“I am independent because I am Bhaskar. Only the will of the readers prevails in Bhaskar,” read a message in Hindi on the group’s digital news website under the title “Swatantra Bhaskar.
IT department teams had arrived at their offices in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan and this action came only after the group brought to light the government lapses during the second coronavirus wave, according to the statement on the website.
He claimed that IT department teams also raided his employees’ homes, confiscated their mobile phones and did not allow them to leave. Even the night shift staff were not allowed to leave the offices, he said.
Income tax officials said it was part of the procedure and that staff were allowed to leave after legal formalities, he said. The group’s digital media team was able to return home at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, he added.
The group’s digital news site had published reports, along with images, of corpses of suspected coronavirus patients floating down the Ganges River in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, sparking consternation across the country. As the Income Tax raids unfolded, Dainik Bhaskar also conducted a reader poll on social media, asking “Are you with Dainik Bhaskar’s fearless journalism? Answer 1 Yes, 2 No. ”
When contacted, MP and Chhattisgarh Chief Income Tax Commissioner Lekha Kumar said: “No comment please.” Attempts to contact Parneet Sachdev, Managing Director of TI, Bihar and Jharkhand, who is in additional charge of MP and Chhattisgarh for comment, failed.
Meanwhile, the head of the Congress of Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath, said that the tax raids against media groups Dainik Bhaskar and Bharat Samachar accused of tax evasion were an attempt by the Union government to suppress the “fourth pillar of democracy “and prevent the truth from coming to light.
Congressional Senior Leader Digvijaya Singh said in Twitter that tax officials “are present” at half a dozen of the group’s premises, including its office in the Press Complex in the state capital, Bhopal, where it is based.
Express CPM Secretary Jaswinder Singh said the raids were not only an attack on freedom of expression, but a clear sign of a situation worse than the Emergency. The action came at a time when the government was in a difficult situation in Parliament on the Pegasus spy case and coronavirus deaths, he said.
It also showed that the Narendra Modi government was trying to stifle the voice of democracy, the CPM leader said.