The ongoing ‘no-holds bar’ clash between Udhav Thackeray headed Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state of Maharashtra and renowned journalist Arnab Goswami run Republic TV seems to have reached a flash point. Reason; Unrelenting Arnab Goswami is not amenable to step back in exposing the ‘omissions’ and ‘commissions’ of the coalition government. First, it was Sadhus lynching case in Palghar and later the actor Sushanth Singh Rajput’s mysterious death.
In both cases, while the Maharashtra government and its police tried to ‘water down’, Republic TV appears more than determined to bring out the truth and ensure justice to the respective families. I, as a media practitioner, for the past forty years have never ever come across a state government so determined in its ‘vindictive’ or ‘coercive’ acts to ‘fix’ or ‘finish’ a media house. Also confidently vouch, I am witnessing this for the second time in independent Indian history as first being the Congress government headed by none other than ‘steel lady’ Indira Gandhi during the ‘dark days’ of infamous Emergency. I vividly remember the way Ramnath Goenka’s Indian Express had taken ‘vindictive’ and ‘ferocious’ Mrs Indira Gandhi head-on, and withstood her onslaught and also succeeded in bringing down her government after the dark days of emergency, which is now known a history to the young and old.
Having seen the ‘emergency period’ as a budding journo, I can confidently say the present Udhav Thackeray government’s determination to ‘throttle throats of upright journos’ appears to be more worse than that of Mrs Indira Gandhi. In both cases, the ‘throne’ clearly holds more importance than their commitment to ‘good governance.’
Back to the ongoing clash, what is more disturbing is Udhav Thackeray government’s brazenness to curtail press freedom so blatantly. Pushed to the corner Arnab Goswami, who seems to be known for having more enemies than friends, not only among political parties, but also in his own profession ranks, to me appears standing tall than those in the past, including so called brave journos like R K Karanjia of Blitz or Arun Shourie of Indian Express, who shot into fame after the Bhaghalpur blinding expossure by his Indian Express group, which had more than 10 publishing centres across the country.
What seems to have scared Maharashtra Chief Minister Udhav Thackeray the most is the unrelenting parallel media probe being taken up Republic TV, which may ultimately drive to his doorsteps, if not checked. Especially, the actor Sushanth Singh Rajput’s mysterious death which his government wishes to dilute or dismiss it as yet another ‘suicide’ theory, but got exploded into a major drug trafficking scam involving rich and influential mighty Bollywood bigwigs.
And, the entry of central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate, CBI and Narcotics Control Board, has pressed panick buttons and the ‘fear of losing power’ forced the Udhav Thackeray government and his police to silence the media houses, more so the Republic TV, which became unstoppable in its pursuit to dig out truth. Added to it was Arnab’s decision to back actress Kangana Ranaut, who was instrumental in exposing drug trafficking angle dragging Bollywood. Never say die attitude of Kangana’s determination to fight mighty and influential in her own fraternity, has to face the wrath of Udhav Thackeray government, which demolished her illegally constructed front portion of her residence in Mumbai.
A visibly panicked Maharashtra government’s decision to withdraw ‘consent clause’ to prevent possible take over of the TRP scam by the CBI, proves beyond doubt of hammering the last nail on its own coffin. The decision comes close on the heels of the CBI’s decision to step-in after the UP government’s request to probe the TRP scam, which has become a national issue.
What the MVA government in Maharashtra failed to assess is the competence of Republic TV Editorial team in unraveling the truth from its underneath. Whether in case of getting access to the FIR filed by the Hansa, the probing agency of BARC, which though clearly did not name Republic TV, yet the Mumbai Police Chief Parambir Singh’s brazenness at the directives of his political bosses, to instead name Republic TV and its Chief Editor Arnab Goswami. As if that was not enough, in two sting operations conducted by Arnab’s SIT had also established conclusive evidence to prove that it was a well hatched conspiracy by none other than the government to misuse the state police and bureaucracy to somehow ‘fix’ and ‘finish’ Arnab and his media house, which stands tall in the country as No.1.
In the first stint tape, a senior Congress leader confessing that it was indeed a conspiracy of the government to shut the Repblic TV, then in the second tape involving none other than a cabinet minister Nawab Malik, who not only further strengthened the conspiracy theory hatched by his government, but also went to the extent to say that his government is determined to see a frustrated Arnab Goswami to commit suicide. Truly it has come as double whammy to Arnab and his Republic TV to defend his case.
That the clash between Maha government and Republic TV is no longer a no-holds barred, but certainly dropping enough hints to the judiciary as well the Central government, may be forced to act in the wake of public cry across the country. What is more shameful and aghasting is a clear division within the media and neither the so called professional bodies like the Press Council or Press or Journalists Guild or incredible trade unions, besides Lutiyans media, Left Liberals and self-acclaimed writers going mute, who hitherto jump to get into media glare at the drop of the hat.
In that backdrop, before the situation further deteriorates amidst people’s cry across the country through social media, the only option left before the Narendra Modi government is to clamp President’s Rule, may be for a short spell, keeping the elected coalition parties government under abeyance, and clean up the mess created by the Mumbai police either in the actor Sushanth Singh Rajput and his secretary Disha’s mysterious deaths or the drug trafficking within the Bollywood, which poses serious internal security threat to the nation, besides the Palghar Sadhus lynching case. Or else, one fears, if the present MVA government allowed remaining in power and carrying on with his vindictive and witch hunting acts throttling the press freedom, bound to make yet again our so called biggest democracy, a laughing stock in the eyes of the world community.