As the media group Dainik Bhaskar and Uttar Pradesh-based TV channel Bharat Samachar were raided today over alleged tax evasion, opposition parties alleged that news outlets critical to the government were being targeted.
Tax teams carried out searches in offices of Dainik Bhaskar across many cities and the homes of its promoters. Dainik Bhaskar is one of India's largest selling Hindi newspapers.
A team of taxmen also searched the Lucknow office of Bharat Samachar and its editor's home in the city.
Three Chief Ministers were among those who denounced the raids.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called it a brutal attempt to stifle democracy.
I strongly condemn this vindictive act that aims to suppress voices that bring out the TRUTH. It's a grave violation that undermines the very principles of democracy.— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) July 22, 2021
Urging everyone in the Media to stay strong. Together we shall never let the autocratic forces succeed! (2/2)
The government could not tolerate even "an iota" of criticism, wrote Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
Income Tax raid on Dainik Bhaskar newspaper & Bharat Samachar news channel is a brazen attempt to suppress the voice of media. Modi government cannot tolerate even an iota of its criticism. Due to its fascist mentality, the BJP doesn't want to see the truth in a democratic setup.— Ashok Gehlot (@ashokgehlot51) July 22, 2021
AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal said the raids were an attempt to terrorise the media. "The message is clear - whoever speaks against the BJP government will not be spared. This is a dangerous mentality. All should raise their voice against this. These raids should be stopped immediately and the media should be allowed to function freely," wrote the Delhi Chief Minister.
"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.
Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra posted: "IT raids on Dainik Bhaskar offices & promoter homes - post their reporting on devastation of 2nd Covid wave. If you don't crawl like GodiMedia then pay price!"
Dainik Bhaskar was at the forefront of reporting on the scale of devastation in the second wave of Covid in April-May. The newspaper's reports exposed the extent of the crisis, reflecting in bodies of Covid victims floating in the river Ganga and washing up on the banks of towns in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, or buried in shallow graves by the river.
The news channel Bharat Samachar was, in its reports on the Covid crisis, critical of the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government.