news’ debate. His channel has also been named in a TRP manipulation scam unearthed by the Mumbai Police recently. Further, the Cyber police unearthed a racket where close to 1.5 lakh bots – automated accounts – were tweeting against the State government, the Mumbai police and the Mumbai Police commissioner (Param Bir Singh). These bots, according to the police, were tweeting in support of Republic TV while trolling the aforementioned institutions.
The arrest which comes close on the heels of all these incidents, is bound to look like a targeted vendetta.
What we must bear in mind is the fact that the arrest came only after Anvay’s daughter, Adnya, approached State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh seeking a re-investigation into the case and the local court, too, ordered a fresh investigation into the matter.
As I have already stated earlier, there exists a suicide note with Mr Goswami’s name in it, and his arrest should be seen as a logical development in the case.
More importantly, it is no secret that Mr Goswami has been going hammer and tongs at the State Government ever since it came to power and even if he were arrested earlier, or later, it would have looked like a vendetta.
The other side of the coin, however, can not be ignored. With all the recent cases piling up against him, if his arrest is indeed part of the investigation and not an agenda, the onus of proving its impartiality is now on the State government.
If the arrest is a logical development, then so is taking action against those officers who earlier closed the case. An enquiry is already underway against the previous investigating officer of the case, and punitive action against him should also be equally swift in coming.
It is not a crime to be critical of, or ask questions of the government, be it State or Central, as long as the criticism or questions are civil in their wording. What matters is that before we do so, we be clear about the facts ourselves.
If, like the State government says, Mr Goswami’s arrest is testament to the fact that everyone is equal before the law, then the erring policemen should be equal before it as well. Only then can the State Government convince us of its objectivity and fairness. Otherwise, there is a massive risk of the State government becoming what it criticises; a biased government pursuing its own agenda instead of justice.
And the facts, no matter how hard the propaganda machinery tries to convince us otherwise, is that Mr Goswami’s arrest is not the arrest of a journalist. It is the arrest of a person named as an accused in an abetment to suicide case, which is a pretty serious offence.
What does the Nation Need To Know?
Like any informed electorate, we should now be pursuing relevant points, not propaganda.
- Is Mr Arnab Goswami being mistreated?
- Is the police or the State government treating him even an iota differently that it would an accused in any other abetment to suicide case?
- Does Mr Arnab Goswami need medical attention and is he being given access to it?
- What action has been taken so far against the other accused mentioned in the suicide note as well as the officers who closed the case earlier?
This is what the nation needs to know, and this is what the nation needs to talk about. Everything else is white noise.
Gautam S. Mengle
Gautam S. Mengle is the Executive Editor of CySpy India, a news website that aims to simplify and report developments in the realm of cybercrime and cybersecurity for the lay reader. He has in the past worked with newspapers like The Hindu, The Indian Express and The Asian Age and his first book, a crime thriller named Intersections, has just hit the stands.
Update: Arnab Goswami was granted bail on November 11, 2020 at 5 pm.
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