Multiple police cases have been filed in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh against Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and six journalists for allegedly "misreporting" and "spreading disharmony" on Republic Day when a tractor rally by farmers turned violent in Delhi. All of them face charges including sedition, criminal conspiracy and promoting enmity under the Indian Penal Code.
One First Information Report (FIR) was filed in Noida and four FIRs in Madhya Pradesh's Bhopal, Hosangabad, Multai and Betul.
The FIR in Noida was filed on a complaint by a resident of the city near Delhi, who alleged "digital broadcasts" and "social media posts" by Mr Tharoor and the journalists, who claimed that a farmer had been shot dead by the Delhi Police, contributed to the siege of the Red Fort and violence during the tractor rally.
The journalists named in the FIRs are Rajdeep Sardesai, Mrinal Pande, Vinod Jose, Zafar Agha, Paresh Nath and Anant Nath. The Editors Guild of India has condemned filing of police cases against them.
"The journalists have been specifically targeted for reporting the accounts pertaining to the death of one of the protestors on their personal social media handles as well as those of the publications they lead and represent. It must be noted that on the day of the protest and high action, several reports were emerging from eyewitnesses on the ground as well as from the police, and therefore it was only natural for journalists to report all the details as they emerged. This is in line with established norms of journalistic practice," the Editors Guild said in a statement.
On January 26, thousands of protesting farmers clashed with the police during the tractor rally in protest against new farm laws. Hundreds of protesters had entered the Red Fort and clashed with the police.
Earlier, the Delhi Police had named actor Deep Sidhu and gangster-turned-activist Lakha Sidhana in an FIR over the Red Fort incident.
The tractor rally was allowed to start after the Republic Day parade in the national capital was over. However, it soon descended into lawlessness after the farmers broke through barricades before time and changed the agreed route.
The police then asked the farmers at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border at Ghazipur to return home on Thursday. But the farmers refused to budge, with their leader Rakesh Tikait declaring that he is "ready to face bullets" if needed. The other two key borders - Tikri and the epicentre of farmers' protests, Singhu - have also been placed under heavy security.
In neighbouring Haryana - a BJP-ruled state - farmers who had been protesting for nearly two months in Karnal, were told to leave. The locals gave them a 24-hour ultimatum, saying they were facing inconvenience because of the protests. The Haryana Police has also been trying to get control of highway toll plazas, which had been overrun by the farmers.