Chatgate: Arnab’s WhatsApp chat shows leak of classified info

Chatgate: Arnab’s WhatsApp chat shows leak of classified info
Arnab Goswami (File)
NEW DELHI, JAN 18 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 1/18/2021 11:50:02 AM IST

Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami was apparently privy to the Modi government’s plan to launch an air strike on Pakistan’s Balakot in retaliation for the Pulwama terror attack, three days before the Indian Air Force bombed the terrorist camp on 26 February 2019, report The Print.

This is part of the purported WhatsApp conversations between Goswami and then Broadcast Audience Research Council chief executive Partho Dasgupta, that went viral Friday.

The WhatsApp conversations are part of Mumbai Police’s charge sheet, submitted before a court, in connection with the case of alleged manipulation of Television Rating Points (TRPs) by news channels, including Republic TV and a few others. The purported conversations, among other things, revealed that the Narendra Modi government had planned the air strike “in a way” that the people would be “elated”.

In the purported chat, dated 23 February 2019, Goswami informed Dasgupta that “something big will happen”. When the latter asked if it was about “Dawood”, Arnab explained, “No sir Pakistan. Something major will be done this time.” “It’s good for big man in this season. He will sweep polls then,” replied the then BARC chief, asking whether it will be “a strike” or “something bigger”. 

Goswami then responded, “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.” 

Arnab was apparently citing the information shared by a government functionary, but didn’t disclose whose “words” they were. ThePrint reached Goswami for comment but there was no response.

‘This attack we have won like crazy’: Soon after the Pulwama terror attack on 14 February 2019 in which 40 CRPF jawans were killed, Goswami had a chat with Dasgupta and they discussed how the news worked very well for the channel’s TRPs. 

On 14 February at 4.19 pm, soon after the attack, Goswami texted Dasgupta how Republic TV was 20 minutes ahead on the biggest terrorist attack of the year in Kashmir as the “only channel with ground presence”. 

An hour later, Dasgupta reverted, “Modi happened yesterday,” to which Goswami said, “Have planned some build-up thing after we spoke. Idea to gain massive spike. So used his speech yesterday and pushed it by a bit.” Goswami added, “This attack we have won like crazy”. “Doing lots and lots and lots of stuff after we spoke.” 

Goswami on ‘major development’: The purported conversations also show Goswami dissuading Dasgupta from visiting Kashmir around March because of a “major development” that was awaited.

The Republic TV Editor told Dasgupta that since the then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj was going for the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) conference in Abu Dhabi on 2 March, it will not happen then, but is expected soon after,  so he should plan his travel to the Valley accordingly.  “Sushma is going to OIC on 2 March. That means nothing till then. Expectation is between then and 15th March. As of now either way I would discourage you from going to Kashmir on those dates. If inevitable, let me know. Will arrange some security,” Goswami purportedly said.

On 27 February 2019, Dasgupta asked Goswami “was yesterday’s air strike the ‘big one’ you spoke about? Or something more coming”? Goswami then replied, “More to come”.

He further added, “Broken: Pak planes have crossed loc. One pak f 16 crashes. One a Indian also.”

Dasgupta then suggested, “You should embed some reporters. Would be a coup. Like CNN. In Iraq.”

In other chats, Goswami told Dasgupta how Republic TV was on top of the J&K story.

In a conversation later in the day, Goswami said, “Big yesterday because my first burst of reporters landing in Srinagar were from Bharat. Last night I had the biggest story first. Today I was called by NSA and asked how I got the news. Everyone in NSA and PMO is hooked to Bharat.”

“Doval met me before taking off for Srinagar. They will push this through,” he added. 

‘Case should be registered against Goswami’: Some security experts said the purported conversations indicated national security had been compromised.

“We do not know yet how much did he (Arnab Goswami) know about this sensitive operation. This is absolutely a compromise of national security. He is close to the ruling establishment and someone within the system must have leaked it. Else, how could he know about such a sensitive operation which only a few people within the government were aware of?” said Jayadeva Ranade, a former Indian intelligence officer and China expert.

“That man is a national security risk. The government should tighten the agencies now and needs a thorough investigation. This is symptomatic of laxity and the weaknesses in the system and needs to be plugged,” he added.

R.K. Yadav, a former RAW officer, said this called for an investigation. “Anyone in the system could have given it to him. This should be seriously investigated,” he said. 

Congress, NCP demand JPC probe 
Congress and Nationalist Congress Party have asked the government to institute a JPC inquiry into the ‘Chatgate’ involving Arnab Goswami and Partho Dasgupta, contending that there was evidence that he was privy to the Balakot air strikes that were “planned” by the BJP regime purely with Lok Sabha elections in mind.
Former I&B minister and Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari, referring to the leaked chats, tweeted, “If what sections of media is reporting is correct, then it points towards a direct linkage between Balakot air strikes and 2019 general elections. Was national security milked for electoral purposes? Needs a JPC investigation.”
Tagging defence minister Rajnath Singh, Congress veteran and former home minister P Chidambaram tweeted, “Did a journalist (and his friend) know about the retaliatory strike on Balakot camp three days before the actual strike? If yes, what is the guarantee that their ‘source’ did not share the information with others as well, including spies or informers working for Pakistan? How did a ‘For Your Eyes Only’ decision find its way to the government-supporting journalist?”
NCP chief spokesperson Mahesh Tapase said, “It is extremely shocking and disturbing to know how issues related to national security have been used to gain TRPs.” “The question also arises how Arnab was privy to such sensitive information. The Home Ministry has to identify the source and immediately take action,” he said.

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