On Tuesday, a journalist with ABP Majha, Rahul Kulkarni, was arrested for allegedly reporting that some trains had “restarted”, which purportedly prompted yesterday’s chaos at Bandra station, Mumbai, due to the sudden influx of migrant labourers who have been waiting to go home.
Kulkarni is based in Maharashtra’s Osmanabad district and is now being produced before the court by the police.
Pranaya Ashok, the deputy commissioner of police, Mumbai, told : “We have...registered a separate FIR against Rahul Kulkarni, a journalist from [a] Marathi news channel, for running news about a special train running for migrant workers. We are calling him for inquiry today.”
At 10 am yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that railway services will remain suspended till May 3. However, at 11.30 am, ABP Majha published a stating the trains would run.
On Tuesday, at a bus depot near the railway station, demanding ration and transport to go back to their home towns and villages. The Mumbai police used force, including lathi-charging, to disperse the crowd.
Newslaundry spoke to Kulkarni. He claimed his report aired at 9 am, “much before the prime minister’s speech”, and that he “was not aware” of the 11.30 am report.
He added: “My report was based on a circular issued by the office of the chief commercial manager, Ministry of Railways.”
The circular in question was issued on April 13 by Telangana’s office of the chief commercial manager. The circular talks about the restoration of railway services but doesn’t mention any specific date or time period.
Kulkarni has been booked under Sections 269, 270, 505(b), 188, and 117 of the Indian Penal Code, as well as Section 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act.
On Tuesday, the Mumbai police filed an FIR at Bandra police station against at least 70 unidentified people for assembling near the railway station. Apart from the FIR against Kulkarni, an FIR was also against a Navi Mumbai resident whose social media posts reportedly called for nation-wide protests if the migrant workers were not ferried back home.
Update: On Thursday, a Mumbai court freed Kulkarni on bail, but directed him to observe "utmost precaution while making news report" and to go in quarantine for two weeks. The court said since prisons were overcrowded and at risk from the coronavirus outbreak, it would not be proper to keep the journalist behind bars, the Indian Express reported.
After his release, Kulkarni went on ABP Majha and insisted that they had done no wrong. “There's nothing wrong in the report," the Indian Express quoted him as saying. "That is why our channel has not taken it off Facebook or Twitter.”