Indian journalist Arnab Goswami booked for inciting religious hatred

Goswami says Congress party failed to condemn latest lynching incident because the victims were Hindus

Reuters April 23, 2020
Editor of the fiercely nationalist Republic Bharat TV is known for shouting at guests on his nightly show. PHOTO: TWITTER

MUMBAI: Indian police have registered a case against a top television news anchor for inciting religious discord after he criticised opposition leader Sonia Gandhi during a show about a vigilante attack in which Hindu holy men were killed.

Arnab Goswami, who is editor of the fiercely nationalist Republic Bharat TV and is known for shouting at guests on his nightly show, has been accused of promoting hatred between religious groups, according to the police complaint filed late on Wednesday.

Goswami did not respond to a request for comment.

In a tweet he said he had filed a police complaint of his own after an incident in which he said two men tried to assault him and his wife late on Wednesday as they were leaving their studio in Mumbai.

The case against Goswami, 57, stems from a show he aired on Tuesday on a lynching incident in the western state of Maharashtra, in which three men, including two Hindu holy men, were killed by a mob last week.

Local newspapers and news channels have said the three men were headed to a funeral when they were dragged out of a car and killed by a crowd that apparently thought they were thieves.

It was a rare case of an attack on Hindu holy men in a country that has more commonly seen lynchings of people from the minority Muslim community over incidents such as the slaughter of cows or on suspicion of being anti-national.

In his programme, which millions watch each day, Goswami said Sonia Gandhi and the Congress party she leads had failed to condemn the latest lynching incident because the victims were Hindus.

“Let me question if a Muslim or Christian preacher was attacked, would these people be silent? Would Sonia Gandhi, who hails from Italy, be quiet?,” Goswami said. Gandhi was born in Italy but came to India as a young woman more than five decades ago.

“Today there is no word from them, because perhaps she’s satisfied with the killing of Hindu seers in the state where her party is ruling,” he added referring to Maharashtra state which is governed by the Congress party.

The Congress on Monday condemned the attack, saying “There is no place for violence in our civilised society and the strictest possible action must be taken against the accused.”

Gandhi, the widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, is a bitter foe of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist alliance led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Congress party has strongly criticised Modi’s policies, saying they are aimed at marginalising Muslims.

The Congress said Goswami had crossed all limits in his attack on their leader. “Ridiculous attack by Arnab Goswami on Sonia Gandhi in derogatory language is totally shameful and unacceptable,” said Amarinder Singh, a party stalwart and chief minister of northern Punjab state.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said that Goswami had faced a physical attack and that should be condemned by all.

“We condemn the attempt to attack Arnab Goswami. We condemn every attack on any journalist ... it is really ironical that those who preach tolerance have become so intolerant,” Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javdekar told Reuters partner ANI.

Mumbai police said they had detained two men for questioning. They had thrown ink at Goswami’s car, the police said.

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