Mumbai Police

Arnab’s arrest: And why it must concern us beyond BJP-Congress, Right-Left binaries

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

A case is filed on two deaths/suicides. The complaint is that the two deceased were driven to take the extreme step because some THREE didn’t pay up. After a while police gives up. Admits in court there is not enough evidence to incriminate the THREE. The case is closed.

A year later the case is reopened in May 2020 at state government’s behest. On November 4, 2020, that ONE is arrested. Manhandled and with policemen toting AK-47s in tow. A measure you and I would recommend for a dreaded terrorist.

But Arnab Goswami is no terrorist. He could be one in the TV news industry or for certain forces. He could have been an asset for the ruling dispensation in the Centre. You and I could be on one side or the other. But none of us would deny he is a media celebrity. Possibly the biggest name on our media firmament. It sends signals, right or wrong, across the country. It affects India’s millions and millions of citizens. If not now, then pretty soon.

I am for law to take its course. I am not here to argue Maharashtra government reopening the case. I am not too worried about Mumbai Police too. Arrests are made in India, there are courts who on the basis of evidence take a call. I am not worried too about missing Arnab Goswami in my evenings. I hardly watch him. But I have the option to go for remote. As everyone has. You want to watch him, watch him. You want to shut him out, do it.

I am not going hysterical on either of these two lines of arguments:

One says it’s a revenge for raking up Palghar, dogging the drugs-Bollywood connection, and pursuing the Sushant Singh Rajput case with relentless vigour. After months, Arnab didn’t let up on these themes. He also took Sonia’s original name with certain contempt which upset the Queen Dowager no end up. What more proof do we need against the fascist nature of present Maharashtra government when it beats up ex-soldiers, locks up ordinary citizens for social media posts and make a crane comfortable within the drawing room of a nationally acclaimed actress? And don’t we have multiple sting operations which reveal that “Arnab-would-have-no-option-but-to-commit-suicide”, such would be the ferocity from the state government? That you get Arnab and you take heat off Bollywood and Sushant Rajput?

The other side is driven to despair at Goswami not letting up on Palghar, Sushant Singh Rajput, Bollywood and Kangana Ranaut. They feel such attacks are motivated. That it’s Centre which is working overtime to sink the rather unholy alliance between Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress. They argue what’s so big about Arnab when journalists are being hauled up all around the country, including in a few BJP states.

You and I could differ. Hindus and Muslims could differ. Political parties could differ. Ideologies could differ. But there is something we must not differ. And that’s about the nature of our Republic. We won’t be a democracy if media is under a siege. There is no gain showing me International Press Index which shows India very poor in freedom of press. That India is turning fascist. If it was so, NDTV’s alleged financial scams would’ve been taken to logical conclusions. The Telegraph won’t be so openly abusive. If people were under fetters, there won’t be open threats to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, and more than just on their lives. Vilest language on social media goes unpunished.

A free media though doesn’t mean unfettered media. If Arnab is arrested or some journalist in Uttar Pradesh is, there are redressal mechanisms. One or the other would be shown up wrong. Law would take it’s call. But if you manhandle a media celebrity and bring in armed men toting Ak-47, this is more than justice pursued. This is criminal intimidation. The is State trying to send the message across: to media and to people. That even though we derive our power from you, our naked force is meant to terrify you. That if this could happen to arguably one of the 10 biggest names in the country, you could be the next.

There is no gainsaying that Mumbai Police has acted on its own accord. It’s answerable to State government who, by now, ought to have taken a public stand on the matter. I scanned the twitter-lines of Uddhav Thackeray (office), Sharad Pawar, Congress (Sonia Gandhi) and Rahul Gandhi. Blank. Shashi Tharoor? Blank. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra? Blank. Mamata, Pinarayi Vijayan, Ashok Gehlot? Blank. looked up for Shekhar Gupta and Rajdeep Sardesai. Bland. I could promise you they would be the next. And then you would go to town on the “fascism” of Modi government. And then you would be teased on your silence on Arnab Goswami. Be principled or drop the pretence.

In a jungle, might rules. Humanity was no better than jungle. But it was centuries ago. Since then, Magna Carta happened, Napoleon happened, Tocqueville happened, Voltaire happened. We all agreed to the way a society functioned. A cobbled-up state government today wants to tell us we were wrong. That a Genghis Khan or a Taimur still lives. No sir, they no longer do. Before long, your fate would be decided as its done every five years. You are too weak to fetter a billion voices. India would assert and show you your place.

Anarchy has come home to roost in India: What options do BJP have?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Breakdown.

Is that what India has come to?

Most Indians are battling this conundrum.

This perceived breakdown, internal, is largely at two levels: (a) harmony between Hindus-Muslims; (b) Centre and state relations.

Both are interlinked. A power seemingly in perpetuity loses an election. And another. Both by a landslide. The winners are identified with majority. The losers with minority. The turfs have exchanged hands. It’s an existential moment for losers; like those countless in history where Czars and Caliphs came to rest in tomes and tombs.

Losers now rally their forces. It joins hands with those it was in fight with all these years. All the parts must matter in sum. It doesn’t. Those who made a meal out of caste politics in India’s heartland are uprooted; those who swore by Maratha identity sound like a hag’s croon; elsewhere in volatile Bengal, the monster-slayer Didi stomps ground, flashes eyes and fingers, yet barely keeps her head above the surging water.

The Winners are surer after second win. They know they have come to stay. They won on planks of development and incorruptibility. On keeping India First. So out goes Jammu and Kashmir and its armour of special status. Minority wakes up to post-Shah Bano world in Triple Talaq Act; Ram Janmabhoomi arrived at an opportune time; and then the long-standing Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is approved by India’s chosen representatives.

So Losers can’t win people’s confidence. The judiciary too doesn’t fall to their mechanisms. Prepaid media is doing its best but little is changing on the ground. Their Samaritans in movies, culture, academics have little traction. The echo-chamber in West is drowning in its own noise.

Anarchy thus is the last resort. It’s always two-faced: One is led by the system. The other by the people. As I mentioned at the start: Break it down at (a) people; and (b) governance level.

Anarchy at the people’s level is your anti-CAA protests, Hathras, Farms Bills, Reservation stirs etc, etc. Anarchy at the governance level is passing resolutions against the Central Acts in your State’s assemblies; refusing CBI a peek into your vice-dens; protecting your favourite police officers even against the judiciary’s strictures; and ridiculing Governors every alternate day.

Uddhav’s Maharashtra is taking it to the next level. Mamata’s police was bad on cartoons on their leader (Uddhav’s too as ex-navy officer Madan Sharma would testify); it would land on doors at different States;  a journalist here and there; but Uddhav’s is booking the entire Republic TV network—claimed 1000 of them ! Kangana Ranaut was just a teaser it would seem. What next?

Some fundamental issues are stake in India. How far could this anarchy be allowed? The ruling BJP apparently has two choices. Let the masses know who are their enemies. It would teach them a lesson in due course. The other option is to exercise the power that the Constitution empowers it with: Dismiss state governments. The long rope which BJP has extended to Mamata Banerjee in the last six years conveys they would rather not do it and leave it in people’s hands.

BJP also knows what is noise and what’s substance. The noise is the ant-Farm Acts stir in Punjab led by its Congress chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh. It could pass assembly resolutions but nothing would come out of it. The Punjab government is saddled with enormous debts and in the era of GST, you can’t trot your own horse when the whip is with someone else. You need Centre at every stage: Disasters and finances are one thing; telecommunications and security is another. More so in a border State.

It doesn’t mean that BJP ought to be at peace with anarchy. Mandate comes with responsibility. Anti-CAA protests led to Delhi Riots. They didn’t see Shaheen Bagh become what it did in the end. It made even Supreme Court helpless. The State must never be seen soft. India can’t afford it. All societies run on larger good. Those sloganeering “freedom”, “democracy” and “Constitution” don’t mean a bit of it. This chimera must yield to rule of law. Or it would persist in our lifetimes; and in our children’s. To horrific consequences if a malleable power was to come to Centre.

(Meanwhile, don’t fret on the welfare of Republic TV. Nothing would come out of it. Indians don’t like or even see somebody being browbeaten. More so by Powers. Brazenly. Mumbai Police has taken a bigger bite than it could chew. So, enjoy the drama but don’t miss your routine. The Karma would catch up with Mumbai Police and the rulers in Maharashtra).

 

 

President’s Rule: What’s stoking this buzz in Maharashtra

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

India is worried on count of Maharashtra. The Western state appears to be losing the battle against Corona Virus. There are three matters which suggest we haven’t seen the worst yet.

One is a measure by the Mumbai Police. While imposing Section 144 till June 8, it prohibits any attempt on social media to incite mistrust against the government officials. It’s a loosely worded order which empowers the state machinery to take punitive measure on what it doesn’t like and considers as creating “mistrust” in public against it. It’s censorship otherly-worded.

Second is Rahul Gandhi going public in distancing himself from the Maharashtra government of which his party Congress is a part. In a video message, Gandhi said his party doesn’t have a say in key matters in running of the state.

Third is an Indian Express report which claims that there is “resentment in the cabinet” over Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s reliance on the bureaucracy who virtually are running the state’s Corona strategy and are “keeping ministers in the dark.”

Further, the Indian Express claims that the three partners in coalition—NCP, Congress, Shiv Sena—differ over lockdown. While Thackeray prefers an extension of lockdown, Pawar (NCP) “is keen on granting some relaxations.”

In plain terms, Corona is like a mad dog on the leash which is taking its master, the Maharashtra government, all over the place.  There is no firm hand to keep the canine on its trajectory. The Maha Aghadi (The Great Development Front) is a grumpy house where a key partner has distanced itself, the cabinet is sore over the bureaucracy and there is bickering on the lockdown strategy.

A few side issues haven’t won Maharashtra government many friends. The harassment of media personality Arnab Goswami is viewed prejudiced. The Palghar Lynchings of Sadhus is hanging fire. Then we had a few barons in the Yes Bank scandal, sought by state agencies, moving without intervention in their caravans amidst the lockdown. We now have reports where Shiv Sainiks (Shiv Sena cadre) have vandalized shops of individuals who allegedly didn’t have complimentary words for Thackeray. A FIR against the owners, two individuals, has added insult to injury.

Predictably, BJP has mounted pressure. The Railways minister Piyush Goyal has run hourly tweets on how Maharashtra government is doing nothing to avail Shramik Trains for stranded migrants. Now there are reports that a few BJP functionaries have met the governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari raising speculation over the President’s Rule. Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, on his part, has stated that they don’t need to win over any sitting MLAs as “they (Maha Aghadi) would collapse under its own weight.”

Meanwhile Loksatta, a Marathi news outlet, ran a twitter poll on whether the state should have President’s Rule. Within five hours, the voters leaned in favour of dissolution of assembly. Though the regional newspaper promptly dropped the poll, the twitteratis went to town on the mood of the people in Maharashtra.

Politics and power is small price compared to the catastrophe which is unfolding in the state. Cynics would say that it perhaps is the reason why Corona is spiralling out of control. So far up to 40 per cent of India’s numbers and deaths to the pandemic are accounted by the state of Maharashtra. The prized city of Mumbai has been gripped by the curse. The commercial capital of the country is bleeding and no end is in sight. It’s not good for state, definitely not for India. Besides, there is this question: How long could you keep the people locked out. How long would they watch the rest of india limp back to life while they are sealed between their four walls?

The alliance of convenience in Maharashtra must show itself as an alliance of saviours. Or give way to those who could get the job done.