No Muslim row: Ayush min targeting me to contain damage, says journo | india | Hindustan Times
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No Muslim row: Ayush min targeting me to contain damage, says journo

india Updated: Mar 16, 2016 14:47 IST
Rhythma Kaul
Musline

Journalist Pushp Sharma tells HT he is being targeted because admitting it has a policy against hiring Muslims as trainers s political harakiri for a government struggling to project a secular image.(ANI)

Pushp Sharma, a journalist who broke a story about the Ayush ministry allegedly admitting to a no-Muslim policy for hiring yoga trainers, said on Wednesday the Centre was targeting him to contain the damage to its avowed secular image.

Read more: Journalist alleges abuse by cops over report on no-Muslim hire policy

Police picked up Sharma on Tuesday evening for questioning after the ministry of Ayush -- Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy – filed a complaint, saying he fabricated a Right to Information reply from the Centre that admitted the anti-Muslim bias.

“They can’t politically accept they don’t recruit Muslims as yoga trainers as they have to portray a secular image, but if you file an RTI and ask for numbers, there are no numbers to show,” Sharma told HT.

Read more: No-Muslims policy: Journalist picked up over ‘fake RTI reply

The police have registered a case of forgery against Sharma, who is to be questioned for a second time on Wednesday.

A freelance journalist, Sharma published a story in the Milli Gazette -- India’s oldest Muslim community journal – based on a ministry RTI reply that allegedly said none of the 3481 Muslim candidates who applied for a yoga trainers’ job was “invited, selected or sent abroad” as per “per government policy”

The story that was widely picked up by mainstream media triggered an avalanche of condemnation on social media with opposition parties holding it up as yet another example of the NDA regime’s intolerance. This prompted the ministry to dismiss the report and deny it ever issued the RTI reply.

But Sharma told HT he stood by his story and had all documents to prove his innocence that he will submit to the police.

“I have another yoga fraud story in the pipeline from the tourism ministry that will further expose this issue. Today I am going to the police with all the documents- there are postal envelopes in which I got the replies and detailed replies,” said Sharma, as he drove to the Kotla Mubarakpur police station.

The journalist said someone in the ministry made a mistake, for which he was being targeted.

“I have five documents with me where my qualification has been printed wrong. What do you say to that? I don’t know who made the mistake whether a clerk or an IAS officer in the ministry but clearly there is something missing from their side,” he said.

The 45-year-old said he worked as an investigative journalist in prominent papers and news channels in Delhi for over eight years. When asked a 2009 arrest for an alleged fake sting, Sharma said the case was still on and he hadn’t been proven guilty yet.

“In that case also I had submitted all the CDs to the police, proving my innocence. I was hired by a prominent paper known for its investigative stories after that sting story, but still I was arrested. I am an international award winning journalist, and will not go anywhere. They have some negative designs and I will fight,” he said.

In an elaborate statement hours after the Milli Gazette report, the ministry had called the details “factually incorrect” with minister Sripad Naik dubbing the story “bogus”.

“The contents regarding religion based data in the so-called Annexure- I are not only fabricated but factually incorrect also. The response of the International Cooperation Section of the Ministry clearly said that invitations were sent to yoga experts/enthusiasts without reference to their religion. The Ministry is initiating appropriate action in the matter,” read the official statement from the ministry.

“The contents regarding religion based data in the so-called Annexure- I are not only fabricated but factually incorrect also. The response of the International Cooperation Section of the Ministry clearly said that invitations were sent to yoga experts/enthusiasts without reference to their religion. The Ministry is initiating appropriate action in the matter,” read the official statement from the ministry.