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‘Does I.N.D.I. Alliance have police?’ wonders Yogendra Yadav, here are 10 incidents of police action against journalists by Yadav’s allies

Yadav responded angrily to a post written by journalist Rahul Kanwal, in which the latter shared a copy of a press release issued by NBDA condemning the I.N.D.I Alliance's decision to boycott some TV anchors.

Yogendra Yadav, a close aide of Sonia Gandhi and a professional disruptor, has probably taken offence at journalists expressing their displeasure at the decision of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance to boycott 14 news anchors.

On Friday, September 15, Yadav responded angrily to a post written by journalist Rahul Kanwal, in which the latter shared a copy of a press release issued by News Broadcasters and Digital Associations (NBDA) condemning the I.N.D.I Alliance’s decision to boycott some TV anchors.

On September 14, I.N.D.I. Alliance released a list of 14 anchors, saying that their alliance partners will not participate in programs hosted by them.

Soon after, India Today journalist Rahul Kanwal, who by the way is not amongst the 14 anchors whom the I.N.D.I Alliance have decided to boycott, shared a press note released by the News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) that slammed the opposition bloc for its decision to boycott shows of 14 television anchors on several platforms.

SS of press note released by NBDA

Hitting out at I.N.D.I. Alliance, NBDA said that the decision “imperils press freedom” and “goes against the ethos of democracy.” It further stated that the decision sets a dangerous precedent.

In the statement, NBDA said that the boycott of certain journalists/anchors takes the nation back to the Emergency era, when the press was gagged, and independent opinions and voices were crushed.

Urging the opposition alliance to withdraw its decision to boycott certain journalists and anchors, the association said that “such a decision would amount to browbeating journalists and stifling freedom of speech and expression of the media.”

No sooner Rahul Kanwal shared NBDA’s press note which compared the present situation to the era of emergency, the Congress loyalist Yogendra Yadav got so rattled that he quickly descended on X and lambasted the India Today journalist.

“Do you endorse this nonsense @rahulkanwal ? Isn’t it ridiculous to compare coersive censorship and state assault on media during Emergency to voluntary boycott by opposition parties? Does INDIA coalition have ED, IT, I&B and police? Did the NDBA speak against BJP’s boycott of anchors? Did the NDBA say a word against pure hatred peddled by these anchors? Isn’t this statement and its circulation by you a proof of GODI MEDIA? #GodiMedia,” wrote Yadav.

Yadav questioned Rahul Kanwal angrily whether the police or other law enforcement agencies are members of the I.N.D.I. Alliance. He condemned NDBA for comparing the opposition bloc’s ‘voluntary boycott’ to the ‘coercive suppression and state assault on media during the Emergency’.

Essentially, Yogendra Yadav was attempting to take a dig at the BJP by claiming that, in contrast to the ruling party, states governed by Congress and his allies had never used harsh force against journalists or attempted to limit press freedom.

Well, Yogendra Yadav’s narrative is consistent with the myth that the entire secular-liberal ecosystem has been peddling since PM Modi took office in 2014, namely that freedom of expression and speech is under threat in Modi’s India in comparison to opposition parties that are extremely tolerant and respectful of press freedom.

The truth is, however, that the Opposition wields immense influence, which is frequently used to silence dissenting voices and to settle scores with opponents. Sates where Opposition parties are in power, such as Bengal, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka, have always been inclined to use state machinery with an iron fist and cage dissenting voices so that it has a “chilling effect” on journalists and common people and discourages them from raising their voices on stories that are either brushed under the carpet or grotesquely misrepresented. 

Be it the recent arrest of Anandabazar Patrika journalist Debmalya Bagchi in West Bengal, the witchhunt against Arnab Goswami by the then Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government or the arbitrary arrest of YouTuber Manish Kashyap aka Tripurari Kumar Tiwari from Bihar, these are just a few examples of this awful trend.

Below we have computed a list of non-BJP states where the administration has rarely allowed for dissent and has acted with an iron grip against the press whenever they have raised fingers against its transgressions. Please keep in mind that this is only an indicative list; the actual number of instances in which ordinary citizens and members of the media in these states have been harassed and chastised for expressing their opposition to the state establishment is undoubtedly higher.

West Bengal police arrest Anandabazar Patrika journalist

On 7th September 2023, leader of the opposition and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) West Bengal MLA Suvendu Adhikari informed that Anandabazar Patrika journalist Debmalya Bagchi was arrested after a report on hooch dealers was published in the newspaper. 

FIR against Bhawana, Parmender and Mritunjay in AAP ruled Punjab

On May 5, a 50-year-old woman identified as Gagan filed a complaint at Division 3 police station in Police Commissionerate Ludhiana district against Times Now Navbharat reporter Bhawana Kishore, driver Parmender Singh Rawat and cameraperson Mritunjay Kumar. An FIR under Sections 279, 337 and 427 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Sections 3X and 4 of the SC and the ST (Prevention of Atrocities) ACT were filed against them.

The Punjab police booked Bhawana, Parmender and Mritunjay for allegedly injuring a 50-year-old woman and using casteist slurs against her during an argument after the accident. Bhawana was accused of using derogatory language. Parmender was charged with recklessly driving the vehicle. Mritunjay was accused of getting into an argument with the victim.

The Judicial Magistrate and Special Court sent all three to 14-day judicial custody on 6 May. However, the High Court granted them interim bail on the same day. Times Now has alleged a conspiracy was hatched against its employees in retaliation to Operation Sheesh Mehel wherein Times Now Navbharat exposed details of “ultra-lavish and disproportionate expenditure incurred in refurbishing the official residence of the Delhi CM”.

Journalist-writer Badri Seshadri arrested by Tamil Nadu

On July 29 2023, publisher and political analyst Badri Seshadri was arrested by Tamil Nadu police. As per a report by CommuneMag, Badri Seshadri was arrested in connection to his comments on the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and Manipur violence.

BJP Tamil Nadu State Secretary arrested for criticising Communist MP

On June 16 night, BJP (Tamil Nadu) State Secretary SG Suryah was arrested by the cybercrime unit of Madurai police.

His arrest came days after he accused a Communist ward councillor named Viswanathan of being responsible for the death of a hygiene worker. SG Surya said that Vishwanathan compelled the deceased to clean a drain filled with faecal matter, which resulted in allergies and his eventual death.

The BJP leader had also written a strongly-worded letter to CPI(M) MP Su Venkatesan, complaining about the death of the worker and questioning his silence on the matter. It is believed that the tweet triggered the arrest of SG Suryah.

West Bengal: Kolkata-based journalist arrested for shedding light on anti-Hindu violence

In October 2022, a Kolkata-based Manab Guha was arrested and framed in non-bailable sections for sharing the ground reality of the anti-Hindu Mominpur Violence. The photojournalist’s alleged “crime” was that he dared to post footage and images of anti-Hindu violence on social media.

The West Bengal police justified the arbitrary action by claiming that such recordings could have generated additional hostility in society.

In another case of ‘witch hunt’ against media voices, the Kolkata Police, on 9 January, registered an FIR against 10 journalists and BJP state president Dr Sukanta Majumdar for allegedly ‘misreporting’ the stone pelting incidents on the Vande Bharat Express.

They were booked under specific sections of the Information Technology Act for giving the state a ‘bad name’. The arbitrary action was a follow-up of Mamata Banerjee’s earlier threat to media outlets that legal action would be taken against journalists for spreading ‘fake news’ about the stone pelting incident on Vande Bharat Express trains in West Bengal.

Chhattisgarh: How dissenting voices are stifled in a state where Congress is at the helm of affairs

In March 2022, the Chhattisgarh Police arrested Raipur-based journalist Nilesh Sharma who is an Editor of the web portal indiawriters.co.in and print magazine ‘India Writers’. He was accused of spreading ‘fake news’ against the ruling Congress leaders in the state of Chattisgarh. According to reports, Sharma runs a popular series based on political satire, ‘Ghurva Ke Mati’.

The series uses fictional characters resonating with the Congress leaders and Chattisgarh MLAs. 

Tamil Nadu

Earlier this year, on 18 March, the Police arrested YouTuber Manish Kashyap aka Tripurari Kumar Tiwari from Bihar in connection with the alleged attacks on migrant workers in Tamil Nadu. A special team of the Tamil Nadu police brought him to the southern state on transit remand after the Madurai Crime Branch police registered a case against him.

Later, the Tamil Nadu police slapped stringent NSA on him. He has been in jail since then despite moving bail petitions multiple times. 

Similarly, many more journalists were also booked for sharing the concerns of the migrant workers from Bihar, which, however, were reportedly found to have relied on some fake videos. In connection with this ‘fake news’ of Bihar migrant workers assaulted in Tamil Nadu, the state police had also filed FIRs against OpIndia CEO Rahul Roushan and Editor-in-Chief Nupur Sharma, for publishing articles based on claims made in a Bhaskar report – which also explicitly and prominently added the police version.

Additionally, Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai, the Twitter handle of the BJP’s Bihar unit – BJP4Bihar, BJP spokesperson Prashant Umrao and Dainik Bhaskar newspaper’s editor, Mohammed Tanveer, were also booked for sharing the news of the ordeal Bihar migrant workers.

Witch-hunt against Republic TV chief Arnab Goswami by Uddhav Thackeray led Maharashtra government

In 2020, Republic TV Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami was arrested by Mumbai Police in an old 2018 closed case of abetment of suicide. OpIndia reported how the Mumbai Police team of at least 30 police personnel, led by encounter specialist and erstwhile members of Shiv Sena Sachin Vaze, carrying assault rifles barged into Arnab’s house without any summons, documents or court papers, physically assaulted him, dragged him by the hair into a police van and arrested him. The police personnel not only stopped Arnab from handing over medicines to his parents-in-law but also physically assaulted him and his son, even refusing to let him wear his shoes.

Before Arnab Goswami was presented before the court, he had highlighted his injury marks and accused Pradeep Patil, Sachin Vaze, and seven other policemen of assaulting him.

Sachin Vaze and his team assaulted and dragged the country’s leading news network’s editor-in-chief from his home, shoved him into a police van and took him to Alibaug police station. He was shifted to a quarantine centre in Alibaug where he was kept in judicial custody for 4 nights.

Thereafter, Arnab was shifted to Taloja jail, which is notoriously known as a ‘hub’ for the underworld mafia and accused terrorists. The windows of the police van in which he was taken were covered with black screens to prevent him from being seen by Vaze’s squad. Hardcore criminals are generally subjected to this treatment.

It may be recalled that the state home department then led by NCP’s Anil Deshmukh had drafted the 40-member police team to carry out ‘Operation Arnab’. Kokan range inspector general Sanjay Mohite, who drafted the plan, entrusted the responsibility to execute the plan on encounter specialist Sachin Vaze.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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