“I am Arnab, I will show you what I can do”: Adnya Naik on threats faced by her father

The Republic TV’s editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami inside a police vehicle after he was produced in a court following his arrest in connection to a two-year-old case of abetment to suicide in Mumbai on 4 November. AP Photo
05 November, 2020

On 4 November, the Maharashtra Police arrested the Republic TV’s editor-in-chief, Arnab Goswami, in connection to a two-year-old case of abetment to suicide, sparking a debate on whether it was an attack on free speech. The case concerned, Anvay Naik and his mother, Kumud Naik—the managing director of the Concorde Designs Private Limited and a board member of the company—who were found dead in their house in May 2018. They reportedly left a suicide note that accused Goswami and two others of non-payment of dues, and asked to “hold them responsible for our death.” 

The police closed the case in 2019 citing lack of evidence against the accused, but the Naik family was unconvinced. In May 2020, the Maharashtra home minister, Anil Deshmukh, ordered a re-investigation of the case by the Crime Investigation Department. In an interview with Aathira Konikkara, a reporting fellow at The Caravan, Anvay’s daughter Adnya Naik, an architect, described her father’s ordeal of dealing with Goswami while working on a project with the Republic TV, and threats faced by her family while pursuing the case. 

Aathira Konikkara: When did Concorde Designs get the contract to work on Republic’s studio? How did the dispute with Goswami begin?
Adnya Naik: In 2016, we got the work order, which was Rs 6.4 crore plus. The project was successfully handed over, everything was right. My father was forced, even when the project was on, to make changes as per the wants of him [Goswami] and his wife and everyone. Last-minute changes were given and he was forced to make those immediately. He was already under pressure. He was told that “you will not get the money no matter what you do.” 

AK: When did Goswami start refusing to pay the dues?
AN: It started when my father was alive and when the project was going on. [He used to say things like] “I am Arnab. I will show you what I can do”; “You being a Maharashtrian, being in Maharashtra, you can’t do anything to me.” We had discussions at my house that we should lodge a police complaint. But my father was so scared. He was like, “No, he is already giving me threats, ‘Your career will be destroyed and your daughter’s too.’” I am an architect. I was helping my father in this and I was also working simultaneously for my internship. 

AK: What were the last-minute changes that he demanded in the plans for the studio?
AN: There were a lot of changes. If he did not like something aesthetically, he asked for something else. If you have to change something, the cost escalates and the changes in manpower also has to be undertaken. It does not happen in two days. 

It was a plot right from the beginning, that he did not want to pay up. If he intended to pay, he would have done that long ago. Simultaneously, other projects by my father were also going on with Feroz Shaikh and Niteish Sarda. [According to the suicide note, Shaikh, from IcastX/Skimedia, and Sarda, from Smartworks, owed Naik Rs 4 crore rupees and Rs 55 lakh, respectively. They are also accused in the case in which Goswami was arrested.] The amount was much higher than Rs 83 lakh [the amount that Goswami owed Naik, according to the suicide note]. My father cried and kept cutting it down and finally made it Rs 83 lakhs. If someone takes Rs 25,000 from you and does not return it, you will say that if not Rs 25,000, at least return Rs 15,000. 

AK: You had to keep making compromises from your side to get him to pay?
AN: Yes, so it was reduced from 120 plus [more than Rs 1.2 crore] to Rs 83 lakh. That man is not paying that either. How shameful is this? 

AK: For how long did these arguments over the amount continue?
AN: The project started in December 2016. We handed over the project in March or April 2017. After April 2017, for more than one year, we kept demanding the money and he still did not pay. 

AK: According to news reports, your father also wrote emails to him asking for the dues?
AN: Of course. He was begging him, literally, that “please, it is a question of my life and death.” My father had mentioned in his emails that “it has reached the family also now. Everyone is worried. Everyone is pressurised. It is very depressing.” We did not know what to do because we felt stuck from all sides. If we could get the Rs 5.4 crores from these three accused, our business would have continued rolling.

AK: After your father’s death, you had filed an FIR in Alibaug police station in Raigad district. What was the police’s response when you approached them to register an FIR? 
AN: First of all, they didn’t want to because they got scared as soon as they saw Arnab’s name. The investigating officer, Suresh Warade, threatened me and my mom, “See, this is the question of your life. High profile people are involved. Think about it. My advice is that you should not do this.” My relatives requested and questioned him. Then he agreed to register the FIR. Even after the FIR was registered, the three accused were not arrested. Though I had given my statement in Alibaug, Arnab recorded his statement in Marathi in Mumbai in the office of the joint commissioner of police. 

We have [also] filed NCs [non-cognisable complaints]—we were getting death threats. They should have registered an FIR. I don’t know why they have not done it. 

AK: You received these threats over the last two years?
AN: Over the last two years, continuously. We knew it is for [our case against] Arnab, but we did not know the people [making the threats]. From my end, whatever information I could give to the police—like their phone number, threats on WhatsApp or calls—I have given that. Even before my mother released her first video [questioning the veracity of the investigation] I was stopped by bikers in Murbad saying that I should not speak about this matter. And that, “We are following you, we know where you are running and hiding.” It is ridiculous how we were being pressurised even when we had not done anything. So, if we are to die, at least we should speak up and die. 

AK: On what basis had the Raigad police closed their initial investigation? Did they give you a closure report?
AN: We received the closure report only now, in May 2020. We did not know until May that the case had been closed. 

AK: Is that when you approached the state’s home minister?
AN: No, even before that. We also emailed the application to several others. We had not approached him specifically. We approached him because our life was at stake. We were getting continuous threats that they will come into our house and kill us. 

AK: What is the status of the CID investigation?
AN: We did ask what happened to that, but we have not received any response as of now. All the three have to be punished. And not just them, I think people who have helped them, like Warade, the IO, they also have to be arrested. 

AK: Are you considering filing a separate FIR against the police officials who had refused to investigate the case?
AN: Yeah, why not? If need be, definitely we would want to. 

AK: All the accused have been arrested, but abetment charges do not easily lead to a conviction. How do you think the investigation is going to proceed? 
AN: I am requesting the Maharashtra police wholeheartedly that at least now they have to investigate in a fair way without any political pressure and give us justice. To hide one lie, you have to lie ten thousand times. Just because you shout, it does not mean you are telling the truth. What has happened with us is the utmost truth. My father himself has written the suicide note. There are no two thoughts about it. 

And there is no political connect, right? This is a personal battle of us versus the accused. This is a criminal matter. What this has got to do with freedom of speech is one thing I don’t understand. If he has rights to speak whatever shit he wants to, so do I have rights to at least give the facts of what reality and what harassment my family has gone through. Now it has come to the forefront. We wanted the people of India to know that this is how the common man is tortured. And this is how: if a very big name like Arnab Goswami, if he does something major [the matter] is closed nicely. If we stay quiet today, the same will happen to someone else tomorrow. 

This interview has been edited and condensed.