Arnab Goswami recently held two debates on two Muslim women exercising their respective freedom of choice. One was Bollywood actress Zaira Wasim, while the other being Trinamool Congress MP Nusrat Jahan. However, while the Republic TV founder appeared reluctant to digest Zaira’s choice of quitting Bollywood for religious reasons, he backed Jahan for embracing Hindu rituals after getting married to Nikhil Jain.
This prompted one of his guests on a recent debate programme to bluntly highlight Arnab Goswami’s glaring hypocrisy, leaving the controversial TV anchor. Goswami’s decision to host a debate on Nusrat Jahan was in the wake of the actress-turned-politician’s decision to attend a rath yatra in Kolkata recently.
Goswami rightly defended Jahan’s freedom of choice, but there was only one problem as highlighted by one of his Muslim guests on his TV channel.
Addressing his guests in the studio, Goswami concluded that there was nothing wrong in Jahan walking into ‘a rath yatra’ and conducting an ‘aarti.’ “I think it’s very good,’ he announced adding that ‘if she’s wearing a sindoor’ I think it’s excellent.’
He did not stop here. Goswami continued, “If she’s (Jahan) wearing bangles in her hand, if she’s wearing red lehengas while being wedded to a Hindu man, it’s a colour associated with Hindu cemremonies, it’s very good. It’s her free will.”
Goswami then drew a parallel with how India’s liberals had defended Zaira Wasim’s right to exercise her free will while abandoning Bollywood as her career because of religious reasons. Goswami said, “The same people in the case of Zaira..In that case they say it’s a freedom of choice.”
No sooner did Goswami complete his opening remarks defending the Trinamool MP for her freedom of choice, one Muslim panelist reminded Goswami how he had done a ‘whole show on Zaira’ criticising her for exercising her freedom of choice.
Criticising 18-year-old Zaira’s decision to quit Bollywood on 1 July, Goswami had launched a hashtag #ZairaQuitsLobbySilent demanding why India’s liberals were not criticising her for exercising her freedom of choice. Goswami had even concluded that Zaira had been bullied by Islamic hardliners into ‘giving up acting.’ He had even launched a tirade against actors such as Aamir Khan, who launched Zaira in Dangal, Shah Rukh Khan, Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhter and Naseeruddin Shah for not condemning the 18-year-old actor’s decision to quit Bollywood.
According to Goswami, an adult, who he refers to as a youth icon, is under pressure from religious hardliners when she exercises her right to choose a career for herself. But when a Muslim MP chooses to adopt Hindu symbols, she becomes a hero or a representative of India’s pluralism.