Arnab, Ambani & armed security

Well, this post is also turning out to be centered on Arnab Goswami, the editor-in-chief of Times Now and anchor of the nightly Newshour debate. It is not by design. I got to know today that the government will provide him with Y-category security, and I just happened to have some free time in my hands.

Y-category security entitles Goswami to have 20 armed personnel guarding him round the clock, all expenses paid by the government.

There is nothing wrong in providing security cover to journalists, including to Goswami. He does a very important job and if he has made enemies, like journalists usually do, while discharging his duties, he must be protected.

I do not write to question why. I am not here to question if security threat to Goswami is real or fake? Mine is a Who-question. Who should be providing security cover to Goswami, the face of Times Now, owned by India’s biggest media conglomerate–the Times Group or the Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd? Should Goswami’s security be the responsibility of the government, or his company? Why should his employers not care for his security? It is not as if the Times Group does not have the means. Besides, Goswami’s show is said to be the most-watched news-based programme on Indian television and it must be helping the company to rake in the moolah in a big way.

If you ask me (and you should because I am among the tax payers with whose money the Y-category security will be possible), I would rather have my money, however tiny it may be, provide security to Right to Information activists, whistleblowers, anti-corruption activists and journalists of small or independent organisations with little or no means. On Saturday, an RTI activist was shot dead at his home in Mumbai. Sixty-one-year old Bhupendra Vira had led a campaign against land-grabbing and illegal constructions.

Vira’s murder is not an isolated case. Killing of RTI activists and transparency-seekers has become a fashion in India. Just that unlike other fashions, this refuses to go. One need look no further than this Wikipedia page to see just how rampant the attacks on RTI activists are.

Interestingly, among other journalists to get high-level security from the government is Sudhir Chaudhary, the Zee News editor who was caught in a sting operation asking for bribes from a steel company. Both Times Now and Zee News compete with each other in sycophancy towards the government and its institutions. Their journalism is essentially propagandist.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Nita Ambani, the wife of industrialist Mukesh Ambani (who already enjoys a Z-category security), is to be provided with Y-category security. Why? The Ambanis are the richest Indians. They should be able to do without having to depend on the government for their security needs.

There’s a long list of VIPs, VVIPs, etc who enjoy those high-level, government-funded security covers. It is almost as if the government cannot reward, or appease, its yes-men without placing armed guards at their doorsteps. Boasting an X-,Y- or Z-category security is part of what is called the “VIP culture”, or the culture of those who replace British rulers even after they left India almost 70 years ago. Any reason why Robert Vadra, Sonia Gandhi’s industrialist son-in-law, should be in the list? Or why even Priyanka Gandhi, Sonia’s daughter, for that matter?

This piece by Raman Kirpal on Firstpost website is the most exhaustive study on India’s “security culture” (if I may say so) I read online. He points out that every state in India has a provision by which individuals can avail of police protection against a payment, but none of the state governments invoke it. So the burden of deploying trained, armed guards from premier security institutions to guard individuals rests on the government exchequer. Now, is this a fair thing to do? By what logic?

But who is going to ask these questions? Certainly, not Arnab Goswami.

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