“His target was to isolate Keralites across the country and the world”: P Sasi on Arnab Goswami
On August 25, CPI(M) leader P Sasi from the Kannur district in Kerala issued a legal notice to Republic TV and its managing director and Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami accusing the channel of calling Malayalis a “shameless bunch of people” on its primetime show The Debate. Accusing Goswami and his channel of defaming Keralites, Sasi — who is also an advocate — asked the channel to either tender unconditional apology to the people of Kerala through his channel with equal prominence as that he aired the debate, or to pay Rs 10 crore as compensation to the Kerala Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund within seven days of receipt of the notice.
Sasi is awaiting an acknowledgement of the defamation notice he issued as the president of the People Law Foundation, a charitable organisation. Legal proceedings will be initiated against Goswami and Republic TV in the court of law on the basis of their response.
“During the debate and discussion, Mr Arnab had stated vividly and emphatically, ‘This group is shameless, the most shameless bunch of Indians I have seen’… which is per se defamatory and derogatory, intentionally made and calculated to malign and lower the dignity, reputation, and integrity of any Keralite,” reads the notice.
The contentious comments Sasi refers to created a furore after an edited clip from the show was discussed and dissected by hundreds of people on social media. Many had even pointed out that Goswami made no specific reference targeting Malayalis. Reacting to this, Sasi says, “There is no question of whether he has specified ‘Keralite’ or not, all indications in the context pointed in that direction. We are all capable of communicating, even without literally and specifically saying what we need to communicate.
His (Goswami’s) agenda was very clear. He started the discussion on the topic the ‘Flood Aid lie’, referring to the UAE aid to flood-hit Kerala and alleged that it was a lie propagated by ‘us’ (Keralites). The banners were all about Kerala, shaming India, flood aid from UAE, the biggest fake news, lie. He showed the Kerala CM in between and went on to emphatically state that (we) are – ‘The most shameless bunch of Indians’ he has ‘ever seen’. ‘Are they funded to shame India?’, ‘Who is funding them?’, ‘How could they shame their own country’, he kept on repeating these questions and the words aid lie, fake, shame India. What he does during the programme is a deliberate attempt to impose and convey what he wants, only what he wants, to the people. He makes statements and judgments, without even allowing the panellists to complete a sentence. This is not journalism.”
On August 24, the panellists had been invited to discuss the Flood Aid Lie revolving around the controversy over the Rs 700 crore flood relief aid offered by the UAE. Sasi says,
“In a debate, he is supposed to assume the role of a moderator. He is only to facilitate a reasonable time to talk for the invited panellists, who talk for and against the given topic. It is the panellists who should share their opinions and it is for the people to conclude after listening to both sides. Does that happen at all in his programme? What he does during the programme is a deliberate attempt to impose and convey what he wants, only what he wants, to the people. It is not journalism. Here, he decides everything, makes statements and judgements, without even allowing the panellists to complete a sentence if they are those against his narrative.”
The CPI(M) leader also contends that when Goswami asks if people get “funded for spreading lies”, he indicates that “we (Malayalis) are paid for being against the interests of the nation.
Dismissing any CPI (M) connection with the PLF, Sasi says, “This issue is an insult to Keralites, of whom I am one, and the case is to that effect. It has nothing to do with the party or my role in the party. I have seen the full debate aired on Republic TV and the recorded version. My contention is only regarding his remarks intentionally targetting Malayalis. I do not have anything for or against him personally.”
While Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s Office had announced the aid on August 21, the UAE Ambassador said no official amount had been promised so far. Vijayan, however, stood by his comment and also referred to a tweet made by the Prime Minister on August 18. The CM also added that his source of information was the UAE-based Malayali businessman MA Yusuff Ali.
“If he (Goswami) claims that this flood aid by UAE is fake news, he should have shown the guts to question the PM on why he thanked the UAE ruler for his support in his tweet. This, he conveniently forgets. There is no word about the PM’s August 18 tweet. Before asking where the Chief Minister got the news from, Goswami should have asked the PM what the base was for his tweet. This is why I say, Arnab is covering up facts to intentionally target and defame Malayalees. Why did he not say that the PM’s tweet was against the nation’s interests?,” asks Sasi.
During the debate, Goswami slams the Left, Congress and “anti-India groups” for spreading “fake news” about the aid. “How much hate must this Tukde-Tukde, anti-India group feel for our forces, that they actually sat together and conspired to spread the fake news….., so that the focus would shift away somehow from the shining bravery, the sacrifice and sheer dedication of the Army, Navy and Air Force?” Goswami can be heard asking in his show. Sasi says that this cannot be considered as a media intervention. I believe media has a crucial role in maintaining democracy and it should effectively serve the same. But this cannot be considered as a media intervention. His presentation was clearly against the unity and integrity of the country. It is a criminal offence.
“Goswami is trying to pass the message that we are anti-national. I believe, he is irked because we (Keralites) do not go with his narrative,” Sasi says that while everybody else, even the media houses, despite differences in editorial policies, was focussed on rescuing the last person affected, besides ground coverage, he did not find anything “productive” on Goswami’s channel, even proper coverage of the flood-ravaged state.
“When Keralites in other parts of the world were worried about their kin back here, Goswami’s programme indicated that ‘this bunch of people’ need no help, branded ‘them’ anti-national and said they are ‘funded’ to malign India,” he says adding that Goswami and his channel “were focused on maligning Keralites.”
“I understand that his target was to isolate Keralites across the country and the world, block aids from all quarters and to disintegrate India, in a way that he and his masters want. Is this not a reason for a case against him?” asks Sasi.
“I think Arnab’s notion of India, as a country is broken and divided. He cannot perceive India as a united nation. His deliberate efforts are to propagate and develop this sense of ‘divide’ among the people of the country, and thus to isolate those who do not fall for his agenda.”
This is not the first time Malayalis were united against the Republic TV. In August 2017, the channel’s ratings took a massive plunge after Keralites downvoted the channel over its sensationalist reportage of Sunanda Pushkar case. Referring to the incident, Sasi says, “That could be considered as their (Republic TV’s) stand. People reacted then. But the situation is different this time. We are facing a disaster, people have lost lives and livelihoods. His remarks at this point cannot be simply ignored. Who is he to judge the patriotism of all Keralites and to inquire if we are funded to malign India? Is he the Chief Justice of Supreme Court? Should the PM or the Kerala CM reveal all their sources of information to Arnab Goswami? He is not an appointed authority to question all these.”
For now, Sasi is waiting for the channel’s response. “If they fail to compensate for the damage, in either manner as per the notice, I will move the court. Sections will be decided later,” he says. Asked whether the case would be dismissed by the court because there is no specific reference to this effect, Sasi says, “Please leave it to me. I am an advocate myself. My attorney is also a senior advocate who will ensure that I am served justice. We have issued the legal notice because we know that the case is valid.”
There has been no response to requests made to Republic TV over email for a comment on the story.