The Hyderabad police on Friday morning turned up at the doorstep of former Chief Executive Officer of Telugu media outlet Mojo TV, Revathi Pogadadanda, to detain her. The police said that they were investigating a case registered under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, in which the journalist was an accused. A guest who had appeared on a debate on the channel had filed a police complaint saying he had been insulted.
Taking to Twitter, Revathi said, "Cops at my doorstep! They want to arrest me without a warrant. For a case that is as old as January. I am an A2 in this case of SC/ST. There is no notice, no warrant. These are Banjara Hills police on the direction of their ACP KS Rao. They tried to take my phone.” (sic)
"They tell me I'm creating a law and order problem! How brilliant is that I am creating a law and order problem in my own home! Brilliant job," she added.
Revathi also alleged that despite not having a warrant or a notice, the police personnel demanded that she accompany them to the police station, even though she informed them that she had to send her child to school, and also had a doctor's appointment. "Cops have been tripled at my house. Arresting a journalist without a warrant is the top priority of the government right now," she added.
Speaking to TNM, ACP K Srinivas Rao said, "She was not cooperating with the police. We have already served two written notices and also called her and asked her to come to the police station, but she did not respond."
Revathy’s husband, Chaitanya Dantuluri, a filmmaker by profession, who was standing outside the Banjara Hills police station refuted this. “On May 20 we received a notice asking for her presence at the station. We responded within 48 hours. She had been on an indefinite hunger strike over the hostile takeover of her channel from May 22 night. After the hunger strike, she asked for two to three days. There was no response from their side, so we got in touch with the police again asking them when to meet. They delayed it again. We then called again for an appointment, the ACP told us it was not required. Now today the police are at our door. She is accused number two in the case, and anyway she resigned from Mojo TV in the first week of June,” Chaitanya said.
Chaitanya alleged that the police planned to arrest her on a Friday with the intention of keeping her in jail at least until Monday.
The case in question dates back to January this year when a guest appeared on the channel about a discussion over the entry of women into Sabarimala temple in Kerala. Revathi was moderating the discussion along with another anchor, Raghu, when the latter got into a heated argument with a guest, identified as Varaprasad.
On the show, when Varaprasad accuses the channel of having ‘jaundiced’ and ‘biased’ views, an angry Raghu retorts, "As a Dalit person, you don't question the oppression of Dalits in the country. Instead you’re worried about women's temple entry.” As the argument gets more heated, Raghu asks Varaprasad to get out.
An angry Varaprasad then says that he was being disrespected. "You invited me respectfully. You must tell me to leave respectfully. How can you ask a Dalit person to 'get out'?" he asked. Varaprasad took offence at the mention of his caste and claimed that mentioning his identity in public, on a show that was viewed by thousands of people across the state, itself was discrimination.
Revathi then breaks up the argument and cuts to a commercial break, saying, “Raghu, you don't have to do anything. Let it be. They have come here on purpose to pick a fight."
As Varaprasad continues to protest, Revathi says, “They have come here on purpose to pick a fight. We are not talking about Dalits. Don't divide on purpose. Mojo condemns attacks done in the name of Hindutva."
Watch the video below:
Varaprasad then approached the Banjara Hills police and filed a complaint.
Revathi alleges witch hunt
Revathi has been alleging harassment by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS)-led state government for the last few months, ever since a case of forgery was booked against her mentor Ravi Prakash, the former CEO of Associated Broadcasting Company Private Limited (ABCPL), the parent company of multilingual television news channel TV9, by the Hyderabad police.
Earlier this year, Alanda Media had bought more than 90.54% stake in TV9. Ravi Prakash claimed that Alanda’s hostile takeover was intended to strip away his editorial and operational independence. He also alleged that he was kept in the dark about the involvement of influential businessman Jupally Rameshwar Rao, owner of real estate company My Home Group, who is known to be close to various politicians including Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.
Both Revathi and Ravi Prakash have claimed that the clampdown is part of efforts being taken by the state government to curb editorial independence of media outlets which have been critical of the ruling party. Ravi Prakash is the founder of MoJo TV.
Congress Working President Revanth Reddy also reacted to the row, stating, "This is a clear cut case of harassment by corporate companies on media and journalists. The government should immediately intervene!"