Rahul Kulkarni, a journalist with Marathi news channel ABP Majha was arrested by the Mumbai Police along with 10 others on Wednesday for misleading people with his false reportage that allegedly led to migrant workers gathering in Bandra on 14 April and demanding to be sent back to their home towns.
The misleading report by Kulkarni had allegedly ‘played a part in the rumour mongering’ that led to nearly 2,000 alleged migrant workers assembling in Bandra on April 14th despite a nationwide lockdown in the country.
On Tuesday, an FIR had been lodged against ABP Majha reporter, Rahul Kulkarni, in this regard for misleading people with his false reportage. The police said that the video report was incorrect while arresting Kulkarni under various sections of the IPC and the Epidemic Act 1897.
The ‘news report’ by ABP Majha
Soon after Prime Minister Modi made an announcement on Monday that the lockdown in the country will be extended till May 3, 2020, ABP Majha published a report claiming that the government is considering on running special trains from select zones in Maharashtra so as to alleviate the concerns of the distraught migrants waiting to go home.
The Maharashtra Police believe that the unverified and misleading information ran by ABP Majha may have spurred the migrants staying in Mumbai to defy lockdown and congregate at a mosque outside the Bandra local station. The assertion made by the ABP Majha that the Railways are planning to launch a rescue operation to evacuate the stranded migrants across Maharashtra was based on a letter written by a South Central Railway official on April 13 on a proposal for Jansadharan special trains.
Broadcast in public interest: ABP Majha
Condemning the arrest of its reporter, ABP Majha called for “due to verification of all facts and circumstances” before arresting a journalist.
In a statement, the channel said the report “was broadcast in the public interest and on the basis of valid documents and information”. ABP Majha claimed that it had also broadcast after the Railway Ministry had announced that there would be no trains until the midnight of May 3.
“There is no conceivable way in which the crowds that gathered at Bandra West station from around 3.45 pm can be linked to our story. To insinuate that our running of the story and updates thereafter amounts to a criminal act is outrageous. We are shocked and dismayed that our reporter Rahul Kulkarni has been arrested in connection with the story,” the channel has said in a statement.
Migrants gather at Bandra
As Maharashtra, especially Mumbai is witnessing a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus cases, thousands of migrant workers flocked outside the Bandra station, endangering the city’s battle against coronavirus. The Maharashtra government led by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had received a lot of criticism for failing to handle the migrant crisis in the state.
Following the scare at Bandra, the Mumbai Police had filed two more FIRs in connection with the massive migrant gathering in Bandra. An FIR has been lodged against 800-1000 people who had gathered at the mosque outside the Bandra station and despite police request did not scatter away. Police had to then resort to baton-charge to disperse the crowd.
As per latest reports, the journalist has been granted bail by a Mumbai court.