We condemn 'intimidation tactics', shows govt scared of criticism: Cong on IT raid at BBC

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Jairam Ramesh | File Photo: PTI

New Delhi: The Congress on Tuesday termed as "intimidation tactics" an Income Tax survey operation at the BBC offices and alleged that the action shows that the Narendra Modi government is scared of criticism.

The Income Tax Department on Tuesday conducted the survey operation at the BBC's offices in Delhi and Mumbai as part of an investigation into alleged tax evasion, officials said.

Reacting to the development, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said, "Time and again, there has been an assault on freedom of Press under the Modi government. This is done with brazen & unapologetic vengeance to strangulate remotely critical voices.

"No Democracy can survive if institutions are used to attack Opposition and Media. People will resist this," he said in a tweet.

The Congress, on its official Twitter handle, used a picture of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) highlighting that India is 150th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index and said, "A dictator is a coward".

It also said, "First came the BBC documentary, it was banned. Now I-T has raided the BBC. Undeclared Emergency."

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said while the party is demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe on the Adani issue, the "government is after the BBC".

He also used a Hindi idiom to attack the government, saying "Vinash Kale, Viprit Buddhi" (when doom approaches, a person's intellect works against his interest).

"Here we are demanding JPC on the Adani issue, but the government is after the BBC. Vinash Kale Viprit Buddhi," Ramesh said.

Congress general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal said the I-T raid at BBC's offices "reeks of desperation and shows that the Modi government is scared of criticism".

"We condemn these intimidation tactics in the harshest terms. This undemocratic and dictatorial attitude cannot go on any longer," he said in a tweet.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said, "The Government's message to all citizens and organisations is 'behave, or else'. The Government's definition of freedom of the press is 'we are a free country, you are free to express your opinion as long as it agrees with mine'."

"After practically shutting down Amnesty International and OXFAM, the BBC is next in line. Shameful," the former home minister said on Twitter.

Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said no institution is above the law, but the "raids" by 20 tax officials on the BBC's Delhi and Mumbai offices and studios are a "deplorable own-goal".

"They will be seen worldwide as petty retaliation for the BBC documentary & as confirmation of the BJP government's drive to stifle press freedom," the former minister of state for external affairs said.

Congress general secretary Randeep Surjewala alleged the government is strangling democracy, the Constitution and parliamentary values.

"It is determined to crush every question raised against it. There is a need for investigation into fraud in public savings deposited in banks and LIC, but the Modi government has shamelessly used all its power to suppress the voice of the BBC."

Another Congress leader Manish Tewari tweeted, "This raid/survey is so imbecile, childish & beyond even silly. As hosts of G-20 what are we telling the world that rather than an emerging great power we are an insecure power. Whichever bright spark thought this one up is @PMOIndia‘s worst enemy."

The action by the I-T department comes weeks after the British broadcaster aired a two-part documentary -- "India: The Modi Question".


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