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8 Days of Quarantine…Democracy on Ventilator!

When was the last time, you watched a cliffhanger movie or spectatored a sports match with a nail-biting finish? Well, such a thriller was witnessed this week with the Supreme Court granting bail to Arnab Goswami, the eminent Indian Journalist in one of the most-highlighted illegal detention case ever. But before the much-awaited judgement, in the backdrop, discussions started across the globe, whether and if the Indian Democracy was infected with COVID-19 virus, and rightly so as it seemed during that period of eventful 8 days of the month of November 2020!

With over 50+ police officers, armed with AK-47 and other assault rifles gheraoing the house of Arnab and force entering it with the alleged malafide intent of teaching the Journalist a lesson. A lesson that if a Journalist questions the establishment, this is how the tribe will be dealt with. Arnab was not allowed to even talk to his wife, son, other family members and even to his lawyers, while being pushed, kicked and pulled out of his house in the early hours of the day. He was being allegedly targeted against a closed police case of ‘abetment of suicide over non-payment of dues’ filed by an interior designer/decorator who had done interior decoration for the Republic studio while the studio was being set up in 2018. Alleged non-payment of dues by three business people, including Arnab Goswami, the Promoter of the Republic Media Network, mentioned in the suicide note of the deceased, Anway Naik, led to the FIR. Subsequent investigation led to the closure of the case in 2019, as the charges of ‘abetment of suicide’ did not get proven.

Though the alleged suicide was unfortunate, more unfortunate was the manner it was misused to target one Journalist, who was unearthing several scams and asking questions to the establishment—major ones being the most recent ones, the alleged Palghar mob lynching, Sushant Singh Rajput’s alleged murder, Disha Salian’s suspicious death and the Bollywood’s drug cartel.

While the tyranny was being invoked, it felt as if not only patients suffering from COVID-19 need ventilator, but also Indian Democracy--it did not feel more acute during those 8 days when the Democracy seemed like vehemently gasping for breath. From illegally picking up a journalist while denying his constitutional rights to lodging him in the jail of hardened criminals not respecting the judicial custody, it was a tyranny of a different sort. Arnab’s family running from the pillar to post to know about his safety and physical heath were moments that no Democracy would ever had imagined to witness. While being moved from the judicial custody venue to the Taloja Central jail in a Police van with the windows blacked out with a dark cloth, speaks volume about the alleged malafide intent of the establishment. Reason of being moved from a judicial custody to the central jail was not making sense to anyone as the police custody was already denied by the Sessions court, and this act was like disregarding the judgement. While Arnab was accused of using a mobile phone in judicial custody as a pretext of moving him out of the judicial custody, it was known later that the phone was handed over to him by the Police itself on the pretext of ‘helping’ him to speak to his lawyer, and it was a ploy to frame him.

‘My life is in danger!’ screamed Arnab from within the Police van while being moved to the Taloja Central Jail and this was the moment when the entire nation erupted with angst and pain. To further rub the salt on the wound, the Mumbai High Court order was announced, rejecting Arnab’s bail plea and re-directing him to seek bail from the sessions court itself. This was he inflection point, when the nation of 130+ crores nationalist citizens felt as if the quarantine period must end NOW so that they can hit the streets to seek justice! Indian citizens across the globe took a resolve that no further they would accept any journalist on the establishment’s ventilator. Demonstrations were organized, Indian Prime Minister, Home Minister, President and Vice President were reached out for help by several organizations and individuals to save the Democracy and undo what was being done to one of the most vocal and nationalist journalist. It was very clear that if this time no one takes the bull by the horn, the bull will trample all over us and the great Indian democracy would succumb.

Social media swelled with tweets, messages, requests, and a clear communication that this will not be tolerated anymore were being sent. A couple of formal requests as well, to intervene was filed with the Supreme Court of India by eminent lawyers. As this was the only hope left and thankfully so, the Supreme Court of India listed one of these requests for hearing and scheduled for the next day itself. Few people though opposed the immediate listing done by the Supreme Court of India, yet the hearing went through. An eminent lawyer, Harish Salve, who needs no introduction, alongwith his team of 30+ lawyers, placed the arguments from the petitioner’s (Arnab Goswami) side in front of the Supreme Court judiciary bench making it a case of an individual not being able to exercise his basic rights as guaranteed by the Constitution. While the entire nation waited for the outcome of the hearing, snippets of which were being shown Live on the Republic Media Network. Post the six hours of court proceedings and several arguments in favor and against, Supreme Court of India did what it is known for—upholding the rule of law and sending a direct message to the judiciary, politicians, bureaucracy and the people of India that we as a nation had enough of those last 8 days.

“The [Bombay] high court was in error in rejecting the application for grant of interim bail,” the Supreme Court bench held and granted bail to Arnab with immediate effect. Key observation that the Supreme Court bench made and which triggered the emotions across the globe was that ‘we are on the path of destruction if we don't intervene’.

This was the moment when the entire Nation gave a pat on the back to themselves with goosebumps all over the nations’ soul and body, feeling as if ‘coming back from the dead’. The entire nation took a deep breath with certainty that their constitutional rights will always be withheld, no matter what the tyranny is and how influential the tyrants are. Real meaning of ‘My Lord’ was understood really well as the God of Justice (however, blind ‘Lustitia’ is), the Supreme Court of India proved to be supreme and with a clear vision and intent.

Celebrations started across the globe; people danced, sang and shared sweets as if it is not Arnab, but India has got its constitutional rights reaffirmed, and rightly so!

Republic TV studios erupted in joy and ecstasy, while also reporting it out to the nation as ‘nation wanted to know’. Now the moment when Arnab was suppose to be out from the Taloja Central Prison started being discussed and felt within. Slowly, but steadily, people started gathering outside Taloja jail and police had to deploy their personnel to manage the crowd. Rangolis were made, sweets were arranged, and all other arrangements to welcome Arnab continued at the spot. Social media, especially Twitter, again came to life as if Diwali was being celebrated there itself, inspite of the cracker ban in many few Indian States!

Few hours of wait and the entire nation was looking Arnab in a car coming out of the jail with folded hands greeting and thanking the entire nation for support, especially to the Supreme Court of India. While everyone gave a deep gaze through his car’s windscreen to gauge his physical health, Arnab erupted like a volcano, when he pushed himself outside the of the car roof and chanted. ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ (Hail Motherland) and ‘Jai Hind’ (Hail India). Entire nation cried and smiled at the same time as if Democracy cheated death.

In my lifetime, this was the second moment when I felt to have kicked our colonizers out, the first one being the ‘Anna Andolan (Indian anti-corruption movement)’ in 2011--both the occasions, it seems this is life and nothing else, while you live and die for your nation! In addition, these were the two moments when it felt the entire India is in unison! Jai Hind and Happy Diwali, Arnab waali!