Investigative Journalist Reporting on Bastar Arrested By Chhatisgarh Police Over Alleged Charges Of Extortion
An investigative journalist, Vinod Verma, was arrested on charges of extortion at 3 AM on 27 October, from his house near Delhi. Verma, who is a member of the Editor’s Guild, was believed to be working on an investigative case against the Chhatisgarh government.
Verma was taken to the Indirapuram Police Station at 3.30 am; interrogation lasted for long hours there. He will be presented at a Ghaziabad later today where he will be produced before a magistrate for obtaining a transit remand to take him back to Chhattisgarh.
An FIR has been registered on 2 pm but does not name Vinod Verma.
An acclaimed journalist, Verma has worked as a digital editor with Amar Ujala and also with BBC Hindi. Currently, he was working as a freelance journalist and also was a part of a fact-finding team that had visited Chhatisgarh last year, to investigate about the intimidation of journalists in the state.
Verma’s arrest took place after a complaint was lodged by one Prakash Bajaj on 26 October, a member of the Chhattisgarh BJP’s IT cell, who claimed that someone was in possession of a CD of his boss (minister).
The Chhattisgarh police have claimed that they have seized around 500 CDs, a laptop and a pen drive. It points out that Verma was trying to make copies of a sex CD which allegedly involved a minister from Chhatisgarh and that he intended to circulate this CD. It alleged that Verma was making extortion claims with the sex tape.
He has been charged under sections relating to extortion, criminal intimidation and wrongful confinement.
Verma’s wife reportedly said that the police had come without proper documents and did not allow them to speak.
The case was transferred to the Crime Branch. They had gone to the shop that had allegedly 1000 copies of the sex tape; the shopkeeper said that the copies were done on the order of a person named Mr Verma.
However, the contents of the CD has not yet been disclosed by the police.
Speaking to ANI, Verma has said, “I have a sex CD of a Chhattisgarh Minister…the Chhattisgarh government is not happy with me.”
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) October 27, 2017
The Chhatisgarh government has claimed that Verma was working hand-in-glove with the state’s opposition, Congress to malign the BJP-led government. “The sex CD is fake. I appeal to the CM to get this investigated from any agency. I condemn this,” ANI quoted Rajesh Munat, the PWD Minister of the state as saying.
— ANI (@ANI) October 27, 2017
While claims are being made that Verma is related to state Congress Chief, Bhupesh Vaghel, Vaghel has refuted such claims. Alongside, he has also said, “This is an attack on democracy, and we condemn this. They are targeting a journalist to protect their minister.”
The arrest of Vinod Verma at odd hours of the day have created a lot of furore in the social media. Questions are being raised if the arrest of the journalist is nothing but a gagging act of the government, to stop anyone from speaking up against the ruling BJP.
Vinod Verma Ex BBC n Amar Ujala Digital Editor has been picked up most mysteriously by UP N Chhatttisgarh Police 3.30am. Attack on press?
— ashutosh (@ashutosh83B) October 27, 2017
The Logical Indian hopes that the concerned authorities look into the matter and ensure an unbiased investigation so that the innocent does not bear the brunt of wrongly played politics.