Opposition leaders have condemned the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government, and alleged foul play as news of income tax raids at national leading daily Dainik Bhaskar's office broke on Thursday.
Several offices of the media organisation were raided by the Income Tax Department this morning across the country. According to reports, the group has been accused of tax evasion.
In Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra, taxmen raided the offices of Dainik Bhaskar. According to news agency ANI, which cited sources, the promoters' houses and offices were also raided.
Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh said on Twitter that tax officials "are present" at half-a-dozen premises of the group, including at its office at Press Complex in state capital Bhopal.
Other Congress leaders including Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and ex-Madhya Pradesh CM and current state President of Congress Kamal Nath have also alleged that the Modi government is trying to suppress the fourth pillar of democracy by "suppressing" the Dainik Bhaskar group.
Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra also denounced the raids, tweeting: "If you don’t crawl like GodiMedia then pay price!"
Raids were underway at Dainik Bhaskar's offices in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bhopal, and Indore, according to what a senior editor had told NDTV in the morning.
The organisation was raided, according to the opposition, because it reported on the government's "mismanagement" of COVID.
"Through its reporting Dainik Bhaskar has exposed the Modi regime's monumental mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now paying the price. An Undeclared Emergency as Arun Shourie has said - this is a Modified Emergency," tweeted Congress leader Jairam Ramesh.
The Dainik Bhaskar, one of the country's major newspaper groups, was at the vanguard of reporting on the scope of destruction in the second wave of COVID in April-May.
Its reporting revealed the gruesome scene of COVID victims' corpses floating in the Ganga and washing up on the shores of towns in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, probably dumped due to a lack of resources to cremate them. In UP, corpses were also discovered buried in shallow graves beside the river, according to sources.
The New York Times published an op-ed by Dainik Bhaskar editor Om Gaur on COVID fatalities in India a month ago, titled: "The Ganges Is Returning the Dead. It Does Not Lie." The government's management of the coronavirus outbreak was heavily criticised in the opinion article. He said that the most sacred of India's rivers had become "Exhibit A for the Modi administration's failures and deceptions."
While the department and its policy-making body, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), have not issued an official statement, official sources have been reported as saying that the action also included the promoters of a large Hindi media conglomerate, Bharat Samachar news channel, with operations in many states.