The Uttar Pradesh police on Wednesday, 1 April, booked a senior journalist over comments on Twitter claiming that the day Tablighi Jamaat held its event in Delhi, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had insisted that a Ram Navami fair will take place as usual.
The FIR against The Wire editor Siddharth Varadarajan also mentioned his remark, questioning Adityanath's participation at a religious ceremony at the Ramjanmabhoomi site in Ayodhya during the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.
In his statement, Varadarajan called the FIR “politically motivated.”
The FIR referred to a tweet by Varadarajan, which said, "On the day the Tablighi Jamaat event was held, Adityanath insisted a large Ram Navami fair planned for Ayodhya from March 25 to April 2 would proceed as usual and that ‘Lord Ram would protect devotees from the coronavirus’".
Later, the journalist tweeted, “I should clarify that it was Acharya Paramhans, Hindutva stalwart and head of the official Ayodhya temple trust, who said Ram would protect devotees from coronavirus, and not Adityanath, though he allowed a public event on 25/3 in defiance of the lockdown and took part himself.”
I should clarify that it was Acharya Paramhans, Hindutva stalwart and head of the official Ayodhya temple trust, who said Ram would protect devotees from coronavirus, and not Adityanath, though he allowed a public event on 25/3 in defiance of the lockdown and took part himself.— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) April 1, 2020
The FIR was filed in Faizabad at 7 pm on Wednesday.
Faizabad Kotwali police station incharge Nitish Kumar Shrivastava registered an FIR under sections 188 (disobeying an order duly promulgated by public servant) and 505(2) (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code, saying he had made “disreputable” comment against the chief minister.
‘Blatant Attack on Freedom of Press’
Reacting to the FIR, Varadarajan said, “A bare perusal of the FIR shows that it is politically motivated and the offences invoked are not even remotely made out. The registration of an FIR is a blatant attack on the freedom of the press.”
Shortly after, The Wire released an official statement.
The statement said it was a matter of record that Adityanath had attended a religious event in Ayodhya on 25 March after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown.
The apparent reference was to Adityanath's participation at a ceremony to shift the Ram Lalla's idol to a temporary location so that the construction of the Ram temple can begin.
The event was not open to the public but a small group of RSS and VHP functionaries was present, triggering Opposition's criticism that Adityanath had sent a wrong message by seemingly flouting lockdown guidelines.
‘Adityanath Never Did Such a Thing’ Says His Media Advisor
Earlier, the chief minister's media advisor Mritunjay Kumar had objected to Varadharajan's claim on Adityanath's alleged comment on Ram Navami celebrations.
“Do not try to spread lies. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had never said such a thing. Delete it immediately, otherwise, action will be taken and a case of defamation will also be imposed,” Kumar tweeted.
झूठ फैलाने का प्रयास ना करे, मुख्यमंत्री योगी आदित्यनाथ जी ने कभी ऐसी कोई बात नहीं कही है। इसे फ़ौरन डिलीट करे अन्यथा इस पर कार्यवाही की जाएगी तथा डिफ़ेमेशन का केस भी लगाया जाएगा। वेबसाईट के साथ-साथ केस लड़ने के लिए भी डोनेशन माँगना पड़ेगा फिर। https://t.co/2rEJmToLIh— Mrityunjay Kumar (@MrityunjayUP) April 1, 2020
“Along with the website, will also have to ask for donation to fight the case,” Kumar said.
Later the the media advisor said, “despite our warnings,” Varadarajan did not remove the tweet nor did he apologise.
Chidambaram Slams Yogi Govt
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Thursday slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh over the FIR, saying it is a “deplorable” act intended to suppress media freedom.
In a series of tweets, he said, “UP government has filed an FIR against The Wire for carrying a story containing facts and only facts. No ‘fact' is wrong or even alleged to be wrong. Where is the crime?”
The former home minister demanded that the FIR be immediately withdrawn.
(With inputs from PTI)
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