Did Arnab Goswami call Keralites shameless? A clip of his debate goes viral


Republic TV's controversial news anchor Arnab Goswami was lambasted on social media after a 30 second video clip of him purportedly calling "a group" the "most shameless bunch of Indians I have ever seen" went viral on social media.

The context of his statement: the Kerala floods, and the ongoing debate as to whether the UAE actually offered Rs 700 crore to the state, which the Centre then turned down. Irate commentators, Malayalis and otherwise, said Goswami's comments were a blanket critique of the victims of the Kerala floods. Wrote one Twitter user, "India: Arnab Cowswamy, unofficial spokesman of the sanghis (RSS), calls victims of Kerala floods "the most shameless bunch of Indians I have ever seen. Kerala's cohesive multicultural society (50% Hindu, 28% Muslim, 18% Christian) threatens the Hindu fascist project."

"WOW!! Arnab just called the suffering people of Kerala “the most shameless bunch of Indians I have ever seen!!" wrote another. 

But, it seems the burgeoning outrage is a little off the mark. While there is much to be said about the right wing Twitter handles that spewed hatred and misinformation when the state was at its most vulnerable, the short clip in question lacks context. Throughout the debate, Goswami rails (rightly or wrongly) against the "netas" or the people who were trying to take advantage of Kerala. At one point in the debate, he says, "The people of Kerala have been so psychologically resilient. They have shown how great they are as a people, how strong they are. I am only saying, at this point of time, if somebody is using fake news to manipulate them; manipulating people at a time of tragedy is cheap." The same clip was shared by Republic funder and BJP MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar. He wrote on Twitter [sic], "Theres a few clowns on social media trying to build a fake narrative abt @republic ‘s editor #Arnab calling Malayalis “shameless”. Its a LIE (watch video) n smells of usual Congress style nonsense Im respndng bcoz some of u asking me abt this."

What is the controversy?

On August 18, prime minister and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum had tweeted that his country has formed a committee for extending help to flood affected people in Kerala.

"UAE and the Indian community will unite to offer relief to those affected. We have formed a committee to start immediately. We urge everyone to contribute generously towards this initiative," he tweeted.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan claimed that the UAE had decided to extend a financial assistance of Rs 700 crore to Kerala, considering the Gulf nation's special relationship with Kerala.

On August 21, Vijayan had tweeted, “United Arab Emirates will provide Kerala an assistance of Rs 700 crore. CM expressed the gratitude of Kerala for the support.”

“This was communicated to the Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi (@PMOIndia) by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan (@MohamedBinZayed), Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of UAE's Armed Forces.”

Around three million Indians live and work in the UAE, out of which 80 per cent are from Kerala, according to official figures.

Just a few days later, the ministry of external affairs made it clear that the Centre will not allow any financial assistance from foreign governments for Kerala in sync with an existing policy.

The MEA, however, said contributions to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund and the Chief Minister's Relief Fund from NRIs (Non Resident Indians, PIOs (Persons of Indian Origin) and international entities such as foundations will be welcomed.

While refusing foreign aid, the government invoked a policy decision taken by the Manmohan Singh government in 2004 in the aftermath of the Tsunami for not accepting foreign assistance.

After the MEA said India will not accept donations from foreign nations, an unhappy Vijayan said the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) had in 2016 suggested that assistance offered as a goodwill gesture "may" be accepted, asserting that there is no blanket ban on receiving such assistance. He said he would approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue. 

However, later, the UAE ambassador Ahmed Albanna clarified that there has been no official announcement so far by the UAE on any specific amount as financial aid. This led to a political storm, as the Kerala BJP unit urged CM Vijayan to reveal the source of his information that UAE promised Rs 700 crore.

For the Malayalis however, it seems that they will have to wait long for substantial funds, as PTI reported that Kerala might have to wait a few months to get the complete financial aid package from the Centre, as the process of assessing the extent of damage and fund release is time-consuming. The Centre has so far released Rs 600 crore for Kerala.

-Inputs from PTI