New Delhi: Journalist and Founding Editor of 'The Wire' - Siddharth Varadarajan (who is also a foreign national holding US citizenship) known for confrontationist approach towards Modi regime and BJP - has been booked by Uttar Pradesh police and asked to appear at the Ayodhya police station at 1000 hours April 14, Tuesday.
Predictably, several media organisations and individual journalists flayed the UP government decision.
A statement on behalf of number of journalists say the Yogi Adityanath led dispensation's move is a "brazen attempt to muzzle the media". The statement has been endorsed among others by N Ram, Chairman, Hindu Group of Publications; Rajdeep Sardesai, Prem Shankar Jha, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay and Harish Khare, former media advisor to the then PM Manmohan Singh and also a former Editor with 'The Hindu'. among others. Signatories also include likes of Sagarika Ghose, John Dayal and Ziya Us Salam.
The controversy refers to an article reported by 'The Wire' on March 31 -- and not attributed any byline and simply given credit to 'The Wire Staff' says among other things - "On the day the Tablighi Jamaat event was held, Yogi Adityanath insisted that a large fair planned for Ayodhya on the occasion of Ram Navami from March 25 to April 2 would proceed as usual while Acharya Paramhans said that ‘Lord Ram would protect devotees from the coronavirus”. One day after Modi announced the “curfew like” national lockdown on March 24, Adityanath violated the official guidelines to take part in a religious ceremony in Ayodhya along with dozens of people."
Varadarajan, who is often described in BJP circle as 'agenda driven' journalist, had been in controversy in the past as well. In an article for a popular magazine in 2004, Siddharth Varadarajan wrote, “Far from being a spontaneous mass reaction to the attack on the Sabarmati Express at Godhra the day before in which 58 Hindu passengers died, the killings across most of Gujarat seemed scripted. So well chosen were the targets that it is almost as if there was already in place a plan to do something dramatic as part of the ongoing Ayodhya agitation, probably in order to polarise the state on communal lines"
In 2004 article, he had further said : Had Godhra not happened, would Naroda Patiya have burned, would Ehsan Jafri have been killed, the Best Bakery been destroyed and Bilkis Bano been raped? These questions are deeply problematic because they are tainted by the bankruptcy of the Sangh parivar’s moral arithmetic.
Varadarajan has his own approach and editorial judgement on issues. As Editor of 'The Hindu', he had famously disallowed carrying a story on the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's speech (in 2013) at Delhi's famous Shri Ram College on page 1 -- when the news value of the event suggested otherwise !
The FIR had referred to a tweet by Varadarajan which reads: "On the day the Tablighi Jamaat event was held, Adityanath insisted a large Ram Navami fair planned for Ayodhya from March 25 to April 2 would proceed as usual and that Lord Ram would protect devotees from the coronavirus".
Later, the scribe also wrote - "I should clarify that it was Acharya Paramhans, Hindutva stalwart and head of the official Ayodhya temple trust, who said Ram would protect devotees from coronavirus, and not Adityanath, though he allowed a public event on 25/3 in defiance of the lockdown and took part himself."