Lucknow: The police in Uttar Pradesh have listed a staggering 18 charges against a journalist and two others who flagged an alleged land grab case. The case was filed on a complaint by the brother of Champat Rai, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader and secretary of the Ram Temple Trust, who is facing questions over controversial land deals in Ayodhya.
The Bijnor police chief has already given Champat Rai and his brothers a "clean chit" based on what he calls a prime facie inquiry into the land allegations. Investigations continue, he says.
Journalist Vineet Narain and two others -- Alka Lahoti and Rajnish - are named in a First Information Report (FIR) based on a complaint by Champat Rai's brother Sanjay Bansal.
All three are accused of conspiring to make false allegations against the VHP leader and in the process, "hurting the sentiments of crores of Hindus across the country".
In a Facebook post three days ago, Vineet Narain had accused Mr Rai of facilitating land grab by his brothers in their hometown in Bijnor.
In the post, Mr Narain accused Mr Rai of helping his brothers grab 20,000 square meters of land in a cow shelter owned by NRI Alka Lahoti (also named in the FIR).
The post claimed Ms Lahoti had been trying to get the encroachers evicted since 2018 and appealed to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to take action.
In his complaint, Sanjay Bansal said he searched for Mr Narain's phone number and called him to clear the "facts of the case".
"However, a man calling himself Rajnish picked up the phone, misbehaved with me and threatened to kill me," he said in the complaint.
The FIR accuses Mr Narain and the others of "promoting enmity on the grounds of religion", providing "false evidence", "cheating" and "trespass" among other charges.
Less than a day after the FIR was filed, Bijnor's police chief posted a video statement on Twitter in which he seemed to support Mr Bansal's version. He, however, added that a police team was still investigating the matter.
"The local police are investigating. Mr Champat Rai is a senior leader of the VHP and a member of the Ram Temple Trust and the accusations against him by the accused are baseless and prima facie the accusations against his relatives are baseless too. We are ascertaining all the facts," Bijnor police chief Dr Dharm Vir Singh said in the statement.