By Abdul Bari Masoud
New Delhi: Releasing a booklet titled ‘Kheti Ka Khoon’ to highlight the pitfalls of the new farm laws, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday demanded a parliamentary committee enquire into the Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami’s Whatsapp chats episode. Attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly over the leak, he said providing an official secret to a journalist is a criminal act.
At a press conference here at the party headquarters, Rahul Gandhi explained how the Modi government destroyed agriculture in the last six years and insisted that there was no other way except repealing the laws to end the deadlock. Nine rounds of talks held between the Modi government and the farmers’ unions so far have failed to yield any result. The booklet is an attempt to highlight pitfalls of the farm laws enacted by the Modi government and to support the ongoing farmers’ agitation.
When being asked about Arnab Goswami’s WhatsApp chats disclosures, the former Congress chief said it is a serious matter as “this was top secret information”.
“This is the criminal act, giving official secret information to a journalist, is a criminal act, both on the part of the person who accepted it, and on the part of the person, who gave it,” he said, while attacking PM Modi over the leak. “You will see that no inquiry will be conducted as the prime minister was the one who leaked the information,” he went on to say.
“This was not provided to anybody else. There were 4 or 5 people, who knew this information. Things like this (the Balakot airstrike) would be known only to a handful of people – the prime minister, home minister, defence minister, defence chief, Air Force chief and Army chief. So if a secret like this has been leaked to a journalist, then it is a breach of the Official Secrets Act. It is leaking of a state secret,” he asserted.
Taking a dig at the BJP’s ‘rashtrabhakti’, Gandhi said the ruling party and its government at the Centre call themselves “patriots and nationalists” but leaking such sensitive information that could compromise national security is “a criminal act puts the air force of the country and its pilots in grave danger.”
“It must be investigated,” he said, “We want to know who among these people gave Arnab Goswami that information. Was it Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself? Or was it the home minister?”
TV anchor and owner of Republic channel Goswami’s chats became public when the Mumbai Police submitted the transcripts of his conversation with the former CEO of ratings agency BARC Partho Dasgupta to the court as part of its investigations into fake TV ratings scam. Goswami is known for his pro-Modi line
An exchange between the two shows Goswami saying three days before the Balakot strike that “something big will happen” on February 23, 2019. The TV anchor goes on to say that it would be “bigger than a normal strike” and “the government is confident of striking in a way that people will be elated.”
“If such information is there on Arnab Goswami’s WhatsApp messages, then it is also there with Pakistan, this then cannot be a secret, and hence it puts pilots’ lives in danger and puts the entire operation in jeopardy,” said Rahul Gandhi.
He said the matter should be inquired by a parliamentary committee as other opposition parties have already asked for it.