A police case has been filed against a senior journalist and a Hindi news channel on charges of spreading misinformation about a subsidy scheme launched by the Karnataka government to benefit minority communities. The charges against Aaj Tak and its Consulting Editor, Sudhir Chaudhary include ‘promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion’.
The case was filed following a complaint by an official from the Karnataka Minorities Development Corporation, who claims the accused spread fake news about the scheme – in a programme aired on September 11 – and had sought to disturb communal harmony in the Congress-ruled state. “… attempt is being made to spread hatred between Hindus and other religions. It is also an attempt to create an atmosphere of unrest and instigating communal riots,” the complaint said.
The complaint also accused Mr Chaudhary of being “fully aware of the statement he is making”.
In a post on X (formerly Twitter), a defiant Mr Chaudhary said he is “ready for this fight”. “Got information about FIR against me by Congress government in Karnataka… with non-bailable sections. That means complete preparation for arrest.”
कर्नाटक में कांग्रेस सरकार द्वारा मेरे ख़िलाफ़ FIR की जानकारी मिली।
सवाल का जवाब FIR ?
वो भी ग़ैर ज़मानती धाराओं के साथ।
यानी गिरफ़्तारी की पूरी तैयारी
मेरा सवाल ये था कि स्वावलंबी सारथी योजना में हिंदू समुदाय शामिल क्यों नहीं है ?
इस लड़ाई के लिए भी मैं तैयार हूँ।
अब अदालत… https://t.co/3loIh9rGNh
— Sudhir Chaudhary (@sudhirchaudhary) September 12, 2023
“My question was why the Hindu community is not included in the self-reliant Sarathi scheme? I am ready for this fight also. Now meet in court…” he tweeted.
The row over Mr Chaudhary’s claim has spilled over into a slugfest between the Congress (in power in Karnataka) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (trounced in the May Assembly election). From the former camp, Karnataka minister Priyank Kharge has been active on X, taking on the news channel in question and the BJP. Late Tuesday night – after the police case was filed – the channel seemed to delete the video of Mr Chaudhary’s programme from all of its social media accounts.
Undaunted, Mr Kharge shared a screenshot and said, “Anchor of Aaj Tak is deliberately spreading misinformation on government schemes first started by BJP MPs… is being amplified by sections of media. This is deliberate and malicious…”
The anchor of @aajtak is deliberately spreading misinformation on Government schemes which was first started by BJP MPs & is being amplified by sections of media.
This is deliberate & malicious, Govt will be taking necessary legal action pic.twitter.com/nD5FuAf3nu
— Priyank Kharge / ಪ್ರಿಯಾಂಕ್ ಖರ್ಗೆ (@PriyankKharge) September 12, 2023
Tonight Mr Kharge took aim at the BJP’s state unit, pointing out what he saw as multiple electoral and organisational challenges and taunting it for being “more worried about a news anchor who is tarnishing the image of Karnataka”.
What @BJP4Karnataka should really be worried about:
– no opposition leader in assembly
– no opposition leader in council
– an under performing state BJP President who was to be replaced
– JDS replacing BJP as principal opposition
– mass exodus of BJP leaders & workers to… https://t.co/rIr0UlclWR
— Priyank Kharge / ಪ್ರಿಯಾಂಕ್ ಖರ್ಗೆ (@PriyankKharge) September 13, 2023
This was in response to the BJP Karnataka X account accusing the state of “harassing and threatening journalists exposing Siddaramaiah government’s rabid minority appeasement…”
BJP’s Tejasvi Surya Responds
Firebrand Lok Sabha MP Tejasvi Surya has also pitched in, accusing the Karnataka government of a “witch hunt”.
“For asking legitimate questions about implementation of government scheme, Congress government of Karnataka is going on a witch-hunt against Aaj Tak and Sri Sudhir Chaudhary by filing FIRs. This state led witch-hunt is a direct assault on the freedom of press. Whether it’s political opponents or independent media that asks uncomfortable questions, the Congress government is going after everyone by abusing the law…” he declared.
This state led witch-hunt is a direct assault on the freedom of press.
— Tejasvi Surya (@Tejasvi_Surya) September 13, 2023
Swavalambi Sarathi Explained
The Karnataka Minorities Development Corporation is offering a 50 per cent subsidy, or up to Rs 3 lakh, to young men and women without jobs to buy commercial vehicles and become self-employed.
Pointing to this and other such schemes, the KMDC said “These schemes were not only for the minority community… but also available for the Hindu community’s unemployed youths.”
It was also pointed out these schemes had, in fact, been implemented by the former government, which was led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which was defeated in the May election.
“… but the news channel twisted this, saying it had been meant only for minorities in general, and Muslims in particular, thereby doing injustice to the Hindus. This was false and malicious…”
With input from PTI