India Today has taken senior anchor and consulting editor Rajdeep Sardesai off the air for two weeks for spreading fake news. He tweeted saying that the farmer who was killed during a tractor rally on Republic Day had died in police firing, The Wire reported on Thursday. The channel has also deducted a month’s salary from the anchor.
Ever since the three farm bills were passed in both the houses of the Parliament, farmers have been holding several protests around the Delhi borders. Protest doesn’t seem to be getting over in the national capital.
The farmers organized a massive tractor rally on Republic Day. Breaking police barricades, they barged into Red Fort and hoisted the Nishan Sahib, which is a symbol of the Sikh religion.
The situation became volatile after some farmers brandished swords and clashed with police personnel. Police resorted to tear gas shells to disperse them and thwart their attempt to move towards Lutyens’ Delhi and Rajpath, the heart of the national capital.
It was not clear how many protestors had been injured, but one farmer died in the ITO area. While the Delhi Police said that the farmer had died in an accident, protestors alleged that the farmer was shot.
In a tweet, Sardesai had said that farmers had told him the protestor was shot at. “One person, 45-year-old Navneet killed allegedly in police firing at ITO,” he wrote. “Farmers tell me: the ‘sacrifice’ will not go in vain.”
On Tuesday evening, the journalist also went live on India Today, and said that the death of the farmer “would result in this rally becoming a big movement across the country”, according to The Wire.
However, the Delhi Police released a video shot at the ITO area in which a tractor can be seen crashing into a barrier and overturning. Hours after this video was released, Sardesai retracted his statement.
“While the farm protestors claim that the deceased Navneet Singh was shot at by Delhi police while on a tractor, this video clearly shows that the tractor overturned while trying to break the police barricades,” he wrote on Twitter. “The farm protestors’ allegations don’t stand. Postmortem awaited.”
Additionally, in his live coverage at 5.47 pm on January 26, Sardesai said, “What we do know is that while the farm protesters that we met insist that the person who died named Navneet Singh was shot at, but the police has provided us with a video that shows very clearly that the tractor overturned,” according to The Wire.
However, several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders said that this was not enough and demanded that a first information report be filed against him or that he be sacked for spreading “fake news”.
“Rajdeep said that he himself saw Navneet was shot in the head,” wrote party leader Kapil Mishra on Wednesday. “Rajdeep’s lies exposed in post mortem and video Rajdeep was openly inciting the attack on Delhi Police.”