As part of the Income Tax Department’s raids across the country on Wednesday in separate cases related to alleged tax evasion, FCRA violations, and illicit funding of registered unrecognised political parties, it surveyed Delhi-based think tank Centre for Policy Research (CPR), global NGO Oxfam India, and Bengaluru-based Independent and Public-Spirited Media Foundation (IPSMF). The Opposition hit out at the raids, calling them “a deliberate move to exterminate all independent media”.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh, in a video statement from Kanyakumari where the Congress officially kickstarted the Bharat Jodo Yatra, said he was “aghast that a public charitable trust which is funding independent media has been raided,” adding that it was a “a deliberate move to exterminate all independent media. They are already buying over all television channels…Now they are even going to obliterate digital news platforms”.
Sharing a news article about irregularities found in an irrigation scheme in Madhya Pradesh, CPM secretary Sitaram Yechury said in a tweet on Wednesday, “‘Double engine’ protection to corruption in BJP-ruled states. Central agencies and departments are kept busy raiding independent think-tanks and organisations.”
Digipub, a platform that represents digital media organisations, condemned the raids in an official statement saying that the organisations’s “research and reports highlight data that provide valuable insights into vital socio-economic issues. All this is important for a healthy democracy.” It added: “This is not the first time that such raids are being conducted in recent years…Without any clarity on allegations or evidence, Income tax teams are being used to intimidate and harass organisations involved in public service journalism”.
On the same day, the IT department searched properties linked to businessmen in Chhattisgarh. Bhupesh Baghel, the state’s chief minister, told reporters at the Raipur airport that he had already predicted raids by the Income Tax and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
“I had said (that raids will happen)…now ED will also follow them,” Baghel said.
Commenting on the raids, Chhattisgarh Congress’s communication wing chief, Sushil Anand Shukla, alleged the Modi government has been misusing the Central probe agencies.
“There are reports that raids are being carried out by I-T at the premises of some businessmen. The way the Modi government is misusing Central investigation agencies, a slogan ‘kednra sarkar ke teen jamai (sons-in-law), ED, IT, and CBI’ has become common among people,” he said.
In Rajasthan, raids were conducted at premises belonging to state minister Rajendra Yadav and his family members.
“Raids are being conducted at five-six places. We do not mind (officers) doing the search because we do clean businesses. If the central government feels that something is wrong, then let them do it. I know this much that we are with the truth,” the Congress MLA told reporters in Jaipur.
“When we asked them (officers), they said that the search has to be done, the (Central) government has sent them,” he added.
Yadav said his family has been in the business for 72-74 years. He said they run a clean business, having no role in any political funding.
When asked if he saw any political motivation behind the raids, the minister said, “I have faced many ups and downs in my life. If there is anything like this, we will face it.”