The Mumbai police earlier this week presented alleged text conversations between Republic TV Editor Arnab Goswami and former CEO of India’s Broadcast Audience Research Council Partho Dasgupta.
The WhatsApp conversations, which were submitted in a court, show Goswami was aware of the key Indian government decisions, according to the Indian media.
“Bigger than a normal strike,” Goswami told Dasgupta on February 23, 2019. Three days later, the Indian Air Force dropped a 1,000kg payload supposedly on a Jaish-e-Muhammad training camp in Balakot. It was later revealed that the pilots were instructed not to harm any Pakistani citizen or soldier.
This chat is one among several in a 3,400-page supplementary chargesheet filed by the Mumbai police. They are investigating allegations of a scam to manipulate Indian television rating points. The conversations show “many conspiracies and unprecedented access to power,” according to Indian public interest lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
They indicate that Goswami knew about several central government decisions ahead of time, including the Balakot airstrike and the revocation of Article 370.
For reasons not yet known, the firebrand news anchor is not on the list of accused in this case. Dasgupta is named as a prime accused and is the most recent of 15 people to be arrested. The police wrote in their remand notice that he had been paid several hundred thousand rupees to manipulate Republic TV’s TRPs.
BARC, the body responsible for publishing TRPs in India, filed a report through a sister concern, claiming several news channels including Republic TV were manipulating ratings. Eventually, several employees of BARC and Republic TV were implicated. The police suspect several other channels, including Fakt Marathi, Box Cinema, News Nation, Mahamovies and Wow, of involvement in the scam.
Dasgupta was aware of Goswami’s access to the power corridors, according to the conversations filed by the police. In one instance, he asked Goswami to get him placed as an “advisor at the Prime Minister’s Office”.
‘We have won like crazy’
After the killing of 40 Indian soldiers in the 2019 Pulwama attack, Goswami writes, “This attack we have won like crazy”. The conversation implies the Indian government knew about an impending attack and capitalized on it to garner votes in the upcoming general elections.
Below is one such conversation between Dasgupta and Goswami:
Goswami: No sir Pakistan. Something major will be done this time.
Dasgupta: It’s good for big man in this season.
Dasgupta: He will sweep polls then.
Dasgupta: Strike? Or bigger
Goswami: Bigger than a normal strike. And also on the same time something major on Kashmir. On Pakistan the government is confident of striking in a way that people will be elated. Exact words used.
Besides the WhatsApp chats, the police have filed statements of 59 witnesses, including 15 experts. Another supplementary chargesheet is expected soon.