A leaked audio conversation between former Trinamool Congress MP and Bengali musician Kabir Suman and a Republic Bangla employee has left social media users in West Bengal divided. A BJP corporator, who was seen in a video threatening to beat up the singer, has also filed a police complaint against him.
In the 79-second audio clip being widely circulated on social networks since Friday, Suman is purportedly heard delivering expletives as soon as a man on the phone introduces himself as a journalist linked to Republic Bangla. “That Republic? That swine cohort of the RSS,” asked Suman, instructing the caller to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and disconnect the call. The journalist kept addressing the singer, who is also a former journalist, as “sir”.
The journalist had called Suman to get his comment on the controversy over Bengali singer Sandhya Mukhopadhyay refusing the Padma Shri, his colleagues said. Suman had earlier said that the award to a singer of her stature was nothing less than an insult.
One of the journalist’s colleagues told Newslaundry, “I feel sad for him. He has been an admirer of Suman’s music. But I am also happy that despite the humiliation he never lost his cool during the conversation.”
While several Facebook users claimed the singer gave the channel the treatment it deserved, arguing that Republic TV spreads only hatred, Sajal Ghosh, a BJP corporator of Kolkata Municipal Corporation, lodged a complaint against Suman at Muchipara police station on Saturday. He purportedly threatened to assault Suman, in . “Will thrash Kabir Suman, wherever he is seen. We must,” he said. “He was rampantly abusing the journalist and when the scribe stated that as a Bengali, he is asking certain questions…Suman rampantly abused him…He was giving rape threats to the Bengali mothers and inciting communal tension,” Ghosh wrote in his complaint.
Suman could not be reached for comment.
However, in a Facebook post on Saturday, without referring to the audio, he wrote, “I do not believe in any particular freedom for journalists, media houses and artists. They have the same rights as any other people. I have responded to a particular channel in the right language for what they have been doing. Globally, media houses and journalists take the course they like, employ every method. One who controls no channel or newspaper will also take the course she/he likes.” He also suggested people to read Heinrich Boell’s book, The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, and said, “What I have done, will do it again, if need be.”
Moupia Nandy, deputy editor (broadcast and digital) at Zee 24 Ghanta, on Facebook, “One may have objections to another’s ways of journalism. But the use of such languages as a form of protest does not come within the ambit of freedom of art and the artist. Abusing over the phone, referring to mothers, does not count as valour.”
Poet Srijato Bandyopadhyay quoted from Suman’s song ‘Birodhi-ke bolte dao’ (let the opponent speak) to say that being an artiste does not entitle one to abuse others.
Senior journalist Prasun Acharya sought a public apology from Suman. “This channel stands against every liberal and tolerant opinion…Yet, even they have a space in democracy…The journalist is merely a salaried employee.”
TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said if the voice in the audio is Suman’s, “then it is very much objectionable”. “He should apologise or be penalised.”
However, there were many others who defended Suman, arguing that he spoke to “hatemongers” in “the language they deserve”.
Filmmaker Tathagata Mukherjee a long post, criticising recording of calls without consent, and said, “BJP itself is an expletive. You can’t use expletives on an expletive.”
“Kabir Suman washed away the Republic. Joy Bangla! No courtesy with rioters. Many mothers lose their children when they engineer riots,” Siddhabrata Das, a Bengali ethnic rights activist.
Writer Saikat Bandyopadhyay, while criticising Suman for the “unnecessary” use of expletives on an employee of the channel, wrote that such channels “pretending to be media houses” embody “forgery, are the worst children of crony capitalism, and need to be boycotted”. “It would have been better had he not used expletives but I doubt if it would have gone viral in that case. None else did it even without using expletives.”
Republic Bangla employees suggested that there were no plans to approach the police.
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