On February 10, 2016, when the huge issue of JNU students chanting anti-India slogans and praising Afzal Guru first came to national attention, Times Now’s Arnab Goswami chose that as his topic of debate for the ‘Newshour’. The entire debate can be seen here.
The entire debate is basically one long condemnation of the students – neutrality long forgotten.
Whatever your point of view, one thing we should all be able to agree – journalists should stop holding trials on television every night, declaring people guilty based on their own preference. Whether it is Times Now or NDTV.
But this time, we are looking at Arnab Goswami. Depending on your world-view, the debate was either a great and well-deserved dressing down of deviants, or the uncalled for screamings of an anchor drunk on his own power. Both sides have plenty of supporters.
One man who made his position very clear, in a brief speech of his own, was anchor Ravish Kumar – the well-known and highly respected Hindi editor for NDTV. Normally very composed and somber, Ravish is famous for his well-rounded and neutral editorials on his own prime time debate show.
But apparently this issue was something that ruffled even his calm feathers.
Speaking to Madhu Trehan of the ‘News Laundry’, Ravish was asked –
“Ravish ji, please let us know…some channels are running debates and Twitter campaigns against people supporting freedom of expression, calling such people ‘traitors’ and ‘anti Indian’, so is it possible to be for freedom of speech, while you are very patriotic?”
The question by itself was a thinly veiled look at Times Now and Arnab, since that channel has been running a slew of such hashtags after the debate, including ‘#AfzalVirus’ and ‘OneIndiaOneVoice’.
However, in his answer, Ravish Kumar did not bother giving any pretense that he was addressing anyone except Arnab (though naturally, no names were taken). In an angry minute and a half, he laid down in his clear, crisp Hindi exactly what he thought about labelling someone as ‘anti national’ or a ‘traitor’.
Here is a translation of Ravish’s answer. The video of which can be seen here.
“See this is a political matter. This channel, some channels, which give these kind of speeches…to that I say (to viewers) please stop watching TV…don’t watch if this type of anchor does such things. Who is this person to proclaim or identify anyone as ‘anti-national’?
Who knows, perhaps by doing so, he himself is doing something ‘anti national’ by not allowing people to raise their voices. If every issue is declared as ‘anti-national’, does this make that news anchor the greatest patriot in India?
Viewers should understand that he picks some useless issue of his, and after tossing into the junkyard lakhs of issues which concern the welfare of the people or about which people are worried, instead gives speeches about news reporting, about who is against democracy and who is a patriot.
When viewers see this man, who is identifying certain people as “you are not a patriot…and you are traitor”, they should try to remember the last he debated about the welfare of the people. When was the last time he went to those places where people are desperate for a drink of water? When the last time he went to those places where people are dying without medical treatment?
Just because you get a tie, coat and camera, along with your prime time slot, does not mean you can just give any sort of speech.
Okay, you can do it, you have the democratic freedom. I am not asking for you to be beaten up or declaring you as a ‘traitor’. I am speaking from my place in a democracy…using that authority…to state my opinion.
Neither am I claiming that I am speaking the unchallengeable truth. Who am I to state such a truth?
Whoever claims in this world to be speaking such a truth, especially if he is a reporter, then he should at least, for the sake of the viewers, walk away from his chair to the balcony for a moment, then come back and re-examine what rubbish he is saying.”
When it comes to retorts to Arnab, this one surely has to be somewhere at the top of that short list, if not in the first place. Not because of what it said per se, but because of who said it. After all, as Mehul Jain pointed out in comment under Ravish’s video –
“When Ravish Kumar gets this angry, there is something really messed up going on.”
Check out the video: