Do you have mixed feelings about the Supreme Court’s decision to release Arnab? If you answered no, then this post isn’t for you. You’ve already picked a camp and I doubt you’ll find anything worthwhile reading further. If you answered yes, then we are in for a conversation. Let’s break it down.
Did Arnab deserve to be arrested?
Yes. For a lot of reasons, in this case primarily because he was mentioned by name in a credible suicide note left by two people. It is the duty of the police to investigate these incidents, and it is shameful that it took 2 years, a regime change, and political persecution for this to happen.
Was the arrest political?
Also yes. Arnab has made it no secret that he’s a yapping Pomeranian leashed only by one political party, and that he has sold his soul for money and fame, in the process making enemies with several State Governments. That his arrest is a consequence of the recent spat between the Centre and the State is obvious.
Do people like Arnab deserve to be deplatformed?
Again, yes. Notice I say “people like Arnab” and not “journalists”. This is because I know some real journalists and it would be an insult to them like no other for me to lump them in the same category. Not only has Arnab done an unforgivable disservice to all Indians by convincing the nation that he’s a “journalist”, but he has also reduced a noble profession to opinion-hawking and shabbily-disguised partisanship. It is also a reflection on his supporters, followers, and fanatics who – to borrow a phrase – are in the “basket of deplorables”. I hesitate to say they are being mislead, because that would imply they have no agency and would work to acquit them of nation-destroying stupidity.
But the deplatforming must happen through advertisers pulling out, citizens changing the channel, other democratic procedures and a whole lot of self-reflection. I’m not holding my breath.
Should the Supreme Court have granted him bail?
Yes. Arnab does not pose a flight risk, and fear of him polluting the case can be addressed with a gag order. This would not be suppression of free speech, since he could continue spewing his vitriol about all other matters not sub judice.
Should the Supreme Court have listed his petition after all the others who applied for bail before him and have been in the waiting list for months, sometimes years?
Yes. The SC has, once again, confirmed that everyone is equal before the law, but some people are more equal than others. As a result of this episode, many citizens now have a longer wait time, including journalists who were arrested much before Arnab. And as the court knows all too well – justice delayed is justice denied.
Is this a matter of suppression of free speech and/or personal liberty?
A resounding yes. I haven’t agreed with a word from that sycophant’s mouth in years, but society must defend his right to speak. “If you don’t like it, change the channel” is a valid defence and all Constitutional arguments are more grist for the mill. Personal liberty must prevail over the state’s rights or the essence of freedom is lost.
Is the case against Kunal Kamra also a matter of free speech and the right to criticise?
Yes. Kamra has an absolute right to criticise. By prosecuting him for tweets – however “vulgar, disrespectful, offensive, in bad taste” – the establishment shows that the Prashant Bhushan case wasn’t an aberration, but a chapter in a book still being written.
While the SC precedent is sound and I tend to agree with Justice Chandrachud about personal liberties, this verdict could have been pronounced in any of the hundreds of other similar cases pending before the SC. It is not Arnab’s release (bail should have been granted anyway) but flagrant favouritism that has embittered thinking men & women.
Arnab is a contemptible, hatemongering, regressive partisan hack whose last intelligent thought died of loneliness. No reasonable man can stand his television programs, and only a unidimensional person could justify his irresponsible & disgraceful actions.
Ultimately, the greatest and largely unnoticed victory here is that Arnab fought for and righteously won his liberty – in the process becoming what he hates most: a liberal.
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