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Arnab Goswami: Investigative journalism vis-a-vis state vengeance

The essential requirement of democracy anywhere in the world is that it should be the government ‘of the people, by the people and for the people

Prof. Sudhanshu Tripathi Nov 18, 2020

The essential requirement of democracy anywhere in the world is that it should be the government ‘of the people, by the people and for the people.’ It was reiterated by the US President Abraham Lincoln more than a one-and-a-half century ago. Hence, free, independent and fearless journalism is the sine-qua-non for a dynamic, vibrant, and meaningful democracy.

Against this backdrop, the continuing vengeance unleashed by the Maharashtra police against Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami is highly condemnable. In fact, his arrest on Nov 4 is absolutely illegal because the case wherein he has been implicated was closed two years ago. Apparently, the case was deliberately opened just to strike at the TV anchor, even without seeking arrest warrants from the competent court.

The way he was forcibly arrested like a hardened criminal at the behest of the state government speaks much about gross abuse of the state machinery, obviously with a view to silence him and crush freedom of the press, which indeed is the fourth pillar of government in a democracy.  Indeed, this hounding of a journalist is disgusting and reminds one of the emergency in India during 1975.

Investigative journalism!

In fact, Arnab has been instrumental in bringing-out many new facts to light in connection with some of the most controversial cases, like Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death (later established that he committed suicide), the mysterious death of actress Disha Salian (also Sushant Singh Rajput’s agent), Hathras gang-rape,  Shaheen Bagh protests and few more such incidents, thereby exposing unethical nexus between politicians, mafia, police, and underworld having international links. This nexus would obviously have been worried by Arnab’s investigative journalism as it might have brought into open their role.

In fact, India is a democracy as guaranteed by the country’s constitution, which is the supreme source of all powers and is the basic law of the land. It is, in fact, the democracy wherein the people at large have the final say in all matters of governance. Hence, we the people of India has the right to know everything pertaining to the affairs of the state, including politics, Bollywood, drug-cartels, criminal-syndicates, police, underworld, and their foreign funding to destabilize the country.  

The role of the media assumes crucial significance as it lets the common man know as to what exactly is going on in the country or world. It is by creating awareness about governance that the masses can take the right decisions in their interest as well as about society and the country. As the Latin phrase goes, Vox populi, Vox Dei ie voice of people is the voice of God; therefore it is the people in totality whose will is supreme. Hence it can neither be ignored nor trampled in any way by anyone, howsoever high or mighty one is.

Not a crime to ask questions

That Arnab Goswami was doing exactly the same is the fact that nobody can question. Although he might have occasionally become noisy in his programs or his raising of relevant questions directly to the government and other political leaders and higher-ups both in civil and police might have been embarrassing to all of them, but that was his duty as a journalist and certainly not a crime.

He could have been restrained through media authorities or legal and genuine actions could have been taken through the proper channel if he was found guilty by the competent court of law. Interestingly, it was for the sake of democracy in the country whereupon India shines as the largest successful polity in the world.

However, long-pending reforms in police and the judiciary is the need of the hour as the archaic provisions inherent in the system is detrimental to the innocents, and instead, beneficial to the criminals.

Rise in Arnab's status

Hence, Arnab Goswami must not be treated like a dreaded criminal or a terrorist and, instead, he should be protected under all circumstances. His arrest and subsequent bail have elevated him to the status of a hero and icon of bold, fearless, and fair journalism.

Given the blatant violation of the due legal actions in his case, the shifting of Arnab to Taloja jail exposed another possible conspiracy as he had expressed grave threats to his life.

In this worrisome scenario, the Government of India must provide him a tight security cover, as was done in the case of Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut. The Bollywood actress was provided Y-plus category security by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the wake of her spat with Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, and after she said she feared for her life.

Further, it is the responsibility of the central government to ensure that all state governments function strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Indian Constitution, as provided under Article 355.

Silence over Arnab’s arrest

Unfortunately, there was an eerie silence when Arnab was arrested. Most political parties, media, and civil society groups kept mum over the issue. Almost the entire media, which ought to have taken lead in staging protests against mounting threats to the freedom of the press, were silent as if nothing had happened.

Similarly, civil society groups did not raise the issue against such gross misuse of power by the state against a journalist. But what if they had to go through the same agony? This episode will obviously set an example of how independent and fearless journalism is treated in this country, and this should not happen in a democracy.

Nonetheless one must not forget that ultimately truth prevails, despite obstructions, repressions, or suppressions. And that was vindicated when on Nov 11 the Supreme Court of India granted Arnab Goswami bail. Obviously, it underscores that the Supreme Court stands as the supreme custodian for the protection of human rights of all citizens in the country, thereby upholding once again the sanctity of the Indian constitution.

Thus Indian democracy has the potential to survive and sustain forever, despite occasional odds.

(The writer is Professor of Political Science at Rajarshi Tandon Open University, Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh. The views expressed are personal)

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