If you subscribe to it, half the fee goes to gau seva while the other half goes towards a newspaper whose articles read like a collection of WhatsApp forwards.
On April 22, Congress leader Karti Chidambaram sent out a tweet whose every word bristled with outrage: "@RailMinIndia how does this paper get to be on list of subscribed publications?"
Quoted below was another tweet, with a photograph of a newspaper named the Aryavarth Express, which had been distributed to passengers of the Shatabdi Express running between Bengaluru and Chennai.
The lead story on the front page of Aryavarth Express had a headline that read, “Genocide of Hindus, Sikhs & Buddhists under Islamic rule needs to be recognized”. The next article proclaimed, “UN should label Aurangzeb as perpetuator of Holocaust like Hitler”. The top story on the sidebar said, “CIA agent, Congress woman Ilhan visits POK” (presumably referring to American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s recent trip).
Aryavarth Express, which describes itself as an English daily, ignored actual news – like, for instance, British prime minister Boris Johnson coming to India; and people being arrested for murder during the communal violence that erupted across the country on Ram Navami – and instead printed stories that sound remarkably like forwarded messages from WhatsApp.
Later, chief commercial manager of South Western Railway Anup Dayanand Sadhu would clarify that Aryavarth Express “was distributed to passengers as an Insert to Deccan Herald inauthorizedly by the licensee”. Sadhu added, “Strict instruction given not to give any inserts along with regular newspaper hencefor[th].”
As far as Newslaundry could find, there’s no reason why the Deccan Herald would offer Aryavarth Express as an insert. There is no connection between the two publications.
A government order from 2001 says “zonal railways will decide the type of newspaper of different languages to be supplied in the trains as per the passengers demand. While selecting newspapers it should be kept in mind that wide ranges of reputed daily newspapers having good circulation are supplied.”
When asked about the process of selecting newspapers, public relations officer of Southern Railways, Chennai division, Om Prakash said, “The contract goes to the newspaper that pays the largest sum of money to the department.”
The voice of Aryavarth
Edited by one Prashant Goenka, who is also (ostensibly) the publisher, Aryavarth Express has been around since 2013.
According to a video uploaded six years ago, editor in chief Prashant Goenka is also the owner of Goenka Beverages, Mascot Print Media Services and Goenka Florists. He is the recipient of the Agresan Ratna; president of Karnataka State Council for Media and Satellite Broadcasting; and the president of Bharatiya Manav Adhikar Sanrakshan Sang. He is also an historian, according to one employee of Aryavarth Express.
Goenka did not respond to Newslaundry’s interview request, but a customer care executive working with Aryavarth Express told us Goenka loves reading, maintains a large library and “belongs to a family of journalists”. The executive wasn’t sure if Goenka had previously worked as a journalist with any other publication.
The editor-in-chief is among the few people who does get a byline in Aryavarth Express, which is mostly made up of articles from wire agencies, such as Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) and Reuters.
At the bottom of Aryavarth Express’s lead story published on April 22, it says “authored by Dr Prashant Goenka”. Goenka is also the author of articles like “Settle 2 crore non-Muslims in Kashmir to stop talibanisation of Kashmir” and “BJP removes Hindu hater Faiz’s verses from NCERT books”.
According to the customer care executive, it is the policy of Aryavarth Express to use only one byline – Goenka’s. “We do ground reports. We have a good team of writers. But we use the name of just our editor,” said the executive in their sales pitch to this reporter.
Aside from Goenka, contributors get their own byline, as former additional chief secretary of Tamil Nadu Jagmohan Singh Raju did for his article on “Hindu-Sikh genocide”. When contacted by Newslaundry, he said, “I am not even remotely connected with it [Goenka’s group]. My relationship is only that of an author who contributes write ups to multiple media platforms. I did not take compensation for the article.”
On the face of it, Aryavarth Express seems amateurish, with laughable headlines like the one declaring American president Joe Biden a “Pakistani stooge”. The articles it carries are unabashedly bigoted and its Twitter handle described the daily as “#Hinduvoice”. Aryavarth Express used to be a weekly publication until approximately five months ago, when it started coming out daily.
“We are pro-Hindu,” an employee of Aryavarth Express told Newslaundry on condition of anonymity. “We have three agendas: to push for recognition of Hindu genocide by both the government and the citizens; focus on Hindu temples demolished by Islamic rulers; and change the educational system of India by including the legacy of Hindu rulers.”
A digital subscription to Aryavarth Express costs Rs 600 a year and the publication has declared that 51 percent of this amount “will be used for Gau Seva”.
Aryavarth Express has a website, but it was last updated in March. It has almost 18,000 followers on Twitter and, according to an employee who spoke with Newslaundry on condition of anonymity, the newspaper is becoming steadily more popular online.
The daily’s parent company is Deekshansh Publications Pvt. Ltd and according to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the company’s directors are Prashant Goenka and his wife, Asha Devi Goenka.
Here are the revenue and expenses of Deekshansh Publications.
From 2018-19 to 2019-20, the direct income of the company has grown almost five times from Rs 49,92,152 to 2,30,58,522. Expenses have also increased by three times from Rs 79,81,648 in 2018-19 to 2,31,47,553 in 2019-20.
It is not known how much of these earnings and expenses are by Aryavarth Express.
While even print publications from legacy media find themselves forced to shut down editions, Aryavarth Express is looking to expand. “We have a circulation of 17,000 copies in Bengaluru and 4,000 in Goa. We will bring out a Chennai edition in less than a year. There are also plans to bring out editions across the country,” the employee said.
Perhaps some of Aryavarth Express’s confidence comes from having the support of the governing party. On April 25, Shripad Naik, union minister of state for ports, shipping and waterways and tourism, launched the newspaper’s Goa edition.
“I think Aryavarth Express and [its sister publication] Parivartan, with their rightful path, will guide people in the right direction,” Naik said.