Two months after an FIR was registered against journalist Pushp Sharma for allegedly fabricating an RTI reply of the Ayush ministry, the south Delhi police arrested him from South Delhi’s Amar Colony on Friday evening .
The Delhi journalist had allegedly forged the RTI reply to publish a news report in the weekly newspaper Mili Gazette, claiming the Modi government was discriminating against Muslims and adopted a policy of not hiring any Muslim candidates as yoga trainers. “Sharma has been arrested under charges of cheating, forgery and promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc.,” said Nupur Prasad, additional DCP (south).
In March, Sharma was booked in the case registered days after his report, ‘We don’t recruit Muslims: Modi govt’s Ayush ministry’, appeared in the Milli Gazette. The report claimed the government in its reply said though 711 Muslim candidates had applied for the short-term assignment of trainers and teachers for the World Yoga Day in 2015, ‘no Muslim candidate was invited, selected or sent abroad as per government policy.’
The Ayush ministry denied the report and accused the publication of publishing a fictitious reply as annexure-I. The ministry officials filed a complaint with the police and accused Sharma of promoting disharmony and distrust with ulterior motives.
After the registration of the FIR, the police grilled Sharma, a resident of Dayanand Colony in southeast Delhi, for at least three consecutive days. He was arrested on Friday evening.
The police said they had completed the formalities for the arrest. On Saturday, Sharma was produced before a city court that sent him to Tihar jail for two days.
Zafarul-Islam Khan, chief editor of the Milli Gazette, said, “The FIR against the journalist and the Press Council of India’s suo motu action are clear attempts to stifle the freedom of the press.”
“While the Ayush Ministry was quick to file a complaint with the police, it failed to contact the news magazine. Moreover, the PCI, instead of protecting journalists and media publications, seems to be taking the side of the government,” he alleged.
The ministry earlier condemned the “misreporting” which it claimed was aimed at causing a “chasm” between different sections of the society and “promoting disharmony and mistrust with ulterior motives”.
Sharma had claimed he filed an RTI with the ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH), enquiring about the Muslim teachers and trainers recruited for foreign assignments during the World Yoga Day last year. The ministry responded, writing that they don’t recruit Muslims.