Several Opposition leaders on Thursday deplored the Income Tax raids on the Dainik Bhaskar media group, saying it was an attempt to stifle democracy.
Responding to the criticism of the Opposition, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur told reporters that the agencies are doing their work and there was no interference in it, NDTV reported. “I would also like to say that facts need to be found before reporting about any incident,” he said at a Cabinet briefing. “Sometimes lack of information is misleading.”
The raids were carried at several offices of the media group and homes of its promoters on charges of tax evasion. The IT department also conducted raids at the office of Lucknow-based TV channel Bharat Samachar.
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.
Similarly, Bharat Samachar’s recent reporting has also been critical of the Uttar Pradesh government’s handling of the pandemic.
Three chief ministers were among those who condemned the raids. “The attack on journalists and media houses is yet another BRUTAL attempt to stifle democracy,” West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal described the raids as an attempt to scare the media. “Their message is clear – they will not spare those who speak against the BJP government,” he said. “Such thinking is very dangerous. Everyone should raise their voice against it. These raids should be stopped immediately and the media should be allowed to work freely.”
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot remarked, “Modi government cannot tolerate even an iota of its criticism. Due to its fascist mentality, the BJP doesn’t want to see the truth in a democratic setup. By indulging in such actions and gagging media, the Modi government wants to convey the message that if the media doesn’t become Godi-Media then its voice will be suppressed.”
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury said the Modi government’s “raid raj” will not work. “Trying to scare and muzzle the truth from surfacing,” he said. “But like the dead bodies floating in the Ganga, Modi government cannot hide. The misuse of central agencies for intimidation is condemnable.”
Congress MP Jairam Ramesh said that Dainik Bhaskar was paying the price for exposing the Centre’s “monumental mismanagement” of Covid-19.
In a statement, Dainik Bhaskar has said that mobiles phones of employees present in the office have been confiscated, and they are being prevented from leaving the premises. 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”.
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.