New Delhi: In early morning raids on homes of several journalists and commentators associated with the news outlet Newsclick, Delhi police has started interrogations in matters “related to terror links” in a case involving the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The Wire has learned that the raids are in connection with FIR number 224/2023. This case was filed on August 17, 2023, and invokes several sections (13, 16, 17, 18, and 22) of the draconian UAPA, along with 153(a) (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) and 120 (b) (party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an offence) of the Indian Penal Code.
Nothing has been officially stated so far, but in swoops reminiscent of the Emergency in 1975 on newspersons, video journalist Abhisar Sharma, senior journalist Bhasha Singh, veteran journalist Urmilesh, Newsclick editor Prabir Purkayastha and writer Githa Hariharan, renowned journalist and commentator on the political economy Aunindyo Chakravarty, activist and historian Sohail Hashmi, and satirist and stand-up comic Sanjay Rajaura were ‘raided’ early this morning.
The houses of past and present Newsclick journalists, contributors and employees were targeted in the raids, it appears. Among those are Anuradha Raman, Satyam Tiwari, Aditi Nigam and Sumedha Pal, it is learnt. Tiwari has been detained, it is further learnt.
The homes of activist Teesta Setalvad and veteran journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta were also raided.
Setalvad, who lives in Mumbai, is being questioned by Delhi police officers, it has been learnt. Setalvad is the director of think tank Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, which has contributed articles to Newsclick. Journalist Subodh Verma, earlier with Times of India and now associated with Newsclick, was also raided, it is learnt.
The Wire has been able to confirm that police visited the houses of Newsclick employees across roles and levels and seized their devices. Employees were asked about whether they had reported on events like the farmers protest and the COVID pandemic in India.
At the time of writing this, questioning by Delhi police was going on. Sources say that scientist and writer associated with the Delhi Science Forum, D. Raghunandan, has been “taken away by the police”.
Other have spoken about their devices, laptops and telephones being seized.
Journalist Bhasha Singh tweeted what would be the final missive from her phone, before its seizure.
Sources told The Wire that comedian Rajaura has been taken to the Special Cell, Lodhi Road by the police. Police said they were taking him for questioning but not arresting him.
The current FIR purportedly has its roots in an August report by the New York Times. The Wire had reported how BJP MP Nishikant Dubey had cited the report in the Lok Sabha to claim that Congress leaders and NewsClick had received funds from China to create an “anti-India” atmosphere.
The Press Club of India has registered concern at the raids and noted that it will be releasing a detailed statement.
India has been falling sharply and by huge number of ranks down the World Press freedom Index and is currently in the bottom 20 countries. It is among the lowest ranked in the G20 countries too as far as Press Freedom are concerned. Democratic backsliding has been recorded by all global indices, Freedom House, V-Dem, the Economist index regularly since 2015.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information is available.
This article has been originally published on The Wire.