If Kunal Kamra objects to Arnab Goswami's journalism, he should switch the channel, not flout air safety norms

  • Kunal Kamra’s act of heckling Goswami on an IndiGo flight on Tuesday was not an impulsive act as he repeated it again on Wednesday

  • The insinuation that Goswami somehow 'invited' the harassment because of his ‘brand of journalism’ absolves Kamra of all responsibilities for his action

  • Kamra could have very well roasted Goswami from his platform and influenced public opinion, therefore, his act reeks of desperation

Stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra is in news for heckling journalist Arnab Goswami onboard an Indigo flight from Mumbai to Lucknow. In a video posted by the comedian himself, Kamra is seen berating the journalist.

While posting the video, the comedian tried to justify his act by attributing it a higher moral purpose — that he was doing it for Rohith Vemula, a Dalit student at University of Hyderabad who had committed suicide in 2016.

It isn’t clear why Kamra cited the death of Vemula to justify his actions, but a quick glance at the words he used to accost Goswami while both were onboard a flight — flouting ethics, civility and flight-safety norms — makes for disturbing reading.

 If Kunal Kamra objects to Arnab Goswamis journalism, he should switch the channel, not flout air safety norms

File image of Arnab Goswami and Kunal Kamra

“Viewers want to know if Arnab today is a coward or a nationalist. Arnab, this is for national interest. I am part of the tukde-tukde narrative. You should deflate me. You should take the enemy of the states down. You should make sure that the country is in safe hands of Narendra Modi.

“You should fight against dynasts like Rahul Gandhi, who I support, on 10 Tughlaq Lane. Arnab, you should have a reply, Arnab. Arnab, are you a coward or are you a journalist? Are you a coward or are you a journalist or a nationalist? Who are you, Arnab? Who are you? ...,” Kamra is heard saying in the video.

Following the fracas, three airlines — Indigo, Spicejet  and Air India — placed a temporary ban on Kamra from flying. Kamra’s behaviour and the ban have triggered a furious debate on social media that attracted the attention of foreign publications such as the BBC.

Kamra claimed on Wednesday that he repeated the stance on the return flight when he ran into Goswami again and ended up getting banned from another airline — GoAir.

It is evident that Kamra’s act of  heckling Goswami on an earlier flight was not an impulsive act. Kamra wasn’t risking his reputation for a larger cause — as the comedian would have us believe. His was a cynical and calculated act designed to publicly heckle an individual. It was a publicity stunt.

That Kamra would be suffering the consequences of his action is not surprising. What is, is the support that he has received from the Congress party, a section of the media and some people. Congress leader and MP Shashi Tharoor appeared to justify the comedian’s behaviour by equating Goswami's journalism with Kamra’s stunt.

Tharoor appeared to suggest that Kamra’s act of accosting Goswami and making provocative statements while both were on a flight was somehow justified because Goswami does the same thing with his “guests” on his show. His views have found support in some quarters.

This false equivalence must be called out.

The insinuation is that Goswami somehow "invited" the harassment because of his ‘brand of journalism’ that is unpalatable to some. Stretch a little more, and the argument absolves the aggressor, Kamra, of all responsibilities for his action because the victim “deserved” it.

Even if one isn’t a fan of Goswami’s journalism, the TV anchor invites his guests to his show and they join him out of a free will. Disinterested guests or political leaders/spokespersons are not dragged into his show to be publicly flogged by Goswami.

As for the viewers, they are free to turn off their television sets or switch channels if they find Goswami’s journalism unacceptable. To equate this with Kamra’s heckling of Goswami when both were on a flight is immensely problematic. Tharoor argues that since he has faced heckling from journalists of Goswami’s channel, therefore such an attack on Goswami is justified.

This argument cannot be used to justify the harassment of an individual on an airplane flouting norms of public safety and mid-air behaviour. It also sets a dangerous precedent. If such actions are condoned, then anyone might experience similar heckling from people opposed to them and that may lead to not only unsavoury but even dangerous situations.

Moreover, stand-up comedian Kamra is not a voiceless private citizen. He could have very well roasted Goswami from his platform and influenced public opinion. This act, therefore, is a desperate one. Faced with flight bans, Kamra later played the victimhood card by suggesting that he was being targeted for his political beliefs. That is the self-delusion of an individual who needs to take a long, hard look at his public behaviour.

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Updated Date: Jan 29, 2020 20:23:44 IST