Will Subramanian Swamy’s letter derail Arnab Goswami’s Republic?

What’s in a name? Oh, quite a lot, actually.

 |  5-minute read |   25-01-2017
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Exactly as India braces for the televisual ravage that would be Arnab Goswami’s soon-to-be-launched English language news channel Republic, and as we wriggle around the dark tunnel of Republic’s highly controversial funding structure and investors, we have a brand new problem to deal with. Or, Republic does.

As it happens, the most awaited “independent media venture” that is the vehicle for Goswami as Raees is for Shah Rukh Khan, is running into choppy waters. The source of turbulence is called Subramanian Swamy, an old Goswami-baiter, who has sent a letter to the Union ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) saying that the name “Republic” is prohibited under the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950 for “professional and commercial purposes”.

letter_012517015449.jpg Subramanian Swamy's letter bomb.

The “letter bomb” sent by Swamy, a BJP Rajya Sabha MP himself who’s known for his no-holds-barred take on everything under the sun, is sure to raise legal hackles for Arnab Goswami’s oddly-named Republic. While we have already wondered if Goswami is also launching “Parliament” and “Supreme Court” as adjunct infotaintment channels, Swamy’s allegations are much too serious to escape legal and discursive scrutiny.

Here’s the significant second paragraph from Swamy’s letter to I&B ministry:

“It may be noticed that certain names and emblems are prohibited from being used under the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950, for professional and commercial purposes. As per the schedule accompanying the statute, under Item 6, there is an express prohibition from using the phrase “Republic”. Hence, the grant of license to a news channel to broadcast under the name of “Republic” will be contrary to law and direct breach of the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950.”

It must be noted here that the letter is dated January 13, and the issue has come to notice only after Swamy tweeted out the copy of the letter earlier this morning.

It is obvious that he is upset that the matter was going to get a quite burial in the cemetery of national discourse that is the current I&B ministry, and had to rile things up by taking to Twitter, the universal grievance box of the social media age. (Hope Army chief Bipin Rawat is listening too.)

Now what is so interesting is that, as Swamy pointed out, Arnab Goswami’s Republic is flirting with sacred and constitutionally enshrined emblems and names at a time when such symbols of nationalism mean much more than the citizens themselves. This is a time when the government at the Centre hounds and trolls actors, journalists, activists, human rights lawyers, and virtually anyone with a “left-liberal” worldview, even a commercial retail giant such as Amazon India, with vicious vindictiveness that is frankly unparalleled in the history of independent India, for “trivialising” anything perceived to be nationalistic, particularly names, emblems and flags.

How is it that Arnab Goswami gets to toy with “Republic”, when others cannot even interpret nationalism and patriotism as a critical engagement with the nation? Why do the clearances, which usually take many months, if not years, happen at the escape velocity of Jupiter (Capital), when it concerns Goswami’s “independent media venture” that has a BJP MP – Rajeev Chandrasekhar – and his proxy companies as investors?

It has already been reported that Chandrasekhar’s Asianet News Online Private Limited and the parent company Jupiter Capital, had earlier circulated an internal email to its HR and editorial heads asking the new recruits to be in alignment with the chairman’s worldview on “nationalism and governance”, which is “Pro-India, Pro-Military”. The email was asked to be “ignored” the next day, but it had already been leaked by then.

As has ben reported, Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s investment in defence-related companies indicates why this “chairman” would have a pro-military worldview, no matter the context. It must also be remembered here that Arnab Goswami himself had asked in a disgusting video appeal to the people of India that journalists who question the government (such as in the JNU students case, or Kashmir unrest post Burhan Wani’s death) should be jailed.

If such is the respect that Arnab Goswami has for the Republic of India, it is little wonder that he shows bare minimum respect for the law of the land, shamelessly echoing the government propaganda as unassailable truth. Arnab is truly in the Kellyanne Conway brand of “lies are alternative facts” school, and it is little surprise that the very name of his soon to be launched news channel is a bombastic and self-aggrandising lie masquerading as truth in a world that is fast losing its ability to tell the difference.

Though Subramanian Swamy is known to have regressive but highly contagious worldviews himself, such as his fanatic Hindutva and rabid Islamophobia, his stand on this legal conundrum is telling. In an age where we outrage over flag-designed doormats and mattresses in India, the Emblem and Names Act may get more traction than it ideally should.

However, the mythical exceptionalism of Arnab Goswami is such that even the law cannot hurt him. The “Republic” is now a commercialised post-truth, alt-fact manufacturing entertainment house, and there’s little that we can do about it.

Also read: Nation confused. Arnab Goswami attacking his own kind of journalism

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