The Income Tax department carried out multiple raids at the offices of the Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar on Thursday morning. The raids targeted the newspaper’s headquarters in Bhopal as well as its offices in Indore, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. A Bhaskar staffer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Newslaundry that IT sleuths had arrived outside the paper’s headquarters at around 2.30 am and began the raid a few hours later. They confiscated cellphones of the digital teams that were working at the time.
The IT officials also raided Bhaskar Group’s managing director Sudhir Agrawal’s house in Bhopal.
“The raids started simultaneously at around 5:30 in the morning,” a staffer at Dainik Bhaskar, Ahmedabad, recalled. “A team comprising around 25 IT officials arrived at the gate in the wee hours, I was informed by the security guards. I instructed the staff to give full assistance to the IT officials and let them check whatever they wanted. We have done nothing wrong, and we are not afraid of such raids."
The staffer, who asked not to be named, added, "It’s obvious we have been targeted because of the reporting we did during the pandemic. But we are not afraid of such pressure tactics. We will continue to do our work as we have been doing. We don't have an agenda against any government, we report on the basis of facts. We report what we see and hear. If the government does good work we will report on their good work, if they do bad work we will report about their bad work."
A journalist with the newspaper’s Jaipur edition said, "Yes, raids have been carried out on our offices and are still going on. They have also raided the house of our managing director. We cannot say with certainty that we have been targeted for our reporting. But I believe that is the only reason. It's the first time the office of Dainik Bhaskar has been raided.”
Agrawal, the managing director, wasn’t immediately available for comment.
Dainik Bhaskar’s among prominent Hindi newspapers for its sharp headlines that questioned the BJP governments in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh as also the Congress government in Rajasthan. Notably, the paper sent a team of 30 reporters to document newly dug graves of Covid victims along a 1,140-km stretch of the Ganga river’s banks. Its story was soon picked up by other news outlets, Indian and international. Bhaskar also ran pictures of mass cremations on its frontpage to contest official claims about Covid deaths with such headlines as “Government data on deaths is a lie, these burning pyres are telling the truth.”
More recently, Bhaskar to cover the revelations that prominent opposition leaders, journalists, bureaucrats and activists in India had been snooped on using the Israeli spyware Pegasus. “Spying in India: 40 journalists, 3 opposition leaders, 2 ministers, one judge in the first list,” the paper reported on the frontpage.
Interestingly, a few days ago, Bhaskar pulled down a report about the Gujarat snooping scandal allegedly involving prime minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah. A tweet promoting the report stated that allegations of snooping weren’t new for Modi and Shah and that officials and politicians in Gujarat had made similar allegations against them 15 years ago.
Today, the newspaper’s Bhopal edition called out the Modi government’s assertion that no state reported any death from the lack of oxygen during the second wave. The lead headline, loosely translated from Hindi, reads: “Truth: 60 people lost lives to oxygen shortage in MP in April, Centre was told the number was zero.”
In a related development, the Income Tax department today raided the Lucknow-based TV news channel Bharat Samachar, its promoters and the editor-in-chief. The channel has been critical of the state’s Adityanath government, notably over the Hathras gangrape and murder case.
The coronavirus crisis has shown how precarious the media model that runs on ads is. And how essential it is for the media to be powered by paying readers and viewers to be free and independent. For when the public pays, the public is served and when the advertiser pays, the advertiser is served. Pay to keep news free by subscribing to Newslaundry today.