The Income Tax Department on Thursday conducted raids against two prominent media groups, Dainik Bhaskar and Uttar Pradesh-based Hindi news channel Bharat Samachar, in multiple cities on charges of tax evasion. The raids come in the wake of several stories published by the media group on the severe impact and the deaths caused by the second wave of COVID-19. It had also talked about the handling of the situation by the government.
The raids were carried out at multiple locations, including Dainik Bhaskar's premises in various states and the residences and offices of the promoters of the group. In case of Bharat Samachar, the office and residence of the publication's editor-in-chief and other employees were reportedly raided, as was its Lucknow office.
Opposition leaders were quick to criticise the situation, with several Chief Ministers and top leaders from various parties slamming the Narendra Modi-led government. Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister and Congress leader Digvijaya Singh took to Twitter criticising the government for "using ED and IT as weapons".
"The attack on journalists and media houses is yet another brutal attempt to stifle democracy. Dainik Bhaskar bravely reported the way Narendra Modi ji mishandled the entire COVID-19 crisis and led the country to its most horrifying days amid a raging pandemic. I strongly condemn this vindictive act that aims to suppress voices that bring out the truth. It's a grave violation that undermines the very principles of democracy," tweeted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
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.
"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," he tweeted.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot dubbed this as an attempt to suppress the media. "Income tax raid on the offices of Dainik Bhaskar newspaper and Bharat Samachar news channel is an attempt to suppress the media. Modi government cannot tolerate even the slightest criticism. This is the fascist mentality of BJP which does not like to see the mirror of truth in democracy," Gehlot said in a tweet.