Lazy eyes listen
Police in New Delhi searched several sites associated with the media website NewsClick, accusing its journalists and allies of “conspiring to peddle a narrative that Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh are disputed territories,” according to Indian media on Thursday.
The claims come only days after 95 facilities associated to the outlet were raided. The raids were widely publicised as a result of the outlet’s appearance in an August New York Times investigation alleging that NewsClick received cash from “socialist” millionaire Neville Roy Singham, whose networks, according to the newspaper, peddled “pro-China propaganda.” The charges have been disputed by Newsclick.
According to the remand application, which was obtained by the news agency PTI, “analysis of emails” shows that Prabir Purkayastha, the organization’s founder-editor, and human resources department head Amit Chakravarty were in contact with Singham and were “found to be discussing how to create a map of India without Kashmir and to show Arunachal Pradesh as a disputed area.”
The Delhi police have accused a conspiracy of “peddling a narrative, both globally and domestically, that Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh are disputed territories,” which affects India’s “unity and territorial integrity.” The defendants received about 1.150 million rupees (almost $14 million) “to achieve this objective,” according to the application. Purkayastha was also accused of stealing foreign funds, according to police.
On Tuesday, Purkayastha and Chakravarty, were arrested in a case filed under India’s stringent anti-terror law, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Police have also sealed the office of NewsClick and questioned 46 suspects amid a probe into its funding. They have also been accused of “discrediting the Indian government’s efforts to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic” and of “sabotaging” India’s last general election in 2019.
NewClick reaffirmed on Wednesday that it did not spread Chinese propaganda on its website, calling the NYT piece “bogus.” The outlet further stated that it has been on the radar of numerous central investigating agencies since 2021, including the Enforcement Directorate, Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing, and the Income Tax Department. NewsClick, which was created in 2009, describes itself as “an independent media organisation dedicated to covering news from India and elsewhere with a focus on progressive movements.” It has a huge social media following, with 3.9 million subscribers on YouTube alone.
Journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, who was detained by police but later released, claimed that a team of 100 Delhi police officers investigated dozens of journalists, academics, political activists, social activists, and rookie journalists linked with the media organisation. “Even those who just wrote an article for the site found themselves visited by the police.”
Thakurta emphasised that the FIR (First Information Report), a document that serves as the foundation for any police inquiry in India, was filed on August 17. “Why did it take them one and a half months to conduct these raids?” he questioned, dismissing the FIR as “ludicrous.”
The FIR was most likely prepared in response to the NYT piece. When asked about it, Thakurta stated that “he had no idea” how it happened.