Mirzapur’s district magistrate on Tuesday said the journalist, who had shot a video that showed schoolkids eating chapathi with salt for their mid-day meals, should have just taken photos and written a story, NDTV reported. District Magistrate Anurag Patel’s comments came three days after Pawan Jaiswal was charged with criminal conspiracy for shooting the video.

“There is a different way to make news,” Patel said, adding that someone in the video was heard asking Jaiswal to “make a viral video and come and be part of a conspiracy”. When a reporter pointed out the word viral was not heard in the video, the district magistrate said: “Maybe he didn’t say “viral” but he is asking for a video to be made. You are a print media journalist, you could have taken photos. You could have printed it, but you did not do it. We found his [Jaiswal] role in the matter to be suspicious and are therefore accusing him of conspiracy.”

Patel also attempted to explain his earlier remarks that children had been served rice and salt in the past. “In khichdi, you put salt and rice, no?” Patel asked. “Also, daal [lentils] is added. But this didn’t happen for many days. It was just an isolated episode.”

Earlier, the district magistrate had reportedly claimed that two separate investigations, initiated by him on the day the salt and chapathi meals were served, had proved that Jaiswal’s report was true. A day after the video had gone viral, Patel had suspended the teacher in charge of the government school along with the supervisor at the gram panchayat. Patel claimed a third inquiry revealed that the journalist was also involved.


Caught on camera: Schoolchildren in Uttar Pradesh are fed chapatis with salt for mid-day meals

Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma also backed the claims of a conspiracy being hatched and said that either the representative of the village head or someone else could be behind it. “But the government will not display any prejudiced behavior against anyone,” NDTV quoted Sharma as saying. “Whatever report comes, if someone tries to defame the government then there will be action but [if] someone is innocent nothing will be done against that person.”

Meanwhile, 100 journalists took out a protest at the collectorate office in Mirzapur over the charges against Jaiswal. The Editors Guild of India, on Monday, had condemned the Uttar Pradesh government for filing a first information report against the journalist.

According to the first information report filed against Jaiswal, a “representative” of the village head conspired to get a video of the incident shot by a journalist despite knowing that the cook was short of supplies for the meals. On August 23, the video of around 100 students of the Siyur primary school in Mirzapur’s Jamalpur block eating the meal was widely shared on social media.

Soon after, the district administration ordered an inquiry into the matter. The National Human Rights Commission had issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government after taking note of the video.

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