22 Jul 2021: I-T raids on Dainik Bhaskar group; 'attempt to stifle democracy'
The Income Tax (I-T) department is conducting raids at the offices of one of India's largest media houses, Dainik Bhaskar, along with Uttar Pradesh-based news channel Bharat Samachar. Reportedly, officials said the raids are being conducted over alleged tax evasion. However, the move has drawn vehement backlash, being viewed as an attempt to silence news portals critical of the government.
Dainik Bhaskar: Dainik Bhaskar's MP, Rajasthan, Gujarat offices raided
The I-T department is reportedly conducting raids at multiple locations of the Dainik Bhaskar group, including in Madhya Pradesh (Bhopal and Indore), Rajasthan (Jaipur), and Gujarat (Ahmedabad). Sources told The Hindu that I-T raids have been on since 7 am on Thursday at 30 locations, including the promoters' residences. Reportedly, the I-T department had been tipped off about alleged tax evasions by the group.
Dainik Bhaskar: Portal reported on COVID-19 mismanagement
The Dainik Bhaskar group, headquartered in MP, is among India's largest media groups. Its publications had reported critically on India's handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, disproving claims made by officials. Dainik Bhaskar's on-ground reportage on bodies of COVID-19 victims floating in the river Ganges in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar also brought to light the gravity of the situation.
Fact: Dainik Bhaskar editor's NYT op-ed also criticized Modi government
Dainik Bhaskar's editor, Om Gaur, had also published an op-ed titled 'The Ganges Is Returning the Dead. It Does Not Lie' in The New York Times. The holiest of India's rivers "became Exhibit A for the Modi administration's failures and deceptions," Gaur had written.
Bharat Samachar: UP-based news channel also under scanner
I-T raids are also underway at the premises of Bharat Samachar, a news channel based in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Sources told NDTV that I-T officials raided the Lucknow office along with the home of the channel's editor Brijesh Mishra. The raids were based on "conclusive evidence of tax fraud," the sources said. Notably, Bharat Samachar had also been critical of the government.
Reaction: 'Yet another brutal attempt to stifle democracy'
The raids invited huge backlash from the Opposition parties with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool Congress) attacking the Centre for "yet another brutal attempt to stifle democracy." "I strongly condemn this vindictive act that aims to suppress voices that bring out the truth," she tweeted. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot (Congress) called it a "brazen attempt to suppress the voice of media."
Fact: Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh called it 'Modified Emergency'
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