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.