Mumbai/New Delhi: Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami was arrested by the Maharashtra Police Wednesday in connection with a 2018 case in which he was alleged to have abetted the suicide of an architect and his mother.
A police team went to Goswami’s house early Wednesday and picked him up and took him away in a convoy of vehicles, visuals on Republic TV showed. The channel said police had barged into Goswami’s house and alleged that the journalist had also been assaulted.
Mumbai Police inspector Sachin Waze, who Republic TV said led the team to Goswami’s house, told the channel that he had been arrested for abetment and aiding suicide.
“They did not let me meet my family…they beat my son, mere bete ko maara,” Goswami was shown by the channel as saying through the grills of a police vehicle in which he was being taken away.
Mumbai Police spokesperson S. Chaitanya told ThePrint that Goswami was arrested by the Raigad police. “Mumbai Police has nothing to do with Goswami’s arrest. We didn’t arrest him. Raigad police have arrested him,” he said.
The 2018 suicide case, which took place in Raigad district, was reopened by the Maharashtra government earlier this year. Goswami and two others were booked by the Alibaug police for allegedly abetting the suicide of 53-year-old Anvay Naik and his mother.
In his suicide note, Anvay had reportedly claimed that Goswami and the two others — Feroz Shaikh of IcastX/Skimedia, a media services firm, and Niteesh Sarda of Smart work, which provides “flexible workspaces” — owed him a total of Rs 5.4 crore.
According to the FIR, ARG Outlier Media, the Goswami-owned parent company of Republic TV, owed Rs 83 lakh to the architect, who owned a firm called Concorde Designs Pvt. Ltd.
Justice to Naik’s family, says Congress
In a video message after Goswami’s arrest, Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the action is a “shradhanjali” to Naik.
“Goswami’s arrest is justice to Naik’s family. The Fadnavis government didn’t let justice be delivered. Naik died by suicide because he couldn’t take the financial burden. However, no action was taken against Arnab even though the suicide note clearly mentioned him. He wasn’t even called for inquiry. Fadnavis was under pressure because he runs the Modi government’s agenda. That’s why he was protected. We support this investigation,” Sawant said.
In a video byte sent to ThePrint, Rajya Sabha MP and NCP leader Majeed Memon said, “Goswami’s arrest by Raigad police for alleged abetment of suicide has made big news. The reactions from the Centre, including from Cabinet ministers appears to be hasty. Only when the accused is put before the court that we will know about the facts.”
He added: “I think his arrest shouldn’t be treated singularly on a different yardstick because he happens to be a blue eyed boy for the Union ministry. The Centre seems to be displeased over his arrest.”
Republic TV has also been accused by the Mumbai Police of being involved in a TRP manipulation racket. The channel and two other Marathi TV channels were booked by Mumbai Police last month for allegedly fudging TRPs to gain an edge over rivals.
Subsequently, Mumbai Police booked senior editors and newsroom staff of the news channel for airing news about a “revolt” within the force against Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh.
The BJP came out in strong support of Arnab Goswami, led by Union ministers Smriti Irani and Prakash Javadekar, with #IndiaWithArnab trending on Twitter.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said he “condemned” the attack on press freedom in Maharashtra.
We condemn the attack on press freedom in #Maharashtra. This is not the way to treat the Press. This reminds us of the emergency days when the press was treated like this.@PIB_India @DDNewslive @republic
— Prakash Javadekar (@PrakashJavdekar) November 4, 2020
Smriti Irani, Union Minister for Textiles and Women & Child Development, said those in the free press who don’t stand up in support of Arnab “are now tactically in support of fascism”.
“You may not like him, you may not approve of him, you may despise his very existence but if you stay silent you support suppression,” she tweeted.
Those in the free press who don’t stand up today in support of Arnab, you are now tactically in support of fascism. You may not like him, you may not approve of him,you may despise his very existence but if you stay silent you support suppression. Who speaks if you are next ?
— Smriti Z Irani (@smritiirani) November 4, 2020
Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal called the arrest a “fascist move” and “a sign of undeclared emergency”.
Strongly condemn this attack on freedom of press in Maharashtra. This fascist move is a sign of undeclared emergency.
Assaulting journalist #ArnabGoswami is an example of misuse of power. We must all stand up against this attack on India’s democracy.
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) November 4, 2020
BJP president J.P. Nadda said the action was “shameful”.
Every person who believes in a free press and freedom of expression is furious at the Maharashtra Government’s bullying and harassment of Arnab Goswami. This is yet another instance of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi-directed antic of silencing those who disagree with them. Shameful!
— Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) November 4, 2020
Assam BJP leader and minister Himanta Biswa Sarma condemned the “politically motivated Mumbai police action”.
.@republic Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami physically assaulted & arrested by Mumbai police is nothing but muzzling freedom of press by the vindictive M'rashtra govt. Strongly condemn this shameless politically motivated Mumbai police action. It's like Emergency days in Maharashtra
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) November 4, 2020
BJP national general secretary (orangisation) B.L. Santosh called for media houses and editors to “condemn this act unsparingly”.
Media houses , editors & reporters organisations who keep silent today are in a sense tactically supporting MVA Govt & Police highhandedness . You will repent for a long time if you don’t condemn this act unsparingly .
— B L Santhosh (@blsanthosh) November 4, 2020
He also said this was “a worst form of Police State”, drawing comparison to “1975 under Smt Indira Gandhi”.
BJP leader Sambit Patra tweeted in Hindi: “What happened with Arnab Goswami today can also happen to you tomorrow .. if you do not raise your voice against untruth !!.”
आज जो अर्नब गोस्वामी के साथ हुआ वो कल आप के साथ भी हो सकता है ..यदि आप असत्य के ख़िलाफ़ आवाज़ नहीं उठाते!!
“समर शेष है, नहीं पाप का भागी केवल व्याध
जो तटस्थ हैं, समय लिखेगा उनके भी अपराध”#IndiaStandaWithArnab
— Sambit Patra (@sambitswaraj) November 4, 2020
Arresting #ArnabGoswami is despicable.
The Maha Govt has no respect for rule of law & constitutional freedoms. This reminds us of the dark days of emergency!
I hope every political leader & media house, irrespective of their differences, stands with #ArnabGoswami at this time.
— Tejasvi Surya (@Tejasvi_Surya) November 4, 2020
Those who perennially pretend to champion freedom of speech and speak for press freedom are curiously silent on how Congress is targeting Arnab Goswami and Republic network. This selectivity is bane of India’s public discourse. Those riding on high horses look like pygmies now…
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) November 4, 2020
Emergency type situation in Maharastra, Uddhav is behaving Like Hitler. This govt should be suspend asap. India is with @republic
— Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga (@TajinderBagga) November 4, 2020
BJP national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia called this “a text book case of malafide prosecution & arrest” and said the Maharashtra government is “murdering democracy”.
Senior lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani said the the arrest is “totally malafide”. “Instead of ignoring Arnabs challenge to arrest him the State has shown arrogance,” he tweeted.
The arrest of Arnab Goswami in a case where a closure report was filed a few years ago is a shocking abuse of police power. Even if the police have reopened the case the arrest is totally malafide. Instead of ignoring Arnabs challenge to arrest him the State has shown arrogance
— Mahesh Jethmalani (@JethmalaniM) November 4, 2020
Actor Kangana Ranaut posted a video on Twitter, questioning the arrest.
— Kangana Ranaut (@KanganaTeam) November 4, 2020