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Mumbai Police’s imprudent action has gone to Arnab’s advantage

Mumbai Police’s imprudent action has gone to Arnab’s advantage
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Only the night before, Arnab Goswami in his primetime show had raised a stink over #ParamBirSingh and a news report was doing the rounds that said Goswami was allegedly a ‘hawala operator’ which was published by a prominent newspaper. Goswami, while attacking the newspaper and the Mumbai Police challenged Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh to arrest him if the police had proof he was a ‘hawala kingpin,’ a challenge which was praised and challenged in turn by panelists on his show.

But, whoever at that time knew that Arnab Goswami’s wish (or challenge) would come true within less than 12 hours! The Mumbai Police would land up at his front door and after a dramatic quarter of an hour of virtual takeover of his residence’s drawing room try to forcibly draw him out of his home and into police custody, arguing with his wife all the while and, at one time, pushing aside his obviously scared teenage son. This Wednesday saga in morning does not speak well of the propriety of Mumbai Police.

Well, Arnab’s Republic TV Network was by then at his residence and Arnab was “dragged” out by a dozen policemen and pushed into a waiting police “prison van” which took off with a cavalcade of police SUVs leading and following the prison van with Arnab’s “boys” in tow, his wife and a Republic TV reporter giving a running commentary on the “illegal arrest” of “our editor-in-chief.” Spotting the “tail”, the cops halted the prison van halfway and Goswami was pulled out and shifted into another prison van coming from the other way and obviously planned to intercept the first one. This ensured that “Republic’s “tail-car” couldn’t take up the chase anymore!

It was all dramatic and the police were acting like they were in a Bollywood thriller. Earlier, asked where Goswami was being taken to, the policemen (of the Crime Branch) said he was being taken to Raigarh, but that was a red herring. The Republic TV editor-in-chief was actually driven to Alibaug Police Station in Mumbai and senior police officer Sachin Waze, an ‘encounter specialist’, said Goswami was being arrested under section 306 of the IPC, which is “abetment to suicide”, in a case dating back to 2018 but which had been “closed” by the police itself in 2018 and now “reopened.”

So, was it a “lawful arrest”? Maybe not, even though Waze told Republic TV that the “police has reopened the case and taken the permission of the court to do so.” Clearly, that was not enough and the Mumbai Police had overstepped its brief. It had no right to barge into Goswami’s residence in an early morning raid and “drag” him out unceremoniously to a waiting prison van; unmindful of what law they were breaking, the ham-handedness of the police glaring and no less unlawful than Goswami’s alleged crime. The police could have summoned Goswami to the police station and then arrested him. Instead, it chose to make a tamasha!

Besides, the 2018 abetment to suicide case was registered against Goswami by the Raigad police, whereas the police team that came to “arrest” him Wednesday morning was of the Mumbai Police Crime Branch which was investigating the TRP Scam case registered against Goswami and his Republic TV. Encounter specialist Sachin Waze was in charge of the TRP scam investigation. Clearly the Mumbai Police were out to “teach Arnab Goswami a lesson” and were least bothered if they were crude and ham-handed in their approach.

Fact is, Goswami with his “style of journalism”, which is loud and abrasive, downright insulting to persons and personalities, had made “powerful enemies” in Mumbai’s corridors of power and if the grapevine is to be believed, the Mumbai Police was geared to take him in and stake him out. Massively hurt at the crass broadcasting style which Republic TV practiced, the Mumbai Police has with his “dramatic arrest” only added to his so-called “charisma.” Goswami’s #IamRepublic has been trending for several days and on November 4, #ArnabGoswami began trending.

At this rate, Arnab Goswami’s doesn’t need to engineer a “scam” to scale up Republic TV’s TRP. The Mumbai Police have in the past several weeks done all sorts of deeds to raise Republic TV’s stock every passing day. And if today the Mumbai Police and the Uddhav Thackeray Government are being criticized for imposing “undeclared Emergency” in Mumbai, it’s nobody’s fault. The TRP case against the channel is in the courts and the CBI and Mumbai Police were all investigating it.

There was no need for the Mumbai Police to enact the early morning arrest drama and then drive a prison van to infamy. Why the haste to be compared to “Gestapo” and the “SS”? The police officers should have used some common sense and allowed the law to take its own course, in its own sweet time, and not gone overboard in its haste to teach the “rogue journalist” a lesson.

Clearly, it was unnecessary and best avoided. Now, the entire BJP-led government at the Centre is up and shouting and trying to milk the last drop of political capital out of this episode of the “TV soap opera” played daily on TV, a reality TV show which beats both Salman Khan and Kamal Haasan’s reality TV show ‘Big Boss’ to second and third spot. Arnab is no great fighter for press freedom, rather he is a drum beater of the Modi government. But he has rights as a free citizen and a journalist. The Mumbai police have made a mess of the delicate issue of press freedom by arresting him without following the normal norms for such actions.

Now, for Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut to say that the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government has not acted “vindictively” comes too late. The Mumbai Police has ensured that Raut’s statement is taken with a pinch of salt. Besides, there’s always somebody else to muck up the case in a very fundamental way: Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik termed Arnab Goswami’s arrest as “Part 2 of India’s Most Wanted” and ensured that it sounded like revenge! This despite the fact that he insisted that the Mumbai Police hadn’t “acted out of revenge.”

Let’s not be naïve. November 4, 2020 will be remembered as a “black day” for journalism. For whatever reason, and for whosesoever’s fault, a precedent has been set. Hereafter, journalists can be arrested in an early morning swoop from their bedrooms and hauled off to police station in a prison van on whatever charges come handy.

(Views expressed are personal and not that of National Herald)

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Post source : National Herald

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