Lucknow: The Varanasi District Magistrate (DM) Kaushal Raj Sharma has sent a showcause notice to a journalist and his editor-in-chief after their local daily carried a report claiming that members of the Musahar community were surviving on grass at a village in the district.
The report, by journalists Vijay Vineet and Manish Mishra, had been published on 26 March in the local daily Janadesh Times, about the plight of residents at Koiripur village in Varanasi district, which falls under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, ever since the lockdown was announced Tuesday. It was accompanied by photographs of children eating grass that have since been widely shared on social media.
The notice has now been issued to Vineet and the paper’s Editor-in-Chief Subhash Rai, calling on them to publish a denial of the report.
In the notice, DM Kaushal Raj Sharma states that he had got the matter investigated by an ADM-level officer and established that the report was fabricated one. He added that the Dalits are not eating grass but ankari dal (wild pulses) that grow along with wheat in the fields.
Sharma told the local media that the Dalits were eating green gram too, which makes it a nutritious meal. He also said the local daily “sensationalised a trivial issue”. He circulated a photograph of himself and his son with a bundle of the ‘ankari grass’.
This is the second such instance of an UP administration going after a journalist over a story. Last year, an FIR was lodged against a journalist who had exposed flaws in mid-day meal scheme in Mirzapur district.
News is real, will not back down: journalist
In conversation with ThePrint, journalist Vijay Vineet stood by his report.
“I have all the photos and videos related to the report, which I have sent to the DM. The condition of Musahars in Koiripur village has been very poor for the last three to four days,” Vineet said. “Due to the lockdown they are unable to go anywhere and have no money either.”
He said that the Musahars showed him the empty utensils in their homes of which he has videos. He claimed that the report had created an impact as the local administration reached the village on the same day and quickly arranged food for the Musahar families. Villagers from the nearby villages have also started helping them, he said. .
Congress questions need for the notice
Congress state president Ajay Lallu has also raised the matter. In a statement, Lallu criticized the state administration.
“If someone is eating ankari grass, then the Uttar Pradesh government and its administration should be ashamed and DM Kaushal Raj Sharma should immediately apologise for his conduct,” the statement reads.