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UP: 'Dragged, Beaten', Says Journalist Arrested After he Questioned Minister on Poll Promises

Sanjay Rana, a YouTube news channel scribe, was booked and arrested in Sambhal after a complaint by a BJP youth wing leader. He was later released.
Sanjay Rana

Screen Grab.

Lucknow: The Uttar Pradesh police in Sambhal arrested a journalist, who runs a news channel on YouTube, on Sunday after a local leader of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s youth wing, filed a complaint against him alleging that he “interfered” in government work during a state minister’s programme and “assaulted and threatened to kill him."

The arrest of the journalist, Sanjay Rana, came after he questioned Gulab Devi, Minister of State (Independent) for Secondary Education, over the development work that was promised.

On March 11, Gulab Devi attended the check dam foundation stone laying ceremony in Budh Nagar Khandwa village of the district. During the programme, Rana asked her several questions related to the lack of implementation of the promises that she made during the Assembly elections.

"Before the Assembly elections, you had promised all of us, taken an oath in the temple, that this village (Budh Nagar Khandwa, where the event was taking place) is yours, that everyone here is your adopted child. You had told the village elders, ‘Tell me what work you have done, I will do it.’ You also said that if you win the elections, you would return to this village. But despite that, you never came back," he is heard saying in a video that has gone viral.

Rana continued: "You said you would pave the road from the temple to here. But the road is still so rough that people face difficulties while walking. You had also specifically said that you would build a boundary wall around the village temple. No work has begun on that. Villagers tried to build up pressure, went to your office but you never listened to them," he can be heard saying in the purported video.

The villagers can also be heard supporting the journalist and complaining about the status of developmental work.

Replying to the journalist’s questions, the minister said: "All these things which you have said are right but time is still there. Don't forget that Kundanpur village and Budh Nagar Khandwa are my responsibility. All this work that I promised will be done."

Soon after the programme, a local BJYM leader, Shubham Raghav, filed a case against Rana at Chandausi police station on charges that he interfered with government work and “thrashed and threatened” him.

The Chandausi police registered a First Information Report (FIR) under Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and arrested the journalist under Section 151 of CrPC. This Section is intended to be used to prevent the commission of cognisable offences.

"There was a check dam foundation ceremony on March 11 around 2 p.m, where Minister of State (Independent charge) for Secondary Education Gulab Devi also attended the programme. I was also present there. A fake journalist named Sanjay Rana, who had mic ID Moradabad Ujala YouTube channel, interfered in government work. I asked him not to do this, but he did not listen to me. He started abusing and assaulting me. He threatened me while leaving,” the BJP leader said in the FIR, as per reports.

However, Satendra Pawar, SHO, Chandausi, told reporters that the journalist was arrested and released a day after. "An FIR has been registered against him on the complaint of a BJP leader where he has alleged that he was assaulted, harassed, and intimidated by the journalist. We are investigating the matter,” he told the local media.

Arrest Condemned

Meanwhile, the journalist fraternity in Sambhal condemned the arrest by the Uttar Pradesh government, terming it a “brazen misuse of law” and an “effort to intimidate the press and stifle freedom of expression”.

"The Uttar Pradesh police action is high-handed, arbitrary and amounts to misuse of laws. The move to arrest a journalist merely for questioning in a democracy is an effort to intimidate the press, and stifle freedom of expression," Saad Usmani, member of Sambhal Press Club, a registered body, told NewsClick.

A delegation of journalists also visited Rana's village in Budh Nagar Khandwa village. The union said it would organaise a meeting to initiate action against police officials for “misusing” law.

"The minister Gulab Devi had promised to adopt the village which is also the village of the journalist. He was upset that neither was the village adopted nor the promise made during the Assembly election was fulfilled. He simply asked a few questions and for that he was not only humiliated by BJP workers but was arrested later," Usmani added.

Speaking with NewsClick, the journalist Rana, said: "There is a ruling of the Supreme Court that no journalist could be arrested merely for harshly criticising the government or the establishment, if the scribe did not incite violence against the government or hatred between communities, yet the police forcefully dragged me away from my house."

Narrating the sequence of his arrest, Rana, who works with Moradabad Ujala, a YouTube channel, said: "On Sunday, the police came to my house. I was grabbed by the collar and dragged publicly like a criminal. I didn’t expect that I would be targeted for asking questions. My village falls under Chandausi police station but they took me to Baniyakhed and kept me there in a room. They didn’t want my friends and family to know my whereabouts. I was badly treated by the cops and was warned against such questioning next time. In the whole process, I did not understand why I was being hounded.. just because asking some basic questions to a leader who is in power?"

When asked about the allegation made by the BJP leader that he misbehaved with him, Rana said: "I have evidence as a video of whole conversation with the minister. I did not misbehaved and even took prior permission to ask questions to the minister. When approved, only then I asked the questions, and that was my crime. I did not know that asking a question to a leader we have elected will cost me an FIR and land me jail."

Raghunath Singh, Rana’s father, who is a staunch BJP supporter, was disappointed with the arrest of his son. "Since the existence of BJP, I have been a worker of the party, yet my son was arrested merely for questioning about the development of the village. He pointed out the promises made regarding the development of the village during polls, what is wrong with it?" he told NewsClick, adding that the whole village was BJP “core” voters.

Read Also: UP: Over 51,000 Teaching Posts in Primary, 33,000 in Secondary Schools Lying Vacant, Union Says Violation of RTC Act

Dharmendra Chaudhary, editor of Moradabad Ujala, alleged his colleague was arrested only after the minister's direction. "If a journalist gets arrested for questioning then no one will go on the ground for the story. This trend is very dangerous and not acceptable," he told NewsClick.

Sumit Singh, a senior journalist based in Lucknow, told NewsClick: "Isn't it an irony that the same minister replied to the Opposition leader in the Assembly regarding vacant positions of teachers in government schools in the state and when recruitment will be held. This journalist, too, asked a simple question about his constituency, which is his right, but he was booked and arrested."

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