Concern over Arnab’s Health in Jail. What about Ailing Activists Like Varavara Rao and Stan Swamy?

Social Commentary

Concern over Arnab’s Health in Jail. What about Ailing Activists Like Varavara Rao and Stan Swamy?

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

In simpler, more innocent times, journalists used to report the news. But in the mutant year that is 2020, that no longer suffices. Now, they are the news. Much coverage has been afforded to the arrest of Republic TV anchor Arnab Goswami. The right wing, of which Goswami is possibly the loudest mouthpiece, is up in arms over the arrest of their favourite anchor. They claimed the Maharashtra government arresting Goswami was an attack on his freedom of expression (it wasn’t even related to the content on his channel) and that he was being subjected to police brutality (while sharing an easily debunked video of policemen thrashing a suspect in UP, not Mumbai). Throughout, they have attempted to call Maharashtra a fascist state, and the chorus has picked up again after the Bombay High Court rejected Goswami’s application for interim bail.

The High Court bench recommended that Goswami apply for bail at a sessions court in Alibaug. While right wingers and conservatives might find the red tape around freeing their favourite frustrating, Indian liberals are probably feeling a sense of déjà vu. After all, many activists and journalists who don’t praise the government every day like Goswami are also in prison or facing arrest.

In fact, rather than oppressive, the state machinery seems to be taking a lenient path with Goswami. His petitions are being heard in court almost immediately and the state Governor  Bhagat Singh Koshyari dialed Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, expressing concern over the journalist’s health and security. He also asked Deshmukh to let Goswami’s family meet him.

But Koshariya is not the first to speak up for Goswami. After his arrest Cabinet minister’s were quick to extend support. But these people in power have remained mum over the arrest of activists across the country. In fact, many of the activists arrested in connection with the CAA protests and the Bhima Koregaon case have not been granted such important consideration. Of course, the double standards have not been missed by observers.

Liberals on Twitter pointed out that jailed activists such as Varavara Rao and Stan Swamy have been denied proper medical care, despite their age.

Eighty-three-year old Swamy, suffering from Parkinsons, requested for a straw and sipper to drink water. The court said it would hear the case in 20 days.

Arnab Goswami’s arrest might have woken up the right wing to the plight of political prisoners across the spectrum. How they react to the knowledge is up to them.