An FIR has been registered against Editor-in-Chief of The Wire, Siddharth Varadarajan, in Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur in connection with his tweets on the death of the protesting farmer during the tractor rally on Republic Day. The journalist had tweeted a report by The Wire on the testimony of the grandfather of the deceased farmer Navreet Singh, who had alleged that the farmer was shot at by the police and then succumbed to injuries. However, the police said that he died of injuries he sustained when the tractor overturned after running into a police barricade.
Siddharth Varadarajan has been booked under Section 153B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and Section 505(2) (Statements conducing to public mischief with intent to cause, fear or alarm to the public) of the Indian Penal Code.
The FIR filed by the police accuses Siddharth of posting a tweet aimed at “instigating people” and “spreading nuisance.” The police say that officials who carried out the post mortem have denied the Wire report and despite the same, the tweet has not been removed.
On Saturday, the District Magistrate had responded to Siddharth Varadarajan’s tweet, saying, “We ardently request you to please let's be sticking to facts and facts only. We hope our request will be sincerely taken up by you. Thank you. Here is the official declaration.” The journalist responded, saying that the story had already been updated to include the version of the three doctors, who had condemned the statements made by the deceased farmer’s family.
TOI reports that the farmer's post-mortem report mentions two injuries — a “lacerated wound of size 2cmx1cm over left side of the chin, 1cm below left angle of the mouth” and a “lacerated wound of size 6cmx3cm over right ear, margins are irregular and everted (inside out) right ear ossicles and brain matter is coming out from wound.” The family has alleged that the second injury is an “exit wound,” but the deputy chief medical officer told TOI that it is “possible upon accelerated collision with the floor.” (A forensic conclusion is not known yet).
On Sunday morning, Siddharth Varadarajan responded to the FIR filed against him. “What’s the IPC provision for “malicious prosecution”? Here is the UP Police indulging in it, filing an FIR against me for tweeting about what the grandfather of farmer who was killed in the tractor parade had said on the record!” he tweeted.
“In UP, it is a crime for media to report statements of relatives of a dead person if they question a postmortem or police version of cause of death. I think this new ‘law’ has come in the wake of godi media coverage of Sushant Singh Rajput postmortem,” he said in another tweet, with a link to The Wire report.
Many journalists have condemned the FIR against him.
Dear India, @svaradarajan is one of the rare editors in India who not just reaches out but actively helps reporters-even the ones not part of the Delhi power circles-facing threats, attacks and harassment. And he is paying the price for it.— Neha Dixit (@nehadixit123) January 31, 2021
Be very ashamed that you are silent. https://t.co/ysiLHuDAPl
The FIR comes days after the police in as many as three states registered a case against Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and six journalists — Rajdeep Sardesai, Mrinal Pande, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath, Anant Nath, Vinod K Jose — under charges of “misleading the public” regarding the death of a protester at ITO during the violence on Republic Day.
On January 26, thousands of protesting farmers had clashed with the police during the tractor rally called by farmer unions to highlight their demand for repeal of the Centre's three farm laws. In many areas, the police were seen using lathis and tear gas on the farmers. The farmer Navreet Singh, passed away during these protests.