Arnab Goswami is by far the most influential English TV journalist. You may hate him or love him, but you cannot ignore him.
Arnab's dominance is in no small part due to his success in getting the vocal middle class to identify with him.
The identification has resulted from him running various campaigns that tap into insecurities and frustrations of the middle class. One of the most prominent campaigns was Arnab's crusade against "VIP racism".
In typical, brook-no-nuances, Times Now-style, the campaign left no doubt among its followers that VIP security and other VIP privileges were nuisances that no modern democracy can tolerate. A citizenry routinely inconvenienced by VIP security rallied behind Arnab in his noble crusade.
There were critics who, even then, insisted that the campaign was nothing more than a TRP-boosting trick which Arnab was milking until he got something else to create a shoutfest about.
But for once, I believed Arnab seriously had his heart in what he was haranguing about. I even conducted a sting operation on a Union minister who kept a train waiting for her for more than half-an-hour and sent the sting to Times Now, which then conducted a Newshour on the incident and towards the end of the show, Arnab had hailed me as his hero.
Times Now kept on the campaign for several weeks, creating an environment where commoners felt that with Arnab as their leader, they could indeed win the fight against VIP culture. I gloated with vindication in having sided with Arnab against the naysayers.
But how wrong I was. Within a few weeks, Arnab turned his back on the campaign, and now we discover that the priest who once gave sermons against VIP security is himself going to avail the security he had denounced.
The monumental hypocrisy and opportunism in the descent of Arnab from a crusader against VIP racism to being an establishment protected journalist, shatters many who once stood for him.
Now that Arnab is the one who will avail "Y" category security, it is necessary that his disturbing and unacceptable step which captures his moral descent is exposed as such.
Why should taxpayer's money be spent to protect Arnab Goswami?
Under the "Y" security cover, Arnab will get round-the-clock protection from 20 guards, including two personal security officers for close proximity security. Even by conservative estimates, this will cost well over Rs 50 lakh of public money annually.
Arnab earns crores and can well afford private security if he feels insecure in his own studio and the posh localities of India's financial capital where he resides. Why should our hard-earned money that we pay to the government as taxes be used?
After all, we don't live in a nation where governments are flush with funds to not mind spending a few lakhs on a celebrity who won't spend from his own pocket.
|Arnab Goswami earns crores and can well afford private security.|
This is a nation where millions of children sleep hungry, can't go to school and don't have a roof to protect them from the extremities of weather, all because our government doesn't even have the resources to provide the basic minimum for its citizens.
With the half-crore being spent to secure Arnab, so many thousands can be fed, educated or housed - but perhaps some are more equal than the rest.
VIP security makes commoners less secure
India has 138 policemen per lakh of population, so the 20 personnel who would guard Arnab can otherwise guard approximately more than 15,000 people.
Thus to make Arnab secure, more than 15,000 commoners have been made less secure. Such inequity undermines our democratic credentials. Also, for Arnab to deprive the common man, who he claims to speak for, of security is selfish.
Against social equality
An important problem with the present VIP security apparatus in India is that those it guards get precedence in accessing public space and get favoured in different social spaces. It is more of a status symbol than any actual necessity.
This privileged and differential treatment militates against social equality, which is essential for the success of a democracy. It creates a feeling of the ruled and the ruling that erodes citizens' dignity.
Arnab, in his previous avatar of crusader against VIP security, used to lecture against the evil of such differential treatment and security being a status symbol. In his case too, all those objections remain true.
His security reeks more of a status symbol, as one can hardly fathom how a few policemen will be an effective safeguard against terrorists (the threat from them is the supposed reason for Arnab landing the security) who have attacked targets with much tighter security.
An establishment journalist is a propagandist not a journalist
A journalist's job entails interacting with people from different backgrounds. Journalists, in the course of their jobs, often meet extremists, social rejects and other such persons who can pose danger.
Thus, journalism is an essentially risky job. But seldom do journalists, even ones facing the gravest of threats, ask for government security. This is for multiple reasons.
First, as journalism involves being the voice of the people, security, which creates a barrier between people and the journalist, is not conducive to a journalist's job.
Secondly, as security is often a privilege extended by the establishment, availing it compromises the journalist's ability to be a watchdog who can question and oppose the government.
Finally, as a journalist is a surveyor of truth, it's important he/she inspire trust of the anti-establishment forces (Naxalites, Kashmiri separatists, etc) in their independence and commitment to truth; but those who depend on the establishment are naturally distrusted and thus are handicapped in their ability to report about anti-establishment forces.
Thus, for all the above reasons, more often than not, journalists who are protected by the establishment are perceived as propagandists. This is why globally, journalists working in much more dangerous situations (such as war zones), don't clamour for security.
It is typically in nations with compromised media that journalists are provided security. In India too, a cursory glance at the list of journalists getting security makes it clear that security is mostly provided to those on good terms with the regime of the day. Others, the real journalists, take risks and sometimes even lose their lives doing their job, without caring much for security.
Arnab, who claims to be fearless, should have shown more courage in not succumbing to the cover that the establishment provides. In the meek, unprincipled capitulation of Arnab to the charm of VIP security, something more than just his fight against VIP culture has been sacrificed.
It is the sacrifice of his very journalistic independence and credibility which made him so powerful in the first place to land himself VIP security.