New Delhi, Upping the ante against the government over journalist Arnab Goswami’s purported social media chat leak, the Congress on Wednesday described it as an act of “treason” and demanded an immediate inquiry into the leak of such classified information about the Balakot air strike. It said that the party will raise the issue during Parliament’s Budget Session.
The Congress brought out several senior leaders to corner the government over the issue including former Defence Minister A.K. Antony, former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, former Law Minister Salman Khurshid, Congress Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and party spokesperson Pawan Khera.
Addressing a press conference here at the party headquarters Antony said, “The contents of the leaked chats between Goswami of Republic TV and the former CEO of BARC is a serious issue for the entire nation.”
Antony said that for a very patriotic Indian, it is a shock and a serious matter of concern because it affects national security.
The Congress leader said that it affects the security of the armed forces, and especially in this case the security of the brave air warriors. “And also in the way they (Goswami and BARC CEO) mentioned the martyrdom of 40 CRPF men is all a serious concern for us,” Antony said.
He said the people of the country and the political parties might have differences on several issues but are united when it comes to national security cutting across religious and party lines to protect the country.
“But now it is very clear that classified documents that too considering the national security and also considering the most sensitive secret air strikes were available with the people who were not expected to know it, and were not authorised to get these documents,” Antony said.
He said “I am very sad and shocked” over the leaked chats between Goswami and former BARC CEO Partho Dasgupta and the language they used while mentioning the martyrdom of 40 CRPF troopers.
Firing a salvo at the government, the Congress leader said, “Three days before the Balakot air strikes, how did one journalist come to know of the details of it? It would have affected the operation and its effectiveness.”
Only very few people are expected to be in the know of such secret information, to know the details of the military operations. “Even all the Cabinet ministers are not expected to get that as only a handful of people and a few military people are informed about such operations,” he said.
“These documents were leaked to the media, but not the entire media but to only one journalist by the people who were in top positions in the government,” he alleged.
“Leaking official secrets about the military operation, national security matters, sensitive military operations especially air force strike is treason and anti-national activity,” he said.
“It is not only criminal activity, it is anti-national activity and treason. Whoever has done this they must be punished for anti-national activities and treason,” he said.
Questioning the silence of the government over the issue, Antony said, “Even till today the government has not said anything on this. I am sure these anti-national activities or leakage of secret military operations was among four or five civilian people. I don’t suspect anybody. But one of them is suspect. It needs to be enquired immediately on a war footing. And whoever is guilty should be punished for treason.”
He added that the journalist who got such secret military operation details has to be punished.
“Urgently the government must order an enquiry. And whoever is responsible and whoever is part of the leakage of military operations should be shown no mercy and he has to be punished,” Antony said.
Shinde said that what Goswami has done is not just shameful for the country but also for journalism. “In last several years no media organisation or any journalist has done such act,” he said.
He said that the country has seen several wars and governments of different parties, but such an act of leakage of official secrets was never witnessed.
“They were celebrating on Pulwama after our 40 CRPF troopers were killed in a terror attack,” the former Home Minister said, referring to the chats of Goswami and Partho Dasgupta.
Shinde said, “We will raise the issue in Parliament’s Budget Session.”
Addrssing the press conference, Khurshid, who had also held the portfolio of External Affairs Minister said, “We have always believed that if we lose faith in judiciary, then nothing will be left.”
He said that he was saying this as these people were discussing some of the matters which were going on in the judiciary.
Referring to the alleged chats of Goswami with Dasgupta, Khurshid said, “It raises questions that if the talks of such kind were going on, then was there any influence on the judiciary?”
“And did any wrong decision be taken due to such pressures. They also discussed a meeting with Law Minister,” he said.
Khurshid also questioned if the BJP has let loose people whose mandate is to go to judges to influence them unconstitutionally and illegally? And what would the judges and judiciary do. Will the judiciary turn a blind eye or will it set an example?” he asked.
Khurshid said that he was not saying that the judges may have been ifluenced. Anybody having the audacity to talk about influencing a judge, we stand in assuring the judiciary that we are with them.
Discussing the alleged chats of Goswami and Dasgupra referring to former Finance Minister and veteran BJP leader Arun Jaitley, Khurshid said that he was respected at the bar and in Parliament irrespective of different political lines.
Khurshid recalled that there was a channel of communication and he (Jaitley) was always willing to listen. “He was an important pillar of the parliamentary democracy,” Khurshid said.
“The kind of conversation related to Jaitleyji is deeply saddening and hurtful. He was on his death bed,” he said.
“It is a cynical hardened mind that says why does’nt he go quickly. What is it that he was saying that government is maintaining him?” Khurshid said, adding that it is extremly painful, if this is how they treat their own people.
Azad said that in 2017, Goswami’s channel and another channel by-passed the auction system put in place by Prasar Bharti to gain viewership on DD Free Dish.
He said, “The two channels did not pay the fee to Doordarshan to book slots in the free DTH service with the help of Dish TV, a private DTH service. This violation cost crores of rupees to the public exchequer.”
Khera also slammed the government over the alleged chats of Goswami with Dasgupta referring to then BJP chief and Union Home MInister Amit Shah and usage of Prime Minister’s name, and said, “Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of the biggest democracy.”
Referring to Goswami as a lobbyist, Khera said, “How can a lobbyist have the confidence of dropping the name of the Prime Minister every second minute to fix rivals within the journalistic profession. The confidence with which he flaunts his proximity to the Prime Minister and his office, it is shocking.”
Khera also said that Shah became Home MInister later in 2019.
Khera added that before May 2019, Shah’s name was used by Goswami with Dasgupta.
Khera that Goswami took Dasgupta to meet Shah. “What all matters were discussed. He talked to fix other media house?” he said.
On Tuesday, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had also slammed the government and said that leaking sensitive information related to national security to a journalist is a “criminal act” and persons behind this should be put in prison.