New Delhi: The Congress has launched a multi-pronged attack at Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami over leaked WhatsApp chats that purportedly suggest he was privy to India’s plans to conduct airstrikes against Pakistan — in retaliation to the February 2019 Pulwama attack — days before they took place.
Congress student wing National Students Union of India (NSUI) has filed a police complaint against Goswami in Maharashtra, youth arm Youth Congress organised a protest in Delhi Monday, and scores of senior party leaders — including former Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and former junior Foreign Minister Shashi Tharoor — have taken to Twitter to note that the chats pose serious questions about national security.
Goswami’s purported WhatsApp chats with former Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) chief executive Partho Dasgupta created a storm when they went viral Friday.
Running over 1,000 pages long, they are part of Mumbai Police’s charge sheet, submitted before a court, in a case pertaining to alleged manipulation of Television Rating Points (TRPs) by news channels, including Republic TV.
Among other things, the chats purportedly show Goswami having prior knowledge of major government decisions such as the Balakot airstrikes and the scrapping of Article 370.
On 14 February 2019, hours after the Pulwama attack, Goswami purportedly texted Dasgupta that it worked well for his channel’s TRPs. In another conversation on 23 February 2019, Goswami allegedly referred to the government’s plans to strike Pakistan “in a way that people will be elated”.
While the NSUI has accused Goswami of “treason”, senior Congress leaders have called for a thorough investigation in the matter.
ThePrint sent a text message and a voice mail to Goswami asking for a comment but didn’t receive a response till the time of publishing this report.
NSUI national secretary Roshan Lal Bittu filed a complaint in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra, accusing Goswami of being a “treacherous person before the people of India”.
“The WhatsApp conversations between Mr Goswami and the Broadcast Audience Research Council reveals (sic) that Mr Goswami was informed, by secret source, about the Balakot attack before it was commenced on 26th February 2019,” the complaint states.
The NSUI’s complaint further states that Goswami, “to increase the TRP of his TV channel has played with the nation and exposed the secrecy of Government of India”, and that his act is a “betrayal with the belief of the people of the country”.
Speaking to ThePrint, Bittu said Maharashtra Police is investigating the matter. “Since there is already an ongoing investigation into the fake TRP matter, in this complaint we are specifically asking the police to also look into the national security breach,” Bittu added.
Prakash Hake, a police inspector at the Ramnagar Police station in Chandrapur, said the NSUI had “just submitted a nivedan (memorandum)”.
“I was told that they have submitted this to several police stations across the country. As per procedure, we forwarded it to the SP (superintendent of police) office,” he added.
‘National security milked for electoral purposes?’
The Youth Congress launched a protest in New Delhi Monday, demanding an investigation into the matter, which they labelled “ArnabGate”.
हमें गिरफ्तार करने की बजाय देशद्रोही, दलाल और गद्दार पत्रकार को गिरफ्तार करना चाहिए था।
— Youth Congress (@IYC) January 18, 2021
On Twitter, multiple senior leaders of the Congress raised questions over the mention of the airstrikes in Goswami’s purported chats.
Chidambaram Sunday asked “what is the guarantee that their ‘source’ did not share the information with others as well, including spies or informers working for Pakistan?”
If yes, what is the guarantee that their ‘source’ did not share the information with others as well, including spies or informers working for Pakistan?
How did a “For Your Eyes Only” decision find its way to the government-supporting journalist? @rajnathsingh
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN) January 17, 2021
Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan asked the government to launch a “thorough probe” into the matter.
The voluminous transcript of Mr Goswami’s chats released by Mumbai Police is deeply disturbing. Who gave access to such sensitive information from national security to constitutional amendments and political appointments? #ArnabGate
— Prithviraj Chavan (@prithvrj) January 17, 2021
MP Shashi Tharoor pointed to “3 reprehensible things requiring serious inquiry”.
The leaked @WhatsApp chats reveal 3 reprehensible things requiring serious inquiry: leaking of military secrets to a TV channel for its commercial purposes; a "nationalist" gloating over the death of 40 jawans as an "attack we have won like crazy”,&fraudulent manipulation of TRPs
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) January 17, 2021
Fellow MP Manish Tewari, meanwhile, asked if “national security” had been “milked for electoral purposes?” and demanded an investigation.
If what sections of Media is reporting is correct then it points towards a direct linkage between Balakot air strikes and 2019 General elections.
Was National Security milked for electoral purposes ?
Needs a JPC investigation.
— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) January 17, 2021
At a press conference Sunday, chief Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the party is “examining” the charge sheet in detail, and will soon share their views on why the case requires an investigation.
“How financial frauds happened, involvement of officials in high positions, and some conversations even talked about ‘buying’ judges and deciding portfolios for ministers — this is akin to playing with national security and shows the hollowness of those in power,” Surjewala added.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.