‘Vastraharan, witch-hunt of the worst kind’: How did front pages cover Mahua Moitra’s walkout?

The opposition called the panel’s line of questioning ‘unethical’, while the chairman said Mahua Moitra was deflecting questions.

WrittenBy:NL Team
Screengrab of a video of Mahua Moitra storming out of the meeting.

Yesterday was a hectic day for the media in Delhi. Reporters and camera crews camped out for hours at the Enforcement Directorate office in New Delhi’s Parivartan Bhawan, waiting for the arrival of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who had been summoned by the central agency for questioning in the alleged excise policy scam case.

But Kejriwal was a no-show, heading for a roadshow instead.

Meanwhile, Mahua Moitra walked out of a meeting of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee in connection with the cash-for-query allegations against her, calling the panel chairman’s line of questioning “filthy” and “unethical”. 

How did front pages this morning report the news?

A front flap article on Hindustan Times, titled ‘Opposition members walk out as panel grills MP Moitra’ said that TMC MP Mahua Moitra “walked out of the dramatic hearing midway” along with five other opposition, alleging that the chairperson was “unethical and asked her ‘filthy’ and ‘personal’ questions”.

The newspaper said Moitra later wrote to Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla and quoted her as saying that she was “subjected to ‘vastraharan’ [disrobing]” by the panel’s chairman.  It also carried panel chair Vinod Sonkar’s defence. He alleged that Moitra was “using anger to deflect legitimate questions”.

The report said, “If found guilty, she [Moitra] could be disqualified from the Lok Sabha.”

A screenshot of Hindustan Times' front flap.

The front page article on The Times of India in Delhi was titled “‘Personal questions’: Mahua, Opposition storm out of the ethics panel meeting”. The report said the Lok Sabha ethics panel’s bid to record TMC MP Mahua Moitra’s statement in the cash for query allegations “remained inconclusive” and “ended on a stormy note” as opposition members “stormed out” of the meeting.      

The report carried quotes from Moitra, ethics committee chairman Sonkar, and member Aparajita Sarangi. Moitra said “unethical, sordid and prejudiced behaviour” was meted out to her. Sonkar and Sarangi were quoted as saying that Moitra used “unparliamentary language” and behaved in an “angry, rude and arrogant manner”.    

A screenshot of The Times of India front page.

The Hindu’s top story on page 1 in Delhi was Kejriwal defying the ED’s summons. On the bottom half the page was a news report on Moitra, headlined “Moitra, other Opposition MPs walk out of Ethics Committee meeting”. It said Moitra and other MPs “stormed out of the meeting”. 

A screenshot of The Hindu's front page.

Among those who left with Moitra were Uttam Kumar Reddy and V Vaithilingam of the Congress, Danish Ali of the BSP, PR Natarajan of the CPIM, and Giridhari Yadav of the JDU.

The Delhi edition of The Indian Express relegated Kejriwal to a snippet on page 1, instead leading with the Supreme Court reserving its judgement on the constitutional validity of electoral bonds. Moitra was on page 1 too, headlined “My vastraharan at meeting, panel chief conduct shameful: Moitra to Speaker”.

A screenshot of page 1 of The Indian Express.

Moitra said she had “walked in as one of 78 woman MPs in a country of 1.4 billion people, ready to assist a Parliamentary committee on ethics on the discovery of truth based on facts and evidence to back it up. Instead, I was subjected to a vastraharan, a disrobing, a witch-hunt of the worst kind”. Indian Express also quoted the MPs who walked out with Moitra, with Reddy describing the line of questioning as “prejudiced and biased”.

The Telegraph in Kolkata had Moitra as the top story on page 1 but made the odd choice of using this headline – “High fashion, low friction, flameout” – alongside a photo of Moitra on Thursday with her Louis Vuitton bag.

A screenshot of The Telegraph's front page.

“Shortly after stomping off, Moitra dashed off a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla complaining she had been subjected to the proverbial ‘vastraharan (stripping)’ by the panel chairman,” the story said. Moitra told The Telegraph it had been “downright dehumanising”.

Newslaundry had reported on the allegations against Moitra and the defamation suit she filed soon after against politicians and media houses. Among those named in the suit is one Jai Anant Dehadrai, a former TOI columnist, current lawyer and, in Moitra’s own words, a “jilted ex”. Read all about it here.

Also see
article image‘Cash-for-query’ row: 62 questions by Mahua Moitra, 9 on Adani, 1 on Hiranandani group

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