The income tax department conducted multi-city raids against — Dainik Bhaskar and Uttar Pradesh-based news channel Bharat Samachar — on charges of tax evasion, official sources said.
Both Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar have been critical of the Covid-19 management in the country and did numerous stories highlighting the failings of authorities and the distress of people during the second wave of the pandemic.
The opposition parties reacted strongly to the raids and accused a “coward government” of using central agencies to “intimidate” critics. Some even equated the present atmosphere to “undeclared Emergency”.
However, the government rubbished these allegations.
‘No interference in working of agencies’
Union information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur said the agencies are doing their work and there is no government interference in it.
He also warned against drawing hasty conclusions.
“Agencies are doing their own work and there is no interference … One should take complete information and in its absence sometimes many issues come up that are far from the truth …,” he told reporters at a cabinet briefing.
‘Attack on democracy’
The Congress said that instead of protecting the nation, central agencies have now begun to act as poachers for intimidating the whistleblowers.
The party termed the raids on both media houses as an “attack on democracy”.
Flaying the government, the UP Congress in a tweet said, “Kamal’ wale, kalam se darte hain (People with lotus are afraid of the pen).”
‘Coward government is afraid’
The Samajwadi Party (SP) on its Twitter handle said when a “coward” government is “afraid”, it uses central agencies like the ED, IT department and the CBI against those opposing it.
“With the ink of truth, the government’s corruption, mismanagement during the Covid pandemic, false claims and hollow announcements were exposed by Dainik Bhaskar. Countrywide raids raids on it are condemnable,” the party tweeted.
‘Isn’t this undeclared Emergency’
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) criticised the I-T raids against the Dainik Bhaskar media group, and said people need to know if this was not “undeclared Emergency”.
It also said that this media house had “fearlessly reported the failures of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath”.
Taking to Twitter, NCP spokesperson and Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik said, “Since the reports of Snooping via #Pegasus spyware was brought out in the public domain, the central government has begun to target those who are exposing them. The latest victim is @DainikBhaskar, they have been fearlessly reporting about the failures of UP CM Mr @myogiadityanath and to muzzle the voice of this media house and hide the truth, they are being raided by the income tax.”
‘Brutal attempt to stifle democracy’
Mamata Banerjee called the income tax raids a “brutal attempt” to stifle democracy and suppress voices that bring out the truth.
The West Bengal chief minister said the raids were the fallout of reporting about the “mishandling” of the Covid-19 situation in the country.
‘Tax raids attempt to scare media’
Calling the tax raids on Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar an attempt to scare the media, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal demanded that such actions be stopped immediately and the media be allowed to work freely.
Reacting to the raids, Kejriwal tweeted, “Income tax raids on Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar are an attempt to scare the media. The message is clear — those who speak against the BJP government will not be spared. Such thinking is very dangerous. Everyone should raise their voice against it. These raids should be stopped immediately and the media should be allowed to work freely.”
‘Government’s raid raj won’t work’
The CPM hit out at the Union government over income tax raids accusing it of using central agencies for “intimidation.”
“The Modi government’s raid raj won’t work. Trying to scare and muzzle the truth from surfacing. But like the dead bodies floating in the Ganga, Modi government cannot hide. The misuse of central agencies for intimidation is condemnable,” tweeted CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury.
‘Union government should not try to muzzle freedom of press’
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) president Sukhbir Singh Badal condemned the income tax raids on media outlets, saying the groups were being persecuted for exposing the NDA government’s “mismanagement” of the Covid-19 pandemic, besides asking tough questions on the Union government’s surveillance on politicians, journalists and activists through Pegasus spyware.
In a statement, Badal said it was condemnable that the NDA government had targeted Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar as well as the Bharat Samachar group because they had posed tough questions to the government in keeping with high standards of journalism.
“The Union government should not try to muzzle the freedom of the press in this manner. The SAD stands resolutely in solidarity with the media in this hour of crisis,” the statement said.
(With inputs from agencies)