I-T raids against 2 media houses highlight 'draconian nature' of BJP govt, says Cong

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New Delhi, Jul 22 (PTI) The Congress on Thursday condemned income tax raids against two media organisations, saying it highlights the 'draconian nature' of the BJP government and that writing the truth is 'enough to intimidate a weak dispensation'.

The Income Tax Department on Thursday conducted raids across several states against prominent media group Dainik Bhaskar as well as Uttar Pradesh-based TV channel Bharat Samachar for alleged tax evasion, drawing a sharp response from several quarters. 'Writing truth on paper with ink is enough to intimidate a weak government,' Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi, using the hashtag 'raid on free press'.

The party's spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said at a press conference that the raids herald the start of a 'fascist era of fear'.

He said the raids were aimed at Dainik Bhaskar for publishing some critical reports against the government and the purpose is suppression of free speech.

'The IT raid on Dainik Bhaskar highlights the dangerous, dismissive, and draconian nature of the BJP government,' Singhvi claimed, adding it is not just a case of Dainik Bhaskar but the fundamental right of freedom of speech that is sought to be suppressed.

'The government should tell whether the income tax raids were pre-planned or just a coincidence. The raids are condemnable. They are against our Constitution and the principles of democracy,' he said.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala accused the government of attacking the freedom of the press and throttling the voice of democracy through these raids.

'Raid-jeevi ji, cowardly attack on the freedom of the press! Income tax raids on Dainik Bhaskar's Bhopal, Jaipur and Ahmedabad offices now. You cannot suppress the voice of democracy with 'Raid Raj',' he tweeted in Hindi using the hashtag '#RaidOnFreePress'.

'How much more will you strangle the media? How much more pressure will the media accept? How long will the powers-that-be fetter the truth,' Surjewala said in another tweet, questioning why the TV is still not debating the issue.

'No pressures...now the flood of truth will come.' Another Congress leader Kapil Sibal in a tweet said two days ago the Dainik Bhaskar Group published a scathing piece on phone tapping and snooping and also referred to a past incident in Gujarat. 'IT raids in Ahmadabad, Bhopal etc. Aap chronology samajhiye.' Singhvi said Dainik Bhaskar has been 'punished with utter intolerance and scant regard for democratic norms by such coercive actions.

'There are few, yet many words, that can describe today's wrongful coercive action. Their meaning is totalitarianism, tyranny, dictatorship, fascism, authoritarianism, autocracy, despotism, absolutism....and so on,' he said.

The Congress leader said it is was a question of repeating adjectives, it was telling which way this government is 'redefining despicably democracy'.

'Instead of protecting the nation, this government is using central agencies who have now been trained and directed to act as poachers to intimidate the whistleblowers.

'They have been using agencies to coerce free speech including a substantial section of the press. They have inaugurated a fascist era of fear. They have tried to be control freaks through this tyranny and totalitarianism of dictatorship and authoritarianism,' Singhvi said.

He cited several instances where Dainik Bhaskar put out a series of reports that were critical about the handling of the pandemic as a second wave of Covid infections left people desperate for oxygen, hospital beds and vaccine.

Its reportage exposed the grisly sight of bodies of Covid victims floating in the river Ganga, Singhvi said and alleged that several media organisations, who have been critical of the government's workings, have been intimidated in this manner in the past.

The income-tax raids against the multi-media Dainik Bhaskar group -- which has a presence in 12 states and runs newspapers as well as operates radio stations, web portals and mobile phone apps -- were taking place in 30 locations, including Bhopal, Indore, Jaipur, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Noida, sources said.

The searches started around 5.30 am and were going on till late evening.

'The media group is also involved in textiles, power and real estate businesses and the department is looking into these transactions,' an official said on condition of anonymity. PTI SKC NSD NSD

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