By Ram Khatry
24 May 2020
A Change.org campaign seeking to have divisive Indian television host Arnab Goswami “banned” from broadcasting is suddenly trending hot after tons of angry Nepalese supporters throw their weight behind the online petition.
The campaign had only 70,000 supporters as of late Saturday night. Overnight, it attracted well over 90,000 as scores of mortified Nepalese netizens, both at home and abroad, rush to sign the campaign.
It’s likely not many in Nepal were aware of the campaign until three days ago as India-Nepal border dispute escalated amid Nepal’s release of an updated administrative and political map which included Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani. The step of the Nepalese government, which Indian media and commentators view as uncharacteristically bold on part of their northern neighbour, came on the heels of India inaugurating a link road connecting Dharchula in Uttarakhand with Lipulekh, which the landlocked country claims as its own.
Indian viewers may be used to Mr Goswami’s often unethical and ill-mannered tirades that he purports to present as “journalism”. However, Nepalese audience were not and hence, their shock as they saw one of their national-level leaders being bullied onscreen.
Both India and Nepal claim the disputed areas as “integral parts” of their respective territories. Both neighbours are adamant that the areas fall well within their sovereign borders.
Dr Rijal had joined panelists from India on Mr Goswami’s TV show last Wednesday when the polarising host dispensed lessons to Nepal on how to carry out its international relations. He said Nepal must be “dreaming” trying to square off against the South Asian superpower on the border issue.
Most mortified by Mr Goswami’s behaviour were Kathmandu’s media fraternity. Noted Kanak Mani Dixit among them:
“You are also very aware that this sudden interest in Indian territory is laughable. You are of course an important nation but if you think you are squaring off with Indian on border issues, you should be dreaming. It’s never going to happen,” Mr Goswami, infamous for his rudeness and high-decibel verbal abuse of guests he invites onto his TV programme on Republic TV, dictated to the Nepalese politician and former minister Dr Rijal.
Over the years, Mr Goswami built his reputation by feeding on the nationalist fervour of millions as he incites division and discord in the otherwise rich and colourful fabric of the greater Indian society. Although every child knows him across the border, he is not as well-known in Nepal. But thanks to his unsuccessful grilling of Dr Rijal, he is not an unknown object in Nepal now, and as well as in many countries that are home to millions of Nepalese expatriates.
Many were quick to react to the way he treated the Nepali Congress leader and ex minister and the way he referred to Nepal – patronising and boiling with superiority complex.
Bikram Timilsina, a PhD Scholar at the Griffith Asia Institute and School of Government and International Relations at Griffith University, for instance, says he cannot put up with Mr Goswami’s version of journalism which he describes as “pathetic”.
Kriti Adhikari elaborated her reason for signing the Change.org petition against the divisive television personality many refuse to call a journalist, “The episode which claimed Nepal to be acting as a ‘Chinese Puppet’ was a baseless argument, humiliating and completely false. Arnab Goswami when asking questions, made his own false statements to the Nepali Guests which definitely isn’t how a journalist should be conducting interviews. They did very little research from their side, didn’t look at what Nepali side had evidences for, and completely shifted the dispute to Chinese involvement, ignoring the fact that even the Chinese government (who knew it was a disputed area) didn’t even raise a single questions with India when the road construction was signed.”
Campaigner Ahmad Khan’s complete pitch to the Supreme Court of India:
“With Republic TV, Arnab Goswami biasedly shows the ruling government under positive light for monetary benefit. While it’s one major reason, the other reason is this: he targets the minority of India. He regularly tells Muslims to migrate to Pakistan and it hurts me as it makes me feel unsafe. Being a taxpayer as well as a responsible citizen of India, I don’t deserve to see this when I expect a media channel to present me facts. Moreover, his behaviour is completely against the ethics of journalism. He raises his voice to anyone who outspeaks him and calls them names. In fact, he assasinates their character which can become a threat to those people even if they are innocent. The worst part about it is even students fall in that category and we have seen the repurcussions in the form of a recent attack on the JNU student Umar Khalid.”(sic)