How we were turned into a nation of elated suckers
They rain fire and brimstone from the patriotism pulpit, shaking and choking in righteous indignation at the violators of the Nation and chewing them up. They are almost always in suits, the enfants terribles of television.
They rain fire and brimstone from the patriotism pulpit, trembling and tearing up at the very thought of a wayward glance being cast on Bharat Mata. They are almost always in whites, the perpetual campaigners on one election trail or the other.
Both stand exposed — by an insider who has not yet disowned a series of WhatsApp chats attributed to him.
The picture that emerges from the court of the Emperor Without Clothes is not pretty: it shows a blood-sucking, wheeling-dealing chummy club that treats the massacre of soldiers on tour of duty with utter disdain.
Worse, the deaths are sought to be exploited for scoring professional, if not commercial, bragging points.
“This attack we have won like crazy,” a piece of conversation attributed to Goswami boasts. The day and time suggest the reference is to the Pulwama massacre in which 40 CRPF jawans were blown up.
The bloodcurdling and celebratory victory whoop stands in sharp contrast to the “stricken” and outraged image that studios populated by Goswami, his brand of nationalists and their ideological masters portray for the benefit of their audience who, presumably, break into matching palpitations, wringing hands and shedding tears for the wounded Nation.
The studio mercenaries make mincemeat of anyone seeking transparency and accountability when terrorist strikes so close to electoral exercises take place.
Unwittingly, the irrepressible celebration attributed to Goswami less than three hours after the Pulwama massacre matches the cavalier attitude of the government on the day of the attack. In the immediate aftermath of the blast, Prime Minister Modi, perhaps uninformed, was shooting a jungle adventure in the Corbett Reserve forests. Unspeakable theatre was taking shape both on the political as well as the propaganda arena so soon after so terrible a tragedy.
Whether or not anything substantial comes from the leak of the chats, the fig leaf of the super-patriots has been yanked off.
On matters of state, all the players can be expected to brazen it out as they have been doing on other issues — this time aided by the silence of most political parties because of the holy cow called national security.
But the chats, which have not been denied more than 24 hours after they hit the public domain, raise unavoidable questions.
The chats indicate that highly classified information, including military operations known to a limited number of people in the top echelons of the Narendra Modi government, got leaked.
There are at least two instances within a span of six months when Goswami had prior information of major decisions taken by the Modi government — the surgical strike in Balakot and the dilution of Article 370 to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and statehood.
When Goswami purportedly tells Dasgupta that “something major will be done this time” to Pakistan, it does not take long for the ex-CEO of BARC to figure out the implications.
“It is good for the big man in this season…. He will sweep polls then,” Dasgupta predicts without naming the heavyweight.
In less than three months, Modi would indeed sweep the polls and return to power with a brute majority. The Pulwama attack and the Balakot strike were used by the BJP to the hilt, changing the entire narrative of the elections just as it was heating up.
The chats attributed to Goswami suggest the Balakot strike was planned not for military reasons — either strategic or tactical — but for national entertainment.
“On Pakistan the government is confident of striking in a way that people will be elated,” one message attributed to Goswami says. The message adds: “Exact words used.”
The addition makes it clear the objective — national elation — was not an embellished description in an informal chat but exactly what the government was aiming to achieve.
A few months later, Goswami claims to “have set platinum standards in breaking and this story is ours” after Dasgupta sends him a news flash on August 2 that says: “Government of India to make Jammu separate state, Kashmir and Ladakh as union territories.”
It also says the announcement will be made within a week, curfew will be imposed two days ahead of the order, and Articles 370 and 35A will be automatically abrogated.
On August 5, Union home minister Amit Shah introduced the bill to bifurcate the state into two Union Territories. Articles 370 and 35A were declared null and void in the same bill, which was preceded by curfew in the state along with a huge troop build-up.
Although the leaked chats, annexed to the Mumbai police chargesheet in the TRP scam case, went viral, most politicians steered clear of them. Prominent among the few exceptions who spoke out was the veteran Congressman and Chhattisgarh minister T.S. Singh Deo.
“It’s a major security lapse if our military secrets and strategies on Balakot strike were leaked by someone in Central Govt to pvt players for their benefit. This calls for an investigation & prosecution of culprits. Leaking of classified military information amounts to treason. A so-called journalist knew about what was supposed to be the most classified information & was passing it on further. As outrageous this is, it exposes that these people aren’t concerned about national security and terror attacks are used as propaganda to wield more power,” Deo tweeted.
Former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, who has parted ways with the BJP, said on Twitter: “I entirely agree with Prashant Bhushan that the Arnab Whatsapp chats reveal a serious lapse in national security. The matter must be investigated by an impartial authority. The govt also appears to be guilty in this matter.” Bhushan, a senior lawyer, had tweeted the leaked chats.
For film director Hansal Mehta, what struck most was that “he gloated over dead soldiers. And calls himself a nationalist”.
The Telegraph tried to contact both Goswami and the principal director-general, media and communications, Press Information Bureau, of the government for comment but was unsuccessful. Their comments will be published when they respond.
February 14, 2019, 3.15pm: 40 CRPF jawans are killed in the Pulwama terror explosion, a little more than two months before the general election in India.
February 14, 2019, 4.19pm: Purported WhatsApp message from Republic TV managing director Arnab Goswami to Partho Dasgupta, ex-CEO of TV ratings agency BARC, says: “Sir 20 min ahead on the biggest terrorist attack of the year in Kashmir…. only only channel with a ground presence.”
February 14, 2019, 5.43pm: Purported message from Goswami says: “This attack we have won like crazy.”
February 23, 2019, 10.31pm: Purported message from Goswami to Dasgupta says: “On another note something big will happen.”
February 23, 2019, 10.36pm: Purported query by Dasgupta: “Dawood?”
February 23, 2019, 10.36pm: Purported reply from Goswami: “No sir Pakistan. Something major will be done this time.”
February 23, 2019, 10.40pm: Purported message from Goswami to Dasgupta: “Bigger than a normal strike. And also on the same time something major on Kashmir. On Pakistan the government is confident of striking in a way that people will be elated. Exact words used.”
February 26, 2019, 3.45am: Indian fighter aircraft cross the Line of Control and bomb a terror camp in Balakot. India says a large number of terrorists have been killed while Pakistan says only trees were damaged.