The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation on Friday initiated an inquiry after an unauthorised newspaper carrying Hindutva propaganda was distributed to passengers on board the Bangalore-Chennai Shatabdi Express.
A passenger flagged on Twitter that the newspaper – The Aryavarth Express – was found on “every other seat” in the train.
The newspaper had headlines such as “Genocide of Hindus, Sikhs & Buddhists under the Islamic Rule needs to be recognised”, “CIA agent, Congresswoman Ilhan [Omar] visits POK [Pakistan-occupied Kashmir]” and “UN should label Aurangzeb as perpetuator of Holocaust like Hitler”. The articles did not have author bylines.
“This morning I boarded the Bangalore-Chennai Shatabdi Express only to be greeted by this blatantly propagandist publication on every other seat – The Aryavarth Express,” said the passenger, Gopika Bashi. “Had never even heard of it. How is @IRCTCofficial allowing this?”
Journalist Rohini Mohan said that the newspaper’s website had “dangerous Covid misinformation”.
The IRCTC is the only company authorised to handle food, online ticketing and catering services for the Indian Railways.
The company’s spokesperson Anand Jha said that the newspaper was not among the publications approved for distribution on trains, PTI reported. “We have ordered an inquiry into this and action will be taken against those found responsible,” Jha added.
The divisional railway manager of Chennai said an investigation was being conducted by the divisional railway manager of Bengaluru.
“We [would] like to inform everyone that the train belongs to Bengaluru division and the incident happened there,” the Divisional Railway Manager Chennai said on Twitter. “We are sure they would take appropriate action.”
In a tweet later, the IRCTC said that The Aryavarth Express was “found inside the regular approved newspapers as an insert”.
“The newspaper vendor has been strictly advised to avoid any such inserts in future,” the IRCTC said. “Onboard monitoring staff will keep a strict vigil of the same. The licensee of the train has also been counselled.”
However, Bakshi rejected the claim, saying that the paper was “not an insert”. She said that it was on her seat when she boarded the train and a copy of the Deccan Herald was on the next seat.
Apart from the Deccan Herald, another local newspaper has been approved by the IRCTC to be distributed on board trains in the region, PTI reported, citing unidentified officials.
Congress MP B Manickam Tagore questioned how such a newspaper was found on the train. He asked if Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw will seek an investigation.
“Whether it’s the proved policy of the railway minister to allow propaganda material in the Shatabdi Express?” he asked in a tweet. “Will write and raise the issue in [the] Lok Sabha.”
Congress leader Karti Chidambaram also questioned how The Aryavarth Express got into the list of the newspapers subscribed by the IRCTC.