Arnab Goswami & Dr Tikekar: a tale of two Editors and the Shiv Sena

Case against Sanjiv Bhatt, former IPS officer, was re-opened after 20 years and he continues to be in jail. So, outrage against Goswami’s arrest in a year and a half old case is misplaced

Arnab Goswami & Dr Tikekar: a tale of two Editors and the Shiv Sena

Sujata Anandan

More than two decades ago, when the first Shiv Sena-led government in Maharashtra was in residence between 1995 and 1999, Dr Aroon Tikekar, a leading, very erudite and respected scholar came under fire of the then Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.

Tikekar was the editor of Loksatta, a premier Marathi daily, known for its anti-establishment journalism and he had been putting both the party and its leaders on the mat for their various acts of transgressions and Constitutional improprieties which were rather more at the time than anything indulged in by even the BJP after 2014.

What riled Thackeray more was that while most Shiv Sainiks dutifully read the Saamna, his party mouthpiece, for policy statements and party diktats, they preferred to read the Loksatta for uncoloured news, views and political analyses.

So, one day we woke up to an editorial in the Saamna describing Dr Tikekar in the most unsavoury terms as a w....g b..... (unprintable terms) and informing us that he was so because each evening before returning home from work, he dropped by at Kamathipura, Bombay's notorious red-light district.

The proprietor of the newspaper was furious at having his most respected – and respectable – editor described in such unsavoury terms and wanted Thackeray sued for libel and defamation. But a heartily amused Tikekar vetoed that move.

“That is exactly what Thackeray would want – a reaction,” he said. “Now if I am really visiting Kamathipura every evening, how much bearing does it have on my journalism? The only person who should be affected is my wife and since she is equally amused, I don't think we should give him any importance,” he said.

There was no crying about violation of his freedom of speech nor of stopping Thackeray's, however obscene he may have got.

I used to work for the Loksatta's sister publication, The Indian Express at the time and was in the habit of routinely seeking out Tikekar for advice and tips in the practice of my own journalism.

On the morning the editorial appeared in Saamna, when I walked across to commisserate with him, he laughed heartily and quipped, “Don't be so outraged. Don't you realise he has nothing on me and so he can do no better than character-assassinate? If there was a single piece of paper against me anywhere that he could have laid his hands on, he would not be calling me a (expunged word). He would have used that to drive my reputation to the ground, even arrest me for an exaggerated charge if he could get away with it. As such this only makes him look the worse for his inability to do little more than make up stories.”

Now Thackeray was making up stories because Tikekar was not. Every piece of the latter's journalism was based on truth and had incontrovertible facts that Thackeray could not challenge.

Two decades later, I mince no words in pointing out that it has been possible for Thackeray's son, as the chief minister of Maharashtra, to target another prominent editor and have him arrested because the latter left behind a piece of paper on which the authorities could easily build a case and have him slammed behind bars.

I will refrain from commenting on Arnab Goswami's journalism for it is neither my kind of journalism nor Dr Tikekar's exemplary kind. But all those bleeding hearts among bigots as well as liberals who are crying foul about violation of the freedom of the press in that arrest should know that Goswami has been arrested not for his journalism, however agenda-driven or one-sided it may be, but for abetment of suicide.

A double suicide driven by cheating an architect (who left behind a note) out of legitimate dues to the tune of several Crores. Of course, the case was closed arbitrarily a couple of years ago but as the arresting officer in the case said, “The same police and the same court which closed the case then, have re-opened it now."

Now how brazen is that!

But there is at least one precedent- that of Gujarat top cop Sanjiv Bhat who is cooling his heels in prison after a 1990 case against him was reopened 15 years after he was acquitted by the same courts. I guess what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, right?

However, there is something else about the outrage of people against the Maharashtra government that bothers me more. Does this outrage mean that just because you are a journalist or a more privileged citizen, you have the right to cheat with impunity or allowed not to pay your dues? Moreover, the daughter of Anvay Naik, the architect, in a recent statement said, her father had been told by his debtors, “Despite being a Maharashtrian and living in Maharashtra, you will not be able to do a thing against us.”

Now where did that brazen confidence come from!

Moreover, if that statement is true, then it is like throwing a gauntlet in the face of the Shiv Sena. Now the Shiv Sena has undergone a drastic character change since the days of Bal Thackeray but it still continues to be a party representing the Marathi manoos. Naik's widow sought justice from the new Maharashtra government when she did not get it from the previous one and the Shiv Sena was bound to seek justice for a fellow Maharashtrian.

Then again, among the outraged there have been comments about the manhandling of a teenaged son during the arrest. That was avoidable. But was it okay then to stalk the teenaged daughter of Anvay Naik, when his family refused to withdraw the complaint against their creditors?

No one denies that this action now is not born out of political vendetta. However, the Shiv Sena has learnt more politically correct and Constitutional means of getting even with its tormentors unlike in the days of Dr Aroon Tikekar. So it stands to reason, whether you are Kangana Ranaut or Arnab Goswami and whatever political backing you may be confident about, you had better be sure that you have not left behind any “piece of paper" anywhere that they can fish out and build a case against you – or demolish your illegal construction - that even the courts will find difficult to sanction.

As for Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and his son Àaditya, they are quite a different cup of tea from Bal Thackeray. They eschew goonish ways but clearly have a goivernment at their disposal. And there is no piece of paper against either that could help in a campaign to bring them down. As Uddhav Thackeray challenged his detractors during his party's annual rally, “Catch me if you can.”

That confidence comes only from the kind of assurance that Dr Tikekar had – no one can lay hands on any piece of paper against them. Only, be sure, you don't leave any against you behind, in the hands of anybody else.

(The writer is a commentator based in Mumbai. Views are her own. )

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines