Siddharth Varadarajan Photo Credit: The Hindu.

FIR against The Wire’s Siddharth Varadarajan for article on farmer’s death; Varadarajan calls it malicious prosecution

As part of a series of criminal cases against journalists, Uttar Pradesh’s Rampur district police have registered a first information report (FIR) against The Wire‘s founding editor Siddharth Varadarajan for tweeting a story on the claims made by the family of the farmer who was killed during the Republic Day tractor rally.

Varadarajan has been booked under Sections 153-B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) and 505(2) (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

This followed a story published by The Wire on Friday, reporting the allegations made by deceased farmer Navreet Singh’s family. The farmer’s grandfather rejected the Delhi Police’s claims that he had died after his tractor overturned. The family has alleged that the man was shot.

Varadarajan had shared the said news story on Twitter under the caption: “Hardeep Singh Dibdiba, grandfather of the youth killed in tractor parade, levels a sensational charge—that a doctor who was part of the autopsy told him a bullet caused the injuries “but my hands are tied”….”

Reacting to the Tweet,  the Rampur district magistrate tweeted to Varadarajan: “We ardently request you to please let’s be sticking to facts and facts only,” he wrote. “We hope our request will be sincerely taken up by you.”

Varadarajan on Sunday morning reacted to the FIR registered against him.

“What’s the IPC [Indian Penal Code] provision for ‘malicious prosecution’,” he asked. “Here is the UP Police indulging in it, filing an FIR against me for tweeting about what the grandfather of the farmer who was killed in the tractor parade had said on the record!”, Varadarajan tweeted.

Pertinently, The Wire’s report had also included statements by the police and doctors rejecting the family’s claims.

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Earlier, the Uttar Pradesh police registered a sedition case against senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai for his tweet over the cause of Singh’s death.

Besides Sardesai, the police also named Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, Qaumi Awaz editor Zafar Agha, National Herald’s senior consulting editor Mrinal Pande, The Caravan magazine’s editor, and founder Paresh Nath, The Caravan editor Anant Nath and its executive editor Vinod K Jose for allegedly sharing unverified news about Singh’s death.

The Delhi Police has also filed a case against Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, The Caravan magazine and others for allegedly misleading public about the death of a protester at the ITO during the violence on Republic Day.

The Editors Guild of India has condemned the filing of FIRs against senior editors and journalists for their reporting on the #farmers‘ tractor rally and the ensuing violence. It has called it an attempt to “intimidate, harass and stifle” the media.

Yesterday, the Delhi police also arrested freelance journalist Mandeep Poonia for allegedly misbehaving with police personnel and obstructing public servants from discharging their duties at the Singhu border.

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