Is Arnab Goswami Assam’s Pride or Shame? The Nation Wants to Know…
• Arnab rose in hierarchy and hopped channels till he became the all-in-all at Republic TV. Thus, he gives every reason for every Assamese to feel proud of him, to shine in reflected glory.
• His vilification of fellow Assamese Papon, and that too with venomous viciousness, didn’t endear him to many here. Today, we are left with hardly any reason why we should celebrate Arnab’s ethnicity.
One might wonder who the most famous Assamese in the country is. Well, many names like Bhupen Hazarika, Papon, Saint Sankaradeva, Zubeen Garg, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, Deba Kanta Barooah, Jahnu Baruah, Parvin Sultana etc shall be put forward. However, if one analyzes each of the different names mentioned (or not mentioned), one would discover that while they are surely famous, they have their own set of people amongst whom they are well known. None can really claim a pan India fame, much less international fame.
Arguably, if there is one person whose name has at least been heard by a good majority of Indians and even beyond our country’s borders, it is definitely that of Mr Arnab Goswami. However, one should not confuse familiarity with popularity. If the question was who is the most popular Assamese in the country, to all probability Arnab’s name would not feature even in the top five!
From NDTV to Times Now and now on to his own Republic TV, he has carved a niche for himself in the field of television journalism. Whether that niche is of fame or notoriety is a perception that depends on which side of political spectrum one is in.
Arnab is always in the news; rather he is the news!
On a personal note, close to three decades ago, I visited his Guwahati residence for a function. The thing that struck me as I was about to enter was the nameplate of his father Late Manoranjan Goswami right on the gate post.
A retired army man, Col Goswami’s degrees were so profuse in number that one needed at least two minutes simply to read them. The same academic brilliance perhaps was inherited by Arnab and his academics would definitely make one proud that he is Assamese by birth.
I never met him directly except having seen him as a schoolboy at the residence. I knew only his sister (elder) and parents briefly, but also concede that his achievements should have made me feel proud of him as a fellow Assamese. He comes from the family of our icons of regionalism - Late Gauri Shanker Bhattacharchya and Late Dinesh Goswami. His father was a well-known columnist as well as a socio-political commentator.
He tried his hand in politics too as a BJP candidate but didn’t make much headway. As for Arnab himself, one must respect the fact that he chose the uncertain world of journalism whereas he had the academic credentials to chose a more cushy and juicy non-controversial career. Having jumped into the fray, he gradually started hogging the limelight with his brand of aggressive journalism. He started specializing in talk shows and changed the concept of the anchor being just an anchor in holding the discussants together to the anchor being the key person setting the tone of the discussion.
The novelty of his approach was lapped up by the viewers and he soon became very popular. He also rose in hierarchy and also changed channels till he became the all-in-all at Republic TV. Thus, he gives every reason for every Assamese to feel proud of him, to shine in reflected glory.
Then why is it that the topical question has arisen today? Why is it that not all Assamese are proud of him or even, on the contrary, consider him a subject of Assam’s shame? If at all anyone is to be blamed for this, it is Arnab himself. The very style which brought him such huge success became his liability as he started overdoing it. He became abusive at times and also downright dismissive to the point of humiliating his guests on his shows. His brand of journalism veered from less news to more views.
His variable standards on similar issues became apparent. When a standup comedian treated him to the same treatment he metes out to others, it became a national joke! He lost his sense of journalistic propriety and became openly supportive of one particular narrative. His agenda got so partial that he ended up facing police complaints on his communal ranting.
From a successful journalist, he degenerated into a political spokesperson of one particular narrative and his comments often came tantalizingly close to the illegality of breeding communal disharmony. He claimed to have been attacked by goons of another political party - a claim now questioned by many. A similar claim of attack by a tribe of the very goons he defends these days way back in 2002, has been openly pooh-poohed by many other journalists and they didn’t stop at calling him a blatant liar.
Also, as a line of thought, succumbing to the temptation of coming on social media (as does any Hari, Jadu or Madhu these days) to complain rather than approach the police as the first step (which is the legal thing to do) does not augur well for a journalist of his stature besides raising questions on his motive.
As for his home state, although he was honoured as “Assamese of the Year” some years ago, he is hardly fluent in his mother tongue. He barely focuses on Assam’s issues in the national scene and has not really cared about our problems. His vilification of fellow Assamese Papon, and that too with venomous viciousness didn’t endear him to many here. Hence, we are left with hardly any cause where we should celebrate Arnab’s ethnicity. He had all opportunity to be there for Assam, to make us proud.
Today, I personally see no reason to feel proud of him as a fellow Assamese! I tested social media and my views found echo in many! Far from being proud, I fear he is an Assamese liability for one thing and an embarrassment surely. I am also aware that there shall be some who are indeed proud of him but it probably is related to their political preference which Arnab so eloquently espouses! I remain apologetic that he is an Assamese and would prefer to not claim so to the uninitiated. Not that my opinion or opinion of Assam really matters to him – and I am acutely aware of that!
(The author is a neuro surgeon by profession and a socio-political activist by choice. The views expressed in the article are his own and are not necessarily subscribed by the publication.)