Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap and actor Taapsee Pannu, among the biggest critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration in Bollywood, were questioned by Income Tax officials in Pune following raids on their properties all day over alleged tax evasion, sources told NDTV on Wednesday.
Searches took place at 30 locations in Mumbai and Pune, including premises linked to a talent agency as well as the now-defunct Phantom Films, which was co-promoted by Anurag Kashyap, producers Vikas Bahl and Madhu Mantena. Talent agencies Exceed Entertainment and KWAN were also searched. Exceed has been managing actor Saif Ali Khan for several years.
"The Income Tax department probes someone based on whatever information they get. The issue goes to court later," Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said during a BJP briefing.
Rejecting allegations that the raids against Mr Kashyap and ms Pannu were linked to their political views, he said, "This is too much."
Anurag Kashyap and Taapsee Pannu are outspoken critics of the government and have lent their voice to various causes, including the ongoing farmer protests against central laws.
Mr Kashyap, 48, known for critically acclaimed movies like 'Black Friday', 'Dev D' and the two-part crime saga 'Gangs of Wasseypur', had visited the Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi's Shaheen Bagh during the protests against the centre's controversial citizenship law last year.
Ms Pannu had recently criticised the involvement of celebrities in a government-backed campaign to counter pop star Rihanna's post drawing attention to the farmers' agitation.
"If one tweet rattles your unity, one joke rattles your faith or one show rattles your religious belief, then it's you who has to work on strengthening your value system not become propaganda teachers for others," the 33-year-old had said on social media last month.
Several ministers in Maharashtra slammed the tax raids, saying Mr Kashyap and Ms Pannu were being targeted because of their views. "The way in which raids were conducted in the homes and offices of Anurag Kashyap and Taapsee Pannu, this is definitely the usage of Enforcement Directorate or the Income Tax against. This action is those who take a stand against the government or its policies. Anurag Kashyap and Tapasee Pannu have raised their voice against the Modi government's policies an attempt to suppress their voices," Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik said.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav called the raids a "condemnable act" and slammed the centre. "They first employed IT, CBI, ED to conduct raids on vocal and upright political rivals for their character assassination. Now Nazi govt is chasing social activists, journalists & artists to threaten them against calling spade a spade," the Bihar politician tweeted.