At a time when television news channels get away with much more than misreporting (later even correcting) during a tense, developing situation, the India Today Group has taken senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai off air for two weeks and fined him a month’s salary.
According to a report in The Wire, India Today removed Sardesai for an on-air claim and tweets posted by him about the death of 24-year-old farmer Navdeep Singh. Sardesai, usually seen in the role of a prime-time anchor lately, was out reporting from Delhi on January 26, the day the farmers’ tractor parade was marked by incidents of violence.
The farmers have been protesting against the Farm Laws for over two months at Delhi’s borders. Farmer leaders had reached an agreement with the Delhi Police over three routes for a planned tractor rally on Republic Day. However, some groups did not follow the routes, moving into the metropolis and leading to clashes with the police.
While reporting on the clashes in Delhi, Sardesai, citing farmers’ claims, said that Singh had died due to police firing. “One person, 45-year-old Navneet killed allegedly in police firing at ITO. Farmers tell me: the ‘sacrifice’ will not go in vain,” he had tweeted.
The Delhi Police said that Singh had died after his tractor overturned at a barricade. It later released a video which showed the same.
“While the farm protestors claim that the deceased Navneet Singh was shot at by Delhi police while on a tractor, this video clearly shows that the tractor overturned while trying to break the police barricades. The farm protestors allegations don’t stand. Post mortem awaited,” Sardesai had tweeted when the video came out.
While the farm protestors claim that the deceased Navneet Singh was shot at by Delhi police while on a tractor, this video clearly shows that the tractor overturned while trying to break the police barricades. The farm protestors allegations don’t stand. Post mortem awaited.👇 pic.twitter.com/JnuU05psgR
— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) January 26, 2021
“The police have shown great restraint despite grave provocation by the farm protestors in ITO/Red Fort area: they fired tear gas, no evidence of bullets fired although farm protestors claimed otherwise. Amidst claims and counter claims, the police action needs to be commended,” Sardesai opined in a reply to his tweet.
However, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders were soon asking for Sardesai’s sacking. “He is a repeat offender, should have been sacked!” tweeted the BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya.
Kapil Mishra, whose role in the Delhi Riots in February last year is yet to be scrutinised, also tweeted, saying Sardesai was inciting violence against police personnel.
While there were no exact estimates of how many farmers were hurt in Tuesday's violence, the Delhi Police has said 394 of its personnel were injured. Earlier on Wednesday, Delhi Police Commissioner S.N. Srivastava said that 25 criminal cases have been registered and 19 people arrested so far.
With inputs by PTI