NewsClick founder conspired to sabotage 2019 polls, siphoned off funds: FIR
NewsClick has refuted the charges, saying it never published any news or information at the behest of any Chinese entity or authority
Journalist Prabir Purkayastha allegedly conspired with a group named Peoples Alliance for Democracy and Secularism to sabotage the 2019 general elections and that Chinese firms such as Xiaomi and Vivo incorporated shell companies to infuse foreign funds to further the conspiracy, the Delhi Police has said in its First Information Report (FIR) against NewsClick.
After raids across five cities over allegations of irregularities in the web portal’s cashbooks and foreign funding, Purkayastha, the NewsClick founder, and its human resource head Amit Chakravarty were arrested on Tuesday in connection with a case registered in August under the stringent anti-terrorism Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Indian Penal Code’s Sections 153A (promoting enmity) and 120B (criminal conspiracy).
The FIR, a copy of which HT has seen, names activist Gautam Navlakha and Neville Roy Singham, the American millionaire accused of spreading Chinese propaganda, among the accused.
Navlakha, 70, was among the activists, lawyers, poets, and scholars arrested in 2020 in connection with alleged inflammatory speeches made at the Elgar Parishad conclave in Pune in December 2017 a day before violence near the Koregaon-Bhima war memorial
The FIR says the police were investigating the source of money Purkayastha and his associates allegedly received even as it does not mention the names of all 46 suspects questioned in connection with the case on Tuesday. It adds that Purkayastha allegedly siphoned off the foreign funds and distributed them to Navlakha and associates of activist Teesta Setalvad.
The FIR cites secret inputs and says Indian and foreign entities illegally infused funds worth crores. It adds this was done in pursuance of conspiracy and intention to disrupt India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, cause disaffection, and threaten the country’s unity and integrity.
The FIR refers to Puryakastha, Amit Sengupta, D Raghunandan, Bappaditya Sinha, Navlakha, Amit Chakravarti, and Worldwide Media Holding LLC as NewsClick’s shareholders. It adds that Navlakha was a shareholder in NewsClick since its inception in 2018 while accusing him of involvement in anti-Indian and unlawful activities such as “actively supporting” banned naxal (Maoist) organisations.
The FIR says Navlakha has been associated with Purkayastha since 1991 while referring to his “anti-national nexus” with Ghulam Nabi Fai, who was in 2012 sentenced to two years in jail in the United States on charges of illegally working for Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence.
The FIR cites emails between Purkayastha, Neville, and “some other Chinese employees” and says they “expose their intent to show that Arunachal Pradesh and Kashmir as not parts of India”. It refers to attempts to disrupt supplies and essential services by protraction of the 2020–2021 farmers’ protest on the outskirts of Delhi. The FIR alleges the accused promoted and supported the agitation to hurt the Indian economy. It also mentions efforts to peddle a negative narrative about the government’s efforts to contain Covid-19 in India.
NewsClick has refuted the charges, saying it never published any news or information at the behest of any Chinese entity or authority. It denied taking any directions from Singham. “All funding received by Newsclick has been through the appropriate banking channels and been reported to the relevant authorities as required by law, as substantiated by the Reserve Bank of India in proceedings before the high court of Delhi,” the portal said in a statement.
At least 400 police officials raided 30 locations across Delhi, Noida, Gurugram, Mumbai, and Ghaziabad on Tuesday morning, questioning 46 people, including journalists, freelancers, writers, and satirists, associated with NewsClick for eight hours. Digital devices were among those seized for those questioned.
Opposition parties and media bodies condemned the raids and the arrests while raising concerns over the muzzling of the press.
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