Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami has found himself amid yet another controversy, however, this time in a much graver one.
The leaked WhatsApp chats shared allegedly between Goswami and ex-CEO of the Broadcast Audience Research Council, Partho Dasgupta, reveal that the journalist knew about the Balakot strike on Pakistan even before it materialized.
The revelation has raised several questions on Goswami’s relation and probable “friendship” with the Central government as he seemed to know about events that haven’t taken place yet, developments known by an insider-only.
The purported chats of February 23, 2019, involve the journalist’s admittance of the strike is a “big” one. The event in question is the Balakot airstrike that took place exactly 3 days after these chats, i.e. February 26th, 2019.
Reacting to Pakistan’s Pulwama attack in Jammu & Kashmir on February 14th, 2019, India did an airstrike on Pakistan’s Balakot town, hitting Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp. This was seen as a retaliation to the attack in India that killed 40 Central Reserve Police Force officers after an explosives-filled vehicle being driven by a suicide bomber ran into the personnel’s bus.
What unfolded following the uncovering of the leaked chats was an exposure holding potential to lead a series of trials. The alleged chats are part of a 3,400 pages long charge sheet filed by the Mumbai Police. This was in relation to the previous Television Ratings Point scam where the city police charged Goswami of being the master-mind.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan claimed through a tweet that the chats “show many conspiracies & unprecedented access to power in this” government.
In one of the transcripts dating back to February 23, 2019, Dasgupta receives a message from Goswami saying, “On another note, something big will happen”.
A thread of messages on different issues follow after which Dasgupta asks, “Dawood?”, referring to Dawood Ibrahim, who has several warrants issued to his name in many cases.
They reach a point where Goswami and Dasgupta speak about the strike. It went like this:
Arnab Goswami: “No sir Pakistan. Something major will be done this time.”
Partho Dasgupta: “Good.”
Partho Dasgupta: “It’s good for the big man in this season.”
Partho Dasgupta: “He will sweep polls then.”
Partho Dasgupta: “Strike? Or bigger”
Arnab Goswami: “Bigger than a normal strike. And also at the same time something major on Kashmir. In Pakistan, the government is confident of striking in a way that people will be elated. Exact words used.”
In several instances, the conversations also show how Dasgupta asked Goswami to speak with the Centre on his behalf. A similar event of April 4, 2019, mention Dasgupta asking Goswami to postpone the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s proposal to make BARC’s viewing data public if he can. The latter confirms that he will be able to do so, while the former requests for action from some person with the initials ‘AS’.
During one of their conversation sprees, Dasgupta also asks Goswami to help him become a “media advisor” in the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office). In many other occurrences, the journalist also speaks about his closeness to the “PMO” and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, as per The Hindu’s report.
Goswami came under the spotlight after the TRP scam of October where some specific channels were found rigging the ratings, as per the complaint of Broadcast Audience Research Council via Hansa Research Group, one of BARC’s clients. Allegedly, the channels did so by bribing some houses for watching their channels.
Mumbai Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Milind Bharambe said on December 25 that a forensic audit report showed that the rigging game has begun in 2006, further revealing Republic TV as the guilty entity as they remained on the top of the charts of TRPs.
Dasgupta remained behind bars in the case until Friday when he was shifted to JJ hospital following his blood pressure and blood sugar level fluctuations.