Sushant Singh Rajput

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.

Uddhav and his miserable attempt at Arnab the Bull rampaging his china shop

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Uddhav Thackeray has lost the plot badly. I mean Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar have nothing to lose—their fiefdom would survive only till they are alive. But Uddhav had many advantages which we could count as (a) Balasaheb who had nurtured a regional identity; (b) Hindu plank which is only now peaking and; (c) and BJP’s hand-holding which could have morphed their rogues into those adorable kids who knock our doors for social cause and not to knock us out (Ask Madan Sharma, if you must).

So, here we have a man who by his own admission left the groovy train of BJP because he wanted to be the chief minister. That was the first transgression against the mandate of his own people who had BJP as first choice. The second overstep was joining hands with those who were arch enemies of his own dad, his own legacy and not people’s preferred choices. Then Palghar, Sushant Singh Rajput, Kangana Ranaut, Madan Sharma (again) and Arnab Goswami reminded us of a cave man on street you ask you sister to keep eyes closed to lest he bumps in and asks for a fig leaf.

I mean who looks the other way when your khaki guys are boarding trains to nab a man in Hooghly only because someone has made a threatening call to your spokesperson who himself doesn’t suffer a flushed face in “haramkhor-ing” others? Who throws journalists in a cell only because they were loitering outside your gates? Who declares Mumbai out-of-bounds for a celebrated actress whose national recognition vis-à-vis acknowledgment in media is the biggest giveaway on caucus that manipulates the success and failure of our films? Who brings bulldozers into drawing rooms? (Well, okay office). Who allows broken bones for cartoons and still not called out for an Indian version of Charlie Hebdo? Who calls celebrated journalists into interrogation rooms only because he addressed the Dowager Queen by her original name? And you move Maharashtra assembly for a privilege motion against the man?

And this brings us to the latest saga of Thackeray’s Maharashtra which is akin to those Seasons of Netflix which abuse Hindu deities (in form of canines and monkeys) and ridicule its holy men (beef-eating Pujaris) in the name of artistic licence. So here we have a Police Commissioner holding a press conference which is an unveiled attack on a television phenomenon of our times with a script which a policeman even with Alzheimer could write as a second nature.

So, a complaint is made, a guy is caught, names are taken, arrests are made, complainants hail the model police and a noose is tossed on a raging bull of an anchor who is breaking all your China shops—from Palghar to Rajput to Bollywood to drug mafia to Hathras—only because there is so many cupboards and so many skeletons which it would be improper to leave unattended.  It’s as kiddish and Kalidasa-like (before the latter learnt not to cut the very branch on which he was perched) that you wonder if Congress-NCP are doing a hit-job on Shiv Sena on behalf of BJP. It’s like those suicides which Jihadis do only because they read in a dusty old book that its surest way to be in Jannat and enjoy 72 virgins (Why the figure of 72? Well some other day).

How this all would end? In a whimper though it’s a silly to stick neck out against a subject whose self-destructive streak by now is legendary. I mean all they have done is to only empower Arnab Goswami. A Kangana Ranaut which was fading from memory; a Rajput which viewers were getting tired with; our Deepikas and Saras and Shraddhas had come and gone and why, even Rhea is out of cell. But now there is a new fire and Arnab would harness it to the hilt.

The dye is cast. Arnab is daring them to arrest him. He says if called for interrogation he would walk to the police station and walk back (at least two-hours of primetime TV on his network which would break records of Sholay). He is baiting them for the lolly which they could serve him on a plate. You put him behind bars and all the hell breaks loose. You let him go and those two owners arrested as a collateral damage would go for your throat. You make a sheepish retreat and all your macho posturing would conjure image of a damsel who had gotten into the bed with high hopes.

I mean who needs enemies when you yourself are doing the job so spectacularly?

 

 

“Haramkhor” Sanjay Raut: Here’s listing all those who fit the description

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Sanjay Raut. Wait, wait. This isn’t a voice which you are hearing from behind Kangana Ranaut’s skirt. This man can fill up your nostrils all on his own. He is always in your face like the ones who knock at your car panels on red lights. Ranaut is only the latest excuse.

Raut is a leashed presence at the feet, a prototype all leaders keep only to be released in time. Some act suave, like Pavan Varma and Derek O’ Brien and some are cast in his inimitable mould such as Azam Khan and Sanjay Singh, if you may. Congress has too many which this piece is too short to do justice to. So, Randeep Surjewalas and Navjot Sidhus and Digvijay Singhs could relax.

There was a time when Sanjay Raut wanted to bar Muslims from voting in elections. He came around to stand with them on anti-CAA plank, chumming up to Jamaat-e-Islamic Hind. This change was overnight. It swung with equations of his Shiv Sena vis-à-vis BJP. He once bloated on the upcoming Chhatrapati Shivaji memorial site on the Arabian Sea. He is now drawing daggers at Rani Lakshmi Bai, i.e Kangana Ranaut in a filmi avatar.

So who is the real Sanjay Raut? Nobody. He is just a muckracker in the journalistic tradition of our times. He edits his party’s paper, Saamana, and takes credit for writing a biopic on Balasaheb and would be mistaken as erudite by somebody living in North Pole. Well, after all he has been an “elder” in Rajya Sabha for three terms now. But his calling card, as you would’ve guessed by now, is baring his teeth when his masters want him to.

So, it’s with him now on Kangana Ranaut. It was good he affixed “ladki” with his “haramkhor” adjective. Or somebody would’ve thought he was in a self-appraisal mode. I mean thrice a national award winner, four times of Filmfare, all by the age of 30, doesn’t quite fit the definition of a “haramkhor.”

As you would’ve guessed, the gender-warriors in our newspapers have ducked into their gutters. All your Shobhaa Dees, Mahua Moitras, Priyanka Gandhis, Brinda Karats who bristle at slights on the fairer sex are silent. And we are talking of no ordinary woman here. It’s a prized actress who is picking up the cudgels against the patriarchal Bollywood. Who wants to clean up the filmi stable of drugs and Dubai mafia. Who wants to offer a tomorrow of safety and respect and dignity to a newcomer who is arriving at VT station from Asansol. Who doesn’t want them to meet the fate of a Sushant Singh Rajput. That their young eyes with dreams aren’t closed forever.  A woman who is risking her life, lighting a matchstick on her own career, who if she was to venture into Mumbai today would have an idea how a PoK must feel like.

But not a word from our pen-pushers. Not a clap for the triumph of talent over entitlement. She is not a “Shero” to Barkha Dutt.  Nor she is a Safoora Zargar who gets a cry of outrage from Shekhar Gupta’s ThePrint. A Sagarika Ghose brings out international law in defence of Safoora. A Rajdeep Sardesai tears his heart out on a pregnant woman in jail. Somebody calls Ishrat Jahan a daughter of our own land. Never mind one is charged with inciting riots and the other with a plot to assassinate a chief minister.

Our Bollywood bimbos now can’t find the placard in support of their gender. Against one of their own who they can’t match in range in this lifetime. Why bother if there are couches perfumed for their hinterland preys, ringed by leering louts? That youngsters are no better than playthings for those who happen to be their dads?

All of them—these starlets, muckraking journalists, political clowns—are toxics in our life. They don’t allow us to smell a rose; inhale a breeze, whistle a tune. Once in a while, somebody stands up risking everything one has. And she is “haramkhor” to them.

Aren’t we sick, folks?

 

Sushant and Gaurav: What’s the connection we all need to know?

(This is a reprint from NewsBred).

Death has hovered around us in recent months. Corona Virus pandemic allows us only incremental life; not a free-flowing one. We are not allowed to forget we are mere mortals. Everyone is a little less confident these days.

We are now grimmer after Sushant Singh Rajput has taken his life. Apparently, he closed his room and hung himself. He talked to few in his last 2-3 days. Nobody knows what took him beyond the brink. He didn’t suffer from finances, fame, glamour or an affair gone rancid. He also wasn’t born in riches and had come up the hard way. He worked very hard on his fitness. He could talk on Jean-Paul Sartre and Stephen Hawking. He was an accomplished student. He also wanted so much more from his life. Possibly the next superstar. There was every reason for him to be proud about his growth in a little life of 34 years. Yet he threw it all away. His suicide is now the stuff of gossip. We all can speculate and a few could introspect but the tragedy has already overtaken us.

 

There is this unrelated case of Gaurav Bansal (see image) who was everything Sushant Singh Rajput wasn’t. Bansal didn’t have money, fame, glamour nothing. He was one faceless amongst us in a lower middle-class Delhi locality. He too took his life. But with a difference. He goaded others to hang him and didn’t do it himself. Rajput was overtaken by his own stress. Bansal’s Gaurav’s was a cool, calm move as he worked out his plan to perfection. He sought out men to murder him, weighed pros and cons on methods, the venue of crime, before having himself killed At least in his case we know the motive of his suicide-by-other name: He wanted his impoverished family of a wife and two young sons to have the Rs 1 crore they could get on his term insurance policy.

Why did Gaurav have himself killed rather than commit suicide? Apparently, most term insurances on suicide commence after the policy has been in existence for 12 months. We could thus deduce that his policy was still in hibernation on the matter of suicide. We could also reasonably conclude that he took this policy with a view to snuff out his life down a few months.

So now that his appointed killers have been held, and the nuances of the manufactured crime are in public domain, would his family get the money for which a concerned husband and a loving father laid down his life?  Would insurance companies, who are out there to make profit, suddenly acquire that human eye and won’t let his death go to waste? And if they don’t, won’t it be a tragedy we won’t know that the life Gaurav lost amounted to nothing.

Then there is this case in the Capital where a father threw down his months-old baby from the second floor because the daughter was bawling. She was brought into this world by her parents but had no say on her life. She wasn’t intelligent enough to fathom that her father was heavily drunk. Her mother possibly couldn’t imagine that the husband has gone to balcony not to calm down the baby but to splatter the road below with the entrails and blood of the innocent.

All these incidents have happened in quick succession in last 72 hours. They all defy the societal norms with which we all grow up in our lives. Yet it isn’t the first time. There would be a repeat in future. Yes, we are not responsible. We can’t be held by police or deemed guilty by the courts. But, is there something we all could do?

For instance, we should keep track on Gaurav Bansal’s family and the insurance company to see it’s not deprived of its bread-earner’s sacrifice. We should ensure that the insurance company has been human and not helpless in its technical shield. Our newspapers and swaggering journalists, who criticize all but themselves, for once could appear grown up.

At a local level, we could ask a few of our elders to offer themselves for counselling to distressed residents in neighbourhood. We should also be more observant to people we meet in our days. Those peons, maids, gardeners, car-cleaners, the vendor outside our colonies, who largely exist and not live if viewed from the window of our charmed existence.

Suicides, worldwide, average 80 lakhs annually. India shares 17 per cent of lives such lost. A lot of these dark moments are avoidable. If “will” fails, loving family and caring friends come handy. At an impersonal level, you and I could be the life-savers in our own little way. All our riches against such acts would weigh lighter on the scale of humanity.

In passing, there is a need to inform that an insurance company could refuse to honour a term-insurance policy if one has a criminal record, death is due to influence of alcohol, addiction to smoking, hazardous activities or during childbirth. Value your life, and that of others, and then rightfully claim you qualify to be a part of the society.