New Delhi: Union ministers Amit Shah and S. Jaishankar led the chorus of protest that erupted in the BJP following Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami’s arrest Wednesday.
The Shiv Sena, which is in office in Maharashtra with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress, said being a journalist didn’t grant Goswami immunity from the charges against him. The Congress, meanwhile, accused the BJP of hypocrisy in its calls for freedom of the press, citing the arrest last month of a Kerala journalist who is believed to have been on his way to Hathras, Uttar Pradesh — led by the BJP — to cover the alleged gang rape and murder of a 20-year-old Dalit woman.
Goswami was arrested by Maharashtra Police Wednesday morning in connection with a 2018 case in which he is accused of abetting the suicide of an architect and his mother by allegedly not paying him for an assignment.
Goswami’s arrest led several senior BJP leaders to train their guns at Maharashtra’s ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) combine, with many describing it as a throwback to the days of the Emergency under former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Home Minister Shah called Goswami’s arrest a “blatant misuse of state power”, saying “Congress and its allies have shamed democracy once again”.
Congress and its allies have shamed democracy once again.
Blatant misuse of state power against Republic TV & Arnab Goswami is an attack on individual freedom and the 4th pillar of democracy.
It reminds us of the Emergency. This attack on free press must be and WILL BE OPPOSED.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) November 4, 2020
His external affairs colleague Jaishankar suggested the decision had “shades of Emergency”.
Shades of the Emergency!
The arrest of Arnab Goswami is an attack on the freedom of press. Those who really believe in this freedom must speak up!
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) November 4, 2020
BJP national president J.P. Nadda said the journalist’s arrest is “another instance of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi-directed antic of silencing those who disagree with them”.
“India didn’t forgive Indira Gandhi for the Emergency. India never forgave Rajiv Gandhi for his assault on press freedom. And now, India will again punish Sonia-Rahul Gandhi for their brazen and intimidating use of state power to get equal with journalists,” Nadda added.
India didn’t forgive Indira Gandhi for the Emergency. India never forgave Rajiv Gandhi for his assault on press freedom. And now, India will again punish Sonia-Rahul Gandhi for their brazen and intimidating use of state power to get equal with journalists.
— Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) November 4, 2020
Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya, and Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad were among the other party leaders who decried Goswami’s arrest.
A Black Day for Indian demoracy.
I strongly condemn the assault on senior journalist #ArnabGoswami by Mumbai police. Vendetta politics should be stopped and freedom of press should be maintained in Maharashtra by releasing Mr Goswami immediately.
— Sarbananda Sonowal (@sarbanandsonwal) November 4, 2020
.@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
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
The arrest of senior journalist #ArnabGoswami is seriously reprehensible, unwarranted and worrisome. We had fought for freedoms of Press as well while opposing the draconian Emergency of 1975.
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) November 4, 2020
Maharashtra government’s highhandedness is appalling. Their assault on Arnab Goswami and Republic is an act of vengeance because they questioned Sonia Gandhi’s silence on Palghar. If you didn’t know what Emergency looked like, Congress has rolled it out again! Sena-NCP complicit.
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) November 4, 2020
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
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
I don’t think that this arrest will either frighten or silence Arnab Goswami. It will enhance his appeal and make the Shiv Sena and Congress appear ridiculous. As for India’s liberals…
— Swapan Dasgupta (@swapan55) November 4, 2020
— Sushil Kumar Modi (@SushilModi) November 4, 2020
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said Goswami’s arrest brings back “memories of the Emergency”.
We may disagree with journalists, or dislike their views, but to use brute force against Freedom of Expression brings back memories of the Emergency.
This selective outrage is what real fascism is all about.
Speak up now or you will regret it, sooner rather than later.
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) November 4, 2020
Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said Goswami is paying the price for “exposing” the Congress party.
Arnab is paying the price of exposing every plot and move by Congress party to protect & encourage the ones instigating communal violence.
Who is sheltering Tukde Tukde Gang & Palghar priest murderers?
India wants an answer from Sonia ji & Rahul Gandhi !#EmergencyInMaharashtra
— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) November 4, 2020
Reactions from Shiv Sena, Congress
Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi responded to the criticism by asking “under which IPC sections or Press Freedoms are journalists allowed exemption from payment of their dues?”
Can someone guide me under which IPC sections or Press Freedoms are journalists allowed exemption from payment of their dues?
Also where they are allowed exemption from death probe in which they have been explicitly named? #AskingForAFriend
— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) November 4, 2020
“Can someone tell me what cases are applicable on defaulters who don’t pay up on terms agreed upon in an agreement. What if non payment of dues leads to the aggrieved party taking extreme step of taking own life&in the suicide note mention their reason? Should law apply or not?” Chaturvedi added.
Can someone tell me what cases are applicable on defaulters who don’t pay up on terms agreed upon in an agreement.
What if non payment of dues leads to the aggrieved party taking extreme step of taking own life&in the suicide note mention their reason?
Should law apply or not?
— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) November 4, 2020
Youth Congress leader Srivatsa said Goswami is “crying like a baby that he was assaulted by the Police” even though he had “applauded & even demanded Police Brutality against citizens during the anti-CAA protests”.
Arnab applauded & even demanded Police Brutality against citizens during the anti-CAA protests,
Is now crying like a baby that he was assaulted by the Police!
— Srivatsa (@srivatsayb) November 4, 2020
Congress spokesperson Shama Mohammed hit out at Shah for coming out in support of Goswami while never speaking up about the Kerala journalist, who was slapped with the draconian Unlawful Activities Protection Act (UAPA).
Did @AmitShah speak up when a journalist from Kerala was arrested & slapped with the draconian UAPA for simply reporting on the Hathras case? #ArnabGoswami has been arrested for allegedly abetting a suicide, not for his journalism (or lack thereof) https://t.co/dX59dDZioc
— Shama Mohamed (@drshamamohd) November 4, 2020