The Delhi Police on October 3 arrested Prabir Purkayastha, founder and Editor-in-Chief of news portal NewsClick and its Human Resources head Amit Chakraborty in an alleged terror case.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (PRO) Suman Nalwa said that a total of 46 “suspects”, including nine women, were questioned and their phones, laptops and devices seized for further examination. She added that proceedings were on and two persons had been arrested thus far.
Police raided the homes and offices of journalists, authors, academics, contributors and a satirist associated with the news portal in a terrorism case. The journalists were asked questions about the Delhi communal riots and the CAA agitation of 2019-20, the farmers protest of 2020-21 and whether they used encrypted messaging applications such as Signal on their phones. The phones and laptops of all the employees, contributors and consultants of the news portal were seized.
The Special Cell of the Delhi Police had registered a first information report (FIR) in the case on August 17 under Sections 13, 16, 17, 18 and 22 of the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act pertaining to unlawful activities such as raising of funds for a terrorist act or threatening witnesses and Sections 153A and 120B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for promoting religious enmity between groups and criminal conspiracy, respectively.
The FIR was registered days after The New York Times published a report on August 8 that the portal received money from American businessman Neville Roy Singham to spread Chinese propaganda.
The allegations are already under investigation by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) since 2021. The ED has accused the company of money laundering, claiming that the portal received ₹77 crore as foreign remittance between the years 2018-21.
One of the persons whose phone and laptop was seized by the police in an early morning raid told The Hindu that she was asked about her visit to Shaheen Bagh area in southeast Delhi in 2020, which was the hub of protest against the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA), a legislation that fasttracks citizenship of undocumented non-Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
Another contributor who was questioned at Special Cell’s office in South Delhi said that he was asked about his involvement in student politics, particularly at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
“I was also asked if I have done any report regarding Khalistani activities. They asked if I received phone calls from Poland, Australia and the U.K.,” the journalist said, on condition of anonymity.
The questioning of the men was done at the Special Cell office for 6-10 hours after their homes were raided. The women were questioned at their homes.
Senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta said he was questioned for around 10 hours.
“My Gurgaon residence was raided early today, then the police asked me several questions at the Special Cell office. They asked if I have covered the farmers protest or the Delhi riots. They also asked if I received a phone call from the U.S.; I told them my wife’s brother lives there,” Mr. Thakurta said as he emerged from the Special Cell office.
The other journalists and contributors who were questioned included Urmilesh, Abhisar Sharma, Bhasha Singh, Subodh Varma, Sanjay Rajoura, Aunindyo Chakraborty and Sohail Hashmi.
During the day, police sealed the Sainik Farms office of the news portal. All staffers, including junior employees of the portal, were questioned by the police. A journalist said he had been asked to appear before the police again in the next few days.