An FIR has been registered against Supriya Sharma, Executive Editor of Scroll.in by the UP Police, in connection to a report published by her on the debilitating state of affairs in Varanasi during the lockdown in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency.
The accused Supriya Sharma in her report titled ‘In Varanasi village adopted by Prime Minister Modi, people went hungry during the lockdown’ quoted Mala Devi, a resident of Varanasi’s Domari village, an alleged domestic worker, of having faced extreme hardship, including lack of food or ration during the lockdown. Her report highlighted how the out-of-work village poor had to survive without essential food because of a malfunctioning public distribution system (PDS), an inefficient and insouciant administrative machinery, existent caste prejudices, and petty corruption. She also pointed out that the relief food kits promised by the state administration had barely reached the village.
Domari is one of the villages which the prime minister had ‘adopted’ under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, a model village scheme for parliamentarians.
However, the FIR lodged at Ramnagar Police Station by Mala Devi complained that Sharma has misrepresented her statements and made false claims in her report. As per the FIR dated 13th June, Mala Devi claimed that she is not a domestic worker and claims that she is a sanitation worker at the Varanasi city municipality through outsourcing. She also stated that she did not face any distress during the lockdown, and had access to food.
“By saying that me and children went hungry, Supriya Sharma has made fun of my poverty and my caste. She has hurt my sentiments and my reputation in the society,” asserted Mala Devi in her complaint and sought for registration of FIR against both Sharma and the Editor-in-Chief of Scroll.in.
Subsequently, the Police have registered a case under Sections 501 (Printing or engraving matter is known to be defamatory) and 269 (Negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life) of the Indian Penal Code, along with relevant provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Reporters Sans Frontières, also known as Reporters Without Borders, an organization that promotes the cause of press freedom around the world condemned the FIR filed against the Executive Editor Supriya Sharma while citing that it is a blatant attempt to intimidate one of India’s most resilient reporter.
On the other hand, Scroll.in stood by its story and said, “This FIR is an attempt to intimidate and silence independent journalism, reporting on conditions of vulnerable groups during the Covid-19 lockdown.”
“Scroll.in interviewed Mala in Domari village, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, on June 5, 2020. Her statements have accurately been reported in the article titled, ‘In Varanasi village adopted by Prime Minister Modi, people went hungry during the lockdown.’ Scroll.in stands by the article, which has been reported from the Prime Minister’s constituency,” the statement added.