The deep divide over the arrest of controversial television journalist Arnab Goswami is a sad commentary not just on the state of the Indian media but also on politics and an unhealthy equation between them. Though one may differ with the jingoistic and divisive brand of journalism being pursued by the chief editor of Republic TV and the breathless media trials conducted from his studio, the manner of his arrest, by invoking a two-year-old case of abetment to suicide, highlights the vindictiveness of the ruling dispensation in Maharashtra and the gross misuse of police as a tool to harass the opponents. At one level, the developments relating to Goswami’s arrest represent a proxy political war between the ruling parties at the State and the Centre. Union Ministers and spokespersons of the BJP have all come out strongly in support of the journalist, recalling the dark days of Emergency while condemning his arrest while a section of the media and those opposed to Gowsami’s political leaning and his belligerent and interrogative style of conducting debates justified the police action. Here lies the danger. Irrespective of the political dispensation in power, governments, more often than not, use arbitrary means to foist cases against the voices of dissent, be it political rivals or media professionals. It is often seen that the police force is used as a tool to harass the opponents. The question here is not about the style of Goswami’s journalism, his rants or his confrontation with the Maharashtra government or the Mumbai police chief but about the exercise of arbitrary and excessive power by the state with malicious intentions.
What raises the suspicion is that the case, under which the arrest has been made, was closed last year. However, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh ordered re-investigation in May this year. The case pertains to the death of interior designer Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud Naik in 2018. A suicide note purportedly written by Naik was found at their home in which he said Goswami and two others had not paid him Rs 5.40 crore in dues which led to his financial constraints. The FIR filed in the case said Goswami of ARG Outlier, which owns Republic TV, had allegedly not paid Rs 83 lakh for the Bombay Dyeing Studio Project. The case was closed after investigation. The re-opening of the case comes against the backdrop of a bitter confrontation between Goswami and the Maharashtra government and Mumbai police over the probe into the Sushant Singh Rajput case. The journalist, who is widely criticised for his kangaroo court style interrogation from his TV studio, is also being probed for the alleged TRP scam.
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