The Income Tax department on Thursday carried out raids at several offices of the Dainik Bhaskar media group across the country, reported PTI. The raids are reportedly linked to alleged tax evasions by the organisation.
The raids are underway in Bhopal and Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Jaipur in Rajasthan, Ahmedabad in Gujarat and a few locations in Maharashtra, according to The Hindu. The Income Tax department has not issued a statement on the raids so far, but an unidentified official told the newspaper that they received information about alleged tax evasions by various companies of the group.
The newspaper has put out an online statement titled, “The government is scared of true journalism; it is trying to browbeat the Bhaskar group, which highlighted dead bodies in the Ganga river and the true number of Covid-19 deaths.”
Dainik Bhaskar had widely reported on the second wave of Covid-19 and its devastating effects. In a series of reports, the newspaper was critical of the Centre’s claims on vaccination figures, underreporting of deaths, floating bodies in Ganga river and the toll due to oxygen shortages.
The newspaper said that mobiles phones of employees present in the office have been confiscated, and they are being prevented from leaving the premises. “The employees on night shift have also been barred from going out of the office,” the statement said.
Officials have not given any clear reason for the action, Dainik Bhaskar said. The newspaper has listed its reports during the Covid-19 second wave and said that it “pursued courageous journalism and exposed the truth before the people”.
In Madhya Pradesh, where Dainik Bhaskar’s headquarters is located, officials have been searching the business as well as residential premises of the promoters of the media group, according to ANI.
On Thursday afternoon, National Editor of Dainik Bhaskar Laxmi Prasad Pant tweeted in Hindi: “I am free, as I am Dainik Bhaskar.”
In a separate post, he quoted a couple of lines of poet Krishna Bihari Noor, suggesting that while truth must be said accurately, falsehoods have no such limitations.
Many Congress leaders criticised the raids and said the Hindi daily was facing action for its reportage. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party said that the raids were meant to intimidate the media.
“It’s a clear message from them - whoever speaks against BJP government will not be spared,” Kejriwal said in a tweet. “This attitude is dangerous. Everyone should raise their voices. These raids should be stopped and the media should be allowed to work freely.”