NEW DELHI: The contentious FIR invoking UAPA against NewsClick functionaries has alleged that Chinese telecom companies Xiaomi and Vivo have funnelled foreign funds into India to spread “false narratives through paid news”, allegations which were denied by the news portal.
Police alleged that a large amount of funds came from China to disrupt India’s sovereignty and cause disaffection against the country, but investigators have not quantified the amount that has been received by the portal in the FIR.
It also claimed that NewsClick founder-editor Prabir Purkayastha and his associates conspired to “peddle a narrative” that Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh are “disputed territories” and these “attempts to tinker” with the northern borders amount to an “act intended towards undermining” the unity and territorial integrity of India.
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Purkayastha has approached the Delhi High Court seeking to declare his arrest as illegal.
In the FIR, Delhi Police’s Special Cell has made claims like Purkayastha and his associates have used farmers’ protest and Covid-19 pandemic to “cause disaffection against India” by using funds provided by Neville Roy Singham, an investor who it alleges is close to the Chinese establishment, as well as trying to sabotage the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Purkayastha and NewsClick HR head Amit Chakravarty, who was not initially named as an accused in the FIR as an accused registered on August 17, were arrested on October 3 after day-long searches conducted at the premises of 46 journalists, consultants and staffers in Delhi, Gurugram and Noida.
According to Delhi Police, Purkayastha, Gautam Navlakha, and Singham, who were initially named in the FIR as accused, allegedly conspired to disrupt supplies and services essential to the life of community and abet damage and destruction of property by “protraction of farmers’ protest” through “illegal foreign funding.
Navlakha was arrested in the Bhima Koregaon case.
In what is seen as an attempt to raise questions on farmers’ protest that led to the withdrawal of three contentious farm laws, the FIR alleged that Purkayastha and others were inciting disaffection among the people, especially farmers, towards the democratically elected government, to create division and disharmony among people as part of a “larger criminal conspiracy having international ramifications”.
The NewsClick founder was also accused of conspiring with a group — People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) — to “sabotage” the 2019 Lok Sabha elections besides “acting against national interest” by promoting “misleading and false narrative” about Indian pharma industry as well as efforts of Modi government during Covid-19 pandemic.
“In furtherance of this conspiracy to disrupt the sovereignty of India and to cause disaffection against India, a large amount of funds was routed from China in a circuitous and camouflaged manner and paid news were intentionally peddled, criticising domestic policies, development projects of India and promoting, projecting and defending policies and programmes of the Chinese government,” the FIR claims.
It also alleged that People’s Dispatch Portal, maintained by the company running NewsClick, has been used for “intentionally peddling false narratives through paid news in lieu of crores of rupees, which was illegally routed.
“It is further learnt that big Chinese telecom companies like Xiaomi, Vivo etc incorporated thousands of shell companies in India in violation of PMLA/FEMA for illegally infusing foreign funds in India,” it said.
The FIR claimed that Purkayastha, Singham, Githa Hariharan (writer and partner of Purkayastha) and Gautam Bhatia — about whom the FIR does not provide any details but identify as “key person” — conspired to create Legal Community Network to campaign for and put up spirited defence of legal cases against these Chinese companies.