Asia World

Fri 23 July 2021:

Media group Dainik Bhaskar and an Uttar Pradesh-based news channel were raided on Thursday by Income Tax officials who launched searches in their offices across the country around 5.30 am. Both have been accused of tax evasion and floating shell companies in a statement released to news agency ANI by government sources.

An action described by opposition leaders as an attack on the media for exposing the handling of the coronavirus pandemic by the government.

The Dainik Bhaskar Group has 60 editions in different Indian states with a combined circulation of around 4.5 million.

The Income Tax Department raided multiple locations in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Delhi.

Central Board of Direct Taxes spokeswoman Surabhi Jaiswal confirmed the action against Dainik Bhaskar.


“Mobiles of the employees present in the offices have been confiscated and they are not being allowed to leave the office,” according to employees.

Uttar Pradesh TV channel Bharat Samachars offices in Lucknow and the home of its editor were also searched. The raids were based on “conclusive evidence of tax fraud” by the channel, said officials.

The Press Club of India said it deplores such acts of intimidation by the government through enforcement agencies to deter independent media from discharging their duty to serve society.

Dainik Bhaskar said on its website that the government is scared of honest journalism and it reported correct figures of deaths due to the virus.

Both the media houses had recently put out reports critical of the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, particularly the second wave of Covid that swept through India in April-May.

Dainik Bhaskar Editor Om Gaur told NDTV that the raids were a surprise and an obvious attempt to suppress independent journalism.

Tax raids target Indian paper that criticised government over Covid | India  | The Guardian

“We won’t give in to pressure. We will stick to our journalism,” Mr Gaur said.

The New York Times had, a  month ago, published Mr Gaur’s op-ed on Covid deaths in India, titled: “The Ganges Is Returning the Dead. It Does Not Lie.” The holiest of India’s rivers “became Exhibit A for the Modi administration’s failures and deceptions”, he wrote.

The newspaper also wrote about dead coronavirus victims floating in the Ganga River in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

In an ongoing monsoon session of parliament, the issue of the government raid was raised by the opposition.

Opposition members protested the raids on Bhaskar Group in the Rajya Sabha, or the upper house of parliament.

Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee condemned the raids and said on Twitter: “It’s a grave violation that undermines the very principles of democracy. Urging everyone in the Media to stay strong. Together we shall never let the autocratic forces succeed!”

“The attack on journalists and media houses is yet another brutal attempt to stifle democracy.”

Dainik Bhaskar’s reports investigated official claims during the pandemic as raging 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 and washing up on the banks of towns in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, possibly discarded because of the lack of means to cremate them. The reports also revealed bodies buried in shallow graves by the river in UP.

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