Anurag Kashyap, Taapsee Pannu among film personalities raided
- Residence and official premises of Kashyap and Pannu in Versova, Goregaon and Andheri were raided.
The income tax department on Wednesday raided the homes and offices of filmmakers Anurag Kashyap, Vikas Bahl, actor Taapsee Pannu, and other film and media personalities, triggering allegations from Opposition parties that the action was politically motivated to muzzle dissent.
An I-T official said the raids, which began at 8am and continued late into the evening, were carried at least 30 places in Mumbai and Pune, and included the premises of Reliance Entertainment executive Shibhashish Sarkar, talent agency Exceed Entertainment executive Afsar Zaidi and the now-dissolved production company, Phantom Films.
A second I-T official said Kashyap and Pannu were questioned in Pune.
Residence and official premises of Kashyap and Pannu in Versova, Goregaon and Andheri were raided. Pannu’s PR company KRI Entertainment was also searched. Kashyap and Pannu have criticised several policies and leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The official said the searches were part of a tax evasion probe against Phantom Films, started by Kashyap, Bahl, director Vikramaditya Motwane and producer Madhu Mantena. The company opened in 2011 but shut in 2018 after sexual harassment allegations against Bahl. In March 2015, Reliance Entertainment procured 50% stake in the company. Mantena’s premises were also raided.
All businesses, financial transactions, talent and event management contracts by Phantom with other entities is under scrutiny, added the official. Investigators said they seized documents and electronic evidence, and were examining them. A second official said bank accounts and lockers of these personalities would also undergo scrutiny and the searches might continue for a few more days.
In Maharashtra, the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi criticised the raids and said it was an attempt to suppress voices of people speaking against the central government. “Central agencies like ED [enforcement directorate], CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation], and Income Tax are being used to target those who take an anti-government stand and speak against the policies of the regime,” state minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) spokesperson Nawab Malik told reporters. “The premises of Anurag Kashyap and Pannu have been raided. Both were raising their voices against the government,” he added. His cabinet colleague, Ashok Chavan of the Congress, said the raids were the Centre’s way of putting pressure on people. “They first employed IT, CBI, ED to conduct raids on vocal & upright political rivals for their character assassination. Now govt is chasing social activists, journalists & artists to threaten them against calling spade a spade,” said RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav.
The central government rejected the allegations. “This is too much…probe agencies undertake investigations based on credible information and the matter later goes to courts as well,” said Union minister Prakash Javadekar.
Kashyap, 48, is a vocal critic of the government who has backed opponents of the Citizenship Amendment Act that fast-tracks citizenship for non-Muslim refugees from three neighbouring Muslim-majority countries. Among his notable films are Black Friday, Dev D and Gangs of Wasseypur.
Pannu, 33, has starred in films such as Pink, Badla and Thappad and has supported the ongoing farmers’ protest.