<link rel="stylesheet" href="//fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Open+Sans%3A400italic%2C700italic%2C400%2C700">Arnab Goswami Archives « Aam JanataSkip to content

*PUBLIC STATEMENT BY ADVOCATE SUDHA BHARADWAJ*

Visiting Professor, National Law University Delhi and National Secretary,
Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties

I have been informed that Republic TV aired a programme on 4 July 2018, presented by anchor and MD Arnab Goswami as “Super Exclusive Breaking News”.

The programme, which is being repeatedly shown, contains a long list of ridiculous, scurrilous, false and completely unsubstantiated allegations against me. Goswami has claimed that I have written a letter (identifying myself as “Comrade Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj”) to a Maoist – one “Comrade Prakash” - stating that a “Kashmir like situation” has to be created. I am also accused of having received money from Maoists. I am also said to have confirmed that various advocates, some of whom I know as excellent human rights lawyers and others whom I do not know at all, had some sort of Maoist link.

I firmly and categorically deny that the letter referred to by Goswami – if at all such a document exists - has ever been written by me. I firmly refute all the allegations that the Republic TV has made against me, defaming me, causing me professional and personal injury. In its programme, the Republic TV has not revealed the source of such a letter. I find it curious that a document purporting to contain evidence of such serious crimes should first surface in the studio of Arnab Goswami.

I have been a dedicated trade unionist since the past 30 years, working in the organisation of the late legendary Shankar Guha Niyogi, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, in the working class shanties of Dalli Rajhara and Bhilai, and hundreds of workers are witness to the fact. As a part of my work as a trade unionist I became a lawyer in the year 2000 since when I have fought scores of cases of workers, farmers, adivasis and poor people in the fields of labour, land acquisition, forest rights and environmental rights. Since the year 2007 I am practising in the High Court of Chhattisgarh at Bilaspur and was nominated by the High Court to be a member of the Chhattisgarh State Legal Services Authority. In the last year I have been teaching at the National Law University Delhi in the capacity of a Visiting Professor, where I offered a seminar course on tribal rights and land acquisition; and a part of the regular course on law and poverty. As a part of the programme of the Delhi Judicial Academy, I addressed the presiding officers of labour courts from Sri Lanka. My pro-people positions and work as a human rights lawyer are a matter of public record. I am perfectly aware that they stand in direct opposition to the views so loudly and frequently expressed by Arnab Goswami and Republic TV.

In my opinion the present malicious, motivated and fabricated attack on me is because I recently addressed a press conference in Delhi to condemn the arrest on 6 June of Advocate Surendra Gadling. The Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), an organisation of lawyers has also strongly taken up the issue of other lawyers such as Advocate Chandrashekhar of Bhim Army and Advocate Vachinathan arrested after the Sterlite firing. It is clear that in targeting such lawyers, the state is trying to silence those who stand for the democratic rights of citizens. The state strategy is to create a chilling effect and deny equitable access to the legal system. Also very recently the IAPL had organised a fact finding into the difficulties faced by lawyers in Kashmir.

As a human rights lawyer I have appeared in cases of habeas corpus and fake encounters of adivasis in the High Court of Chhattisgarh and also made representations to the National Human Rights Commission in the defence of many human rights defenders. Recently the NHRC had sought my assistance in investigating a case in Village Kondasawali ( Sukma, Chhattisgarh). In all these cases I have acted with the professional integrity and courage expected of a human rights lawyer. This indeed appears to be “my crime” which has earned me the super exclusive attentions of Arnab Goswami.

I have asked my lawyer to send a legal notice to Arnab Goswami and Republic TV for their false, malicious and defamatory allegations against me.

Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj
New Delhi, 4th July

3

The Guwahati gang molestation shocked the Nation with the usual monthly fury. How can men behave like animals? Women are not safe anymore and such talk abounded. Lot of moral outrage. In other news, there was a group of people criticizing the NCW team for posing for a picture where they are smiling and look carefree. In still other news, there was a bunch of people passing around an image compiled from Sagarika's tweets on the subject pointing out to how her views changed. I had my usual trolls lampooning me over whatever views of mine offended them. Life went on.

In my view, our online life is a good example and predictor of our offline life. Our minds are the same, our personalities are the same, and our default responses to situations are the same. It is only the medium that has changed, and the actions. One may not be able to molest a woman online, but they sure can jeer, make sexual innuendos, or otherwise bully her. Last week someone wanted me raped for something I said. A couple of months back, someone had said that to Meena Kandasamy and triggered a women's rights signature campaign. Generally, I find that if anyone threatens rape, then people kind of throw disapproval at that person till he changes his words or they get bored. The objection is to the threat of rape, not to the use of threats to try and silence someone.

I am small fry. Some of the most hated/ridiculed men on Twitter are Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Subramanian Swamy, Arnab Goswami and Kapil Sibal for men.  Some of the most hated/ridiculed women on Twitter are Sonia Gandhi, Barkha Dutt, Arundhati Roy, Teesta Setalvad and Sagarika Ghose. It is worth keeping an eye on tweets about these people to see the kind of abuse they get. Abuse for men is related with judgments of their competence or crimes as per whatever the abuser imagines. On the other hand, abuse women get routinely slips into the sexual. "Spreads her legs for XYZ" "Should be raped" "prostitute" etc. The other thing I notice is that the abuse is rarely over anything these people did to individuals speaking, but by being themselves. They are also highly popular figures with large followings appreciating what they do.

In my view, the idea that someone did something offensive giving the right to anyone to attack them is very IT Rulesish. I am not speaking of criticism, but of deliberate character assassinations that go beyond objections to the actions or stands of a person to vilify the person him/herself. So, calling Modi a mass murderer makes perfect sense to people, because they think he is guilty of sanctioning the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. Whether he actually killed anyone or not. Incidentally, the same people will not call Rajiv Gandhi a mass murder, if sanction is the reason. This is not to excuse crimes by anyone including Modi, but pointing out the permission we give ourselves to attack another at will.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never kill me.

This above line is a lie. Physical violence happens with blows and weapons, but mental violence happens with words, attitudes and destroying reputations. Destroyed reputations are the reasons for a lot of real damage ranging from depression and destroyed self-esteem to honor killings and suicides. The hatred I see online would likely not see this as a minus at all, but call it a confirmation of guilt. Because the intent is to cause damage to that person to whatever extent they can.

I have taken a strong stand against domestic violence and alcoholism and often tweet real life incidents from my own life as well as others I come across, because I think these things need spoken about. I have often got replies like "her husband doesn't beat her enough" or "publicizing domestic problems to gain sympathy" etc. While the first seems openly offensive, the second is criticism aimed at devaluing my right to speak about my life however I want. It also makes the suggestion that a domestic violence victim getting sympathy is somehow inappropriate. I am extraordinarily resilient when it comes to trouble, but attitudes like this in society are a very common part of suicides from harassment, where the victim gets victimized for being a victim or drawing attention to herself.

The same society then looks at a body dangling from a ceiling and says sorrowfully, "Why didn't he say anything?"

What do we do when he did say something? Call it inappropriate and his personal problem. We are a society intolerant of mistakes, weaknesses and imperfections. These usually invite attacks, because we fear our own vulnerability. We don't accept ourselves, so it makes react with intolerance to others. We band together with those with "faults" like ours and be a mob denying that the trait is a fault at all. We mob together to attack our traits that we deny. We wipe out anything that will force us to look good and hard at ourselves unless denied.

Now let us look at a third thing. The popcorn gallery. Countless incidents have demonstrated that the crowd that gathers watching a wrong happen either support the abuser, or stay quiet. What happens online? If you see someone call Sonia Gandhi a whore on Twitter? The chances are high that the tweet will get a lot of RTs and those who disagree will simply ignore the people. If one person attacks another unfairly on Twitter, the chances are high that most people following both will pretend not to see anything. At most, they will tell them not to fight. The chances that an abuser online will be stopped by a crowd are the same as those in real life. Slim to none.

I have a simple policy of refusing to participate in discussions attacking people. I also never block people. I don't need to. refusals work well. Most people no longer tag me while insulting someone. It is not impossible to refuse to allow attacks to happen in the space you influence. It is about intent. I do it in real life too. It is not enough.

This, in my view mental violence destroying the space to live at all in the country, because disagreement becomes a question of who can overpower the other. This is happening in real life too. People with power can invade the rights of others and the popcorn gallery is used to it. The surprise is if the less powerful resist. If instead of getting molested, the girl had fought back and escaped, the video would be a characterless girl on the streets of Guwahati who brazenly attacked people and ran away. For a wrong against her to be objected to, she first has to suffer "enough". The wrong being done in itself wouldn't matter. Because we are a mindset of throwing crumbs of support if a plight seems horrible enough. We are not about values and ethics and individual rights regardless of caste, creed and gender.

The mass molestation in Guwahati got a lot of attention, but not the fact that the girl was an Adivasi girl. My hunch is because she got more publicity than Adivasi girls get normally. Media probably didn't want to jinx that. The reason may not be true, but it is true that the girl is an adivasi and most news haven't bothered to report that. Also, good in another view, I think, because a girl outside a pub gets more defenders than the adivasi girl stripped in some village. Like there are people who think only prostitutes go to pubs, there are others who find the rights of innocent pub going girls more touching than those of adivasis. The good old PLU preference is very strong when it comes to doling out approval for rights of people.

All in all, it is high time we accept that we are living in a world we create. We are the victim, we are the molesters, we are the popcorn gallery.

2

When Prashant Bhushan and Arundhati Roy were attacked by affiliates of BJP, there was news media in place and ready seemingly with prior information.

Prashant Bhushan was beaten in his Chambers yesterday in full view of TV Cameras. The attacker slapped and manhandled him before others in the room subdued him. The audacious attack shocked people awake even as claims of culpability by Tajinder Bagga of Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena trended on Facebook. First things first, here is the attack itself.

Almost immediately after the incident, questions started coming up asking why the crew did not help him instead of continuing filming. Then, more knowledgable people started questioning why the cameraman didn't panic at all with the attack. Remember how our media normally acts in crisis...

Today, The Hoot came up with an article that speculates that the media may have been aware of the upcoming attack. The article brings up several vital coincidences. To quote directly:

Its Editor, Arnab Goswami, is always polarising people and taking open editorial positions against human rights activists and authors like Arundhuti Roy. In fact there are lots of unanswered questions about the how-come and whys of the presence of Times Now crew in Prashant Bhushan's room when the attackers entered and started beating up the Supreme Court lawyer.
Had the Times Now team been forewarned by the Ram Sene group and had they quickly taken an appointment with Mr Prashanth Bhushan in order to ensure they were present ? Ram Sene and organisations like that are known to pre-warn the media (particularly TV channels) so they get all the coverage when they attack.

The article speaks of Arnab Goswami attacking activists verbally on his show. I remember watching his interview of Arvind Kejriwal and Shanti Bhushan during the Jan Lokpal movement where I actually ran word counts on the transcript and Arnab had spoken over 200 words more than both his guests put together. The intervew barely listened to anything they had to say.

Is it a coincidence that Prashant Bhushan is a member of the same team as these two - people Arnab has already attacked verbally in the name of interviewing, and a Times Now interview is happening while he is attacked? I don't know, but definitely needs to be investigated, in my opinion, if the crew was tipped about a possible attack and landed up to film it.

This reminded me of another incident which conveniently took place in the eye of the media. It was when Arundhati Roy's home was attacked by the Women Wing Mahila Morcha of the BJP on 31st October 2010.

In that article she describes OB vans from three Channels present before the attack in position to be able to cover the event live. Times Now was among the channels along with NDTV and News 24.

She also mentions an earlier attack in June by two men on motorcycles after a false report in PTI which was also accompanied by cameramen (coincidence? I doubt). The channel of this cameraman is unknown. I was not able to find the clip. If someone has access to it, please do share link.

The Hoot article lays it out:

Any veteran television person will tell you that the cameraman was prepared and not surprised one bit by the attack ! The fact that the Times Now managed to get a news coup by not only showing this footage exclusively, but later allowing all channels to use it  with a Times Now logo suggests that there was more to it then meets the eye.

This, to my mind brings up the question of where the lines blur between reporting and criminal culpability. It is something our media needs to think about. Already, our media has a reputation for covering only commercially viable news. At no time was this in starker contrast than the pathetic coverage of the floods in Assam, the isolation of Manipur, the Sikkim earthquake and the Orissa floods - all these incidents are from this year - from within the last few months and most Indians are barely aware of the dire straits of these places.

I have remarked in another article the need for these calamities to be covered adequately because lack of awareness results in lack of aid for those who need it desperately. It was the ultimate in irony that a prominent news channel was soliciting photos of floods in some areas of Delhi by its readers, when over 2 million people had been displaced and thousands of villages submerged in Orissa.

The Hoot article is a must read because of the many examples it brings up and the worrying pattern it points out with regards to ethics in coverage. One sentence that stays in my mind is:

Rogue media cannot be allowed to go unchecked as it tarnishes everyone in the business.

And I wonder if it is already too late to trust media to self monitor.

Update: Much after this post was published, an attack on a Mangalore Homestay by thugs from the Hindu Jagran Vedike led by Subhash Padil also took local media along, though in that case the journalist alerted the police and later provided statement about happenings in the assault.

Tajinder Bagga of the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena has officially joined the BJP and is currently known to be spreading disinformtation against the AAP in Varanasi and Delhi to support Modi's win in the Lok Sabha Elections.

Hindu Jagran Vedike was disowned by the BJP, but the head of the Woman's Commission for Karnataka, Manjula C of the BJP Mahila Morcha blamed the teenage victims for the brutal assault on them, as various other Sangh members defended the assault. HJV is known to be a sort of youth wing of the RSS and had represented them in kabaddi tournaments a couple of months before the attack, even as their leaders were denying any association.