On January 28, India Today took its consulting editor Rajdeep Sardesai and docked one month's salary for misreporting about a farmer's death during the tractor rally. Sardesai is now set to start work again.
The news of Sardesai coming back to the channel did not go well with Twitter users who started calling him out. A hashtag, #ArunPoorieSackRajdeep, started trending, and several bluetick users, including leaders from the BJP, joined the trend, claiming that Sardesai is “not a reporter” but a “habitual fake news peddler”.
Ratan Lal Kataria, minister of state for jal shakti and social justice and empowerment, tweeted saying Sardesai is “not a reporter.”
An official spokesperson from the BJP, Suresh Nakhua, also tweeted, calling Sardesai a “habitual fake news peddler”.
BJP spokesperson and the BJP's Uttarakhand general secretary, Suresh Bhatt, tweeted a similar statement using the hashtag.
BJP spokesperson Gaurav Goel also joined the chorus by tweeting, “The star fake news journalist shall not be given any job or assignment.”
Vikas Pandey, who has “isupportNAMO” and “BJPITCell” in his Twitter bio, said, “Fake news peddler Rajdeep Sardesai is re-joining India Today again. We should tweet with the above hashtag and ask Arun Poorie to sack him. He is a habitual offender.”
Dilip Mandal, who is the former managing editor of India Today Hindi magazine, said he didn't agree with the hashtag and if he were in Sardesai’s place, he would have “resigned by now”. “I was one of the top editors in the organisation, where you are working. If I were you, I would have resigned by now. I don’t know despite having 'GSB Pride', why are you tolerating such humiliation?"
On January 26, Sardesai incorrectly reported that Navneet Singh, a farmer, had been killed in police firing during the tractor rally organised by farmers that day to protest against the Modi government's new farm laws. He had made the claims both on Twitter and on air. The tweet was later deleted.
Later, the Delhi police released video footage of a tractor, reportedly being driven by Navneet, ramming into police barricades. The police claimed Navneet's confirmed he had died of injuries sustained from the accident. Sardesai then tweeted the video, adding that the police showed "great restraint" with "no evidence of bullets fired".
Sardesai explained his error during his show on the night of January 26, where he said, “These were the allegations that were being made at the time when we were reporting this afternoon." He added that the police version, and particularly the video, makes it very clear that the particular act of the tractor overturning could be the cause of death.