Indian journalist had prior info of Balakot strike, reveals Mumbai police probe

| Police’s ongoing investigation into television ratings scam shows Goswami’s whatsApp conversation with Pratho Dasgupta

ISLAMABAD   –      Indian journalist and a supporter of the ruling BJP in India, Arnab Goswami, had prior knowledge of the Modi government’s plan to carry out a strike on Pakistani soil days before Indian Air Force bombed Pakistani soil, the Balakot intrusion on February 26, 2019.

The airstrike caused no loss of life in Pakistan as the Indian jets dropped their munitions on a hillside yet the airstrike near the town of Balakot brought the two nuclear armed neighbours on the brink of another war. The revelation of Goswami having prior knowledge about the strike comes from the Mumbai police’s ongoing investigation into manipulation of television ratings, reported Indian media outlets.

The Indian journalist was in the know about several planned actions of the Indian government well before their execution, purported WhatsApp messages by him revealed.

Firebrand Indian television anchor Arnab Goswami knew of the Modi government’s plan to stage a strike in Pakistan days before the Feb 26, 2019, Balakot episode between the two countries, evidence submitted by the Mumbai police as part of an ongoing investigation on manipulation of television ratings suggests, Indian media outlets reported on Saturday. The police have included purported WhatsApp conversations between Goswami and Pratho Dasgupta, the incarcerated head of ratings company Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC), in a transcript that is part of a 3,400-page supplementary charge-sheet filed in their investigation into the alleged ratings scam, according to Indian media.

According to the reports, the police investigation began in October 2020 after TV channels in the western state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, were accused of rigging the ratings system. 

According to excerpts of the purported conversations published by scroll.in, Goswami texted Dasgupta on Feb 23, 2019, saying, “On another note something big will happen.” After a few messages on other matters, Dasgupta asked, “Dawood?”, referring to a notorious gangster who is wanted in several cases. The conversation continued:

Arnab Goswami: “No sir Pakistan. Something major will be done this time.”

Partho Dasgupta: “Good.”

Partho Dasgupta: “It’s good for big man in this season.”

Partho Dasgupta: “He will sweep polls then.”

Partho Dasgupta: “Strike? Or bigger.”

Arnab Goswami: “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.”

Three days after this purported conversation, on Feb 26, Indian jets trespassed into Pakistani territory and dropped their payload in Balakot, bringing two nuclear armed nations on the brink of war. Pakistan’s response the next day led to the downing of two Indian jets and the capture of an Indian air force pilot whose fighter plane fell inside Pakistani territory after being struck. A day after the episode, excerpts from the alleged chats show, Dasgupta texted Goswami asking whether this was what he was hinting at. Answering in the affirmative, Goswami added: “More to come.” These purported conversations, which cover topics from the Pulwama attack to Kashmir’s annexation, are just a part of the mammoth transcript which shows Goswami was aware of the Indian government’s plans well in advance.

Dasgupta was arrested last month and is currently under police remand. He was charged with “misuse of his official position to manipulate ratings of specific news channels broadcast by ARG Outlier Media Pvt Ltd such as Republic Bharat Hindi and Republic TV English”, according to the media reports.

In February 2019, Indian general elections were mere months away, scheduled to start from April 11 of that year. Narendra Modi and his right-wing BJP was elected after the party saw a rise in popularity following the stand-off with Pakistan.



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