New Delhi: Hours after at least three FIRs (First Information Reports) were filed against Arnab Goswami in two Congress-ruled states for controversial comments on his show against party president Sonia Gandhi and the Palghar lynching case, the Republic TV editor-in-chief says that two persons from the Youth Congress attacked him late on April 23 night while he was driving home from work with his wife.
According to the FIR filed by Goswami at the police station soon after he was attacked, the two bike-borne men were overpowered by Goswami’s security team – he has ‘Y Category’ police protection – who were following him in a separate vehicle, and later arrested for the alleged assault. Goswami stated that the youths told his security guards that they belonged to the Youth Congress and were carrying out the attack at the “orders of the higher ups”.
However, details on the identity of the youths, including their names, have not been made public yet, either by the police or by Goswami.
Goswami is among a handful of editors who are provided security by the government.
Soon after three men were brutally killed by a mob in a village in Maharashtra’s Palghar district on the suspicion of being ‘thieves’, right-wing Twitter handles tried to communalise the incident by focussing on the fact that two of the victims wore saffron robes and were sadhus.
As many as 101 persons have been arrested by the Maharashtra Police for the crime. The Maharashtra home minister tweeted that the victims and attackers belonged to the same religion and to underscore the absence of a religious or communal angle the police released the list of those arrested to make the point that it didn’t include any Muslims.
On April 21, Goswami, on his show, launched an attack on Congress president Sonia Gandhi for deliberately maintaining “silence” on the matter because “she hails from Italy”.
“In India, being a Hindu and wearing the orange colour has become a sin. I ask that if a maulavi had been killed, would people be silent? Would Sonia Gandhi, who hails from Italy, be quiet? Today, she is silent …I think she is happy in her heart that saints are being attacked in a state where she has formed the government. She will send a report to Italy saying that ‘Where I formed government, I am getting saints killed,” he stated. He alleged that she would not have remained silent had they been “Muslim preachers or Christian saints”.
Several Congress leaders including Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel and Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh took to Twitter, accusing Goswami of trying to incite communal violence through hate speech. Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said Goswami “is in urgent need of treatment. He is not well.”
According to news reports, Maharashtra’s energy minister and Congress leader Nitin Raut filed an FIR in Nagpur accusing Goswami of inciting communal violence by delivering a hate speech, a cognisable offence under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). It was followed by another FIR filed in Raipur by Chhattisgarh health minister and party leader T.S. Singh Deo. Yet another FIR was filed in Maharashtra by state Youth Congress president Satyajeet Tambe. According to an Indian Express report, Tambe had instructed party workers to file complaints against Goswami’s controversial comments in all districts of the state.
On April 23 at midnight, Goswami alleged that his car was stopped by two persons from the Youth Congress. In the FIR filed at NM Joshi Marg Police Station, he gave the sequence of events claiming that the persons had “confessed” to the Mumbai Police security team that they belonged to Youth Congress and were operating at the instructions of “higher ups”. In a video he recorded at the parking lot of his apartment complex soon after the alleged attack (another video showed the white car marked with what looked like black ink allegedly thrown by the attackers), he accused Sonia Gandhi of sending “Youth Congress goons” to attack him.
In the FIR, he stated that an employee from the news channel present at the police station on April 22 night was told by the DCP that “it is a matter of investigation whether the youths were from Youth Congress”. The FIR has been jointly filed by Goswami, his wife and Republic TV editor Samyabrata Ray, along with two from the Mumbai Police protection team – Shivaji Hosmani and Avinash Natekar – and his office guard accompanying the security team, Mahendra Kale.
Soon BJP leaders took to Twitter, accusing the Congress of “executing a dastardly attack on Arnab Goswami and his wife”. BJP national president J.P. Nadda said, “Sad to see such public hounding of a journalist for his freedom of speech.”
Though Union information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar has maintained silence over several attacks on media persons, including women journalists, in different parts of the country including filing of FIRs filed under draconian laws on frivolous charges, he did speak out against the attack on Goswami and also “any attack on journalist”.
Speaking to news agency ANI on April 23, Javadekar said, “We condemn the attack on renowned journalist Arnab Goswami. Essentially, we condemn any attack on any journalist; this is against democracy and it is really ironical that those who preach tolerance have become so intolerant, therefore we condemn this attempt and we appeal to the collective wisdom that this is undemocratic and as per present law definitely police should take action if there is a complaint.”