The Punjab Police arrested Rachit Kaushik (also known as Tantra Baba), the founder of the Sab Loktantra news portal, from Muzzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday (February 6). There are reports that Kaushik was taken into custody while he was attending his niece's wedding.
News portal OpIndia reported that, following Kaushik's arrest by the Punjab police, those accompanying him were left bewildered as to the reason for his detention.
After making inquiries, they learned that an FIR had been filed against Kaushik in connection with a matter pertaining to derogatory remarks against a particular religion.
The FIR, which purportedly led to Kaushik's arrest, did not explicitly mention his name or his affiliation with Sab Loktantra. Instead, it was lodged based on a complaint from Alisha Sultan, a pastor from the Salem Tabri Police Station area in Ludhiana. Sultan alleged that on January 17, a Twitter account named 'noconversion' posted derogatory content about Christian women and nuns, potentially inciting communal tensions.
Family alleges arrested for criticising Kejriwal governement
According to the OpIndia report, Kaushik's mother revealed that Punjab Police detained her son because he criticised Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in his videos. One of these videos, shared by the 'noconversion' account on X on January 16, discussed alleged income received by Kejriwal's son from renting treadmills to the CM's residence. Despite this, Kaushik did not address Christians or speak against conversions in the clip. Kaushik's mother recounted that a Punjab Police officer remarked, "We have been tracing you for a long time. Finally, we caught you," during the arrest.
Reacting to the Rachit's arrest, in a tweet, journalist Vikas Bhaduria alleged that Rachit Kaushik presented a video revealing that the Kejriwal administration is paying Rs 10 lakh in rent to Arvind Kejriwal's son for leasing a treadmill at Sheesh Mahal. Following this revelation, Rachit Kaushik was reportedly abducted by some armed individuals during a wedding ceremony yesterday. His wife's cries were heard, and it was suggested that dictatorship prevailed.
Supporters of Rachit are accusing Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal of silencing independent journalism.
Twitter user Mr. Sinha, referring to Rachit's arrest as a disgraceful act by Punjab police, stated, "This journalist conducted a program about Kejriwal's son and was abducted yesterday. His associates allege that it was Punjab police in plainclothes. If true, there's nothing more shameful than this. If his report was false, it should be a matter of defamation, and Arvind Kejriwal should file a lawsuit.
"What if they also resort to such kidnappings? The Home Ministry must intervene. This is becoming a new norm; all opposition parties are engaging in it shamelessly and without fear," tweeted Mr. Sinha, defending the founder of the news portal.
Muzaffarnagar Police denied rumours of kidnapping
In the midst of the kidnapping accusation, Muzaffarnagar Police released a video statement stating that the individual apprehended by Punjab Police had a court-issued non-bailable warrant against them and was not abducted.
The detention of the news portal founder brought to mind for social media users the arrest of Times Now journalist Bhavana Kishore, who was apprehended by Punjab Police in May of the previous year.
On social media, as individuals defended Rachit and voiced criticism against the Punjab government for his arrest, fact checker Muhammad Zubair posted a tweet asserting that Rachit had been detained for disseminating false information and clarified that he had not been abducted.
According to a report from the Indian Express, Ludhiana Police Commissioner Kuldeep Singh mentioned that Kaushik was apprehended following the filing of a case against him for allegedly committing offenses related to insulting religious sentiments and inciting discord among various religious groups.