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CBI raids NDTV founder Prannoy’s houses, sparks outrage

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Prannoy Roy

New Delhi, June 5:  In a move that sparked outrage and which NDTV said was “a blatant political attack on the freedom of the press”, the CBI on Monday conducted searches at the houses of the news network’s co-founder Prannoy Roy for allegedly causing financial losses to a private bank.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a case against Roy, his wife Radhika, a private company and conducted searches at his south Delhi residence in Greater Kailash-I and his house in Dehradun for “loss of Rs 48 crore to ICICI Bank”, officials said.

The officials said the office of RRPR Holding, the promoter of the listed broadcaster, was also searched.

“Searches were conducted (on Monday) at four places, including Delhi and Dehradun,” CBI spokesperson R.K. Gaur told IANS.

An FIR dated June 2 said the case has been registered against Roy, a veteran journalist, Radhika, NDTV and RRPR for “criminal conspiracy, cheating and criminal misconduct”.

It relates to alleged irregularities in a 2008 loan of Rs 366 crore that NDTV took from the private bank on guarantee by the holding company.

The loan, according to the CBI complaint, was settled a year later for a repayment that was Rs 48 crore less than the loaned amount.

NDTV and its linked companies have been under the scanner since 2014 and were last year served notices by the Income Tax department and the Enforcement Directorate.

But, it was for the first time that the CBI has come into the picture of a financial probe against the network, often seen by Bharatiya Janata Party supporters as opposed to the party ideology and the government.

The news network in a strongly-worded statement said the CBI had “stepped up the concerted harassment of NDTV and its promoters based on the same old endless false accusations”.

“NDTV and its promoters will fight tirelessly against this witch-hunt by multiple agencies. We will not succumb to these attempts to blatantly undermine democracy and free speech in India,” the statement said.

“It is clearly the independence and fearlessness of NDTV’s team that the ruling party’s politicians cannot stomach. No matter how much the politicians attack us – We will not give up the fight for freedom and the independence of media in India.”

But Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu rubbished the witch-hunt allegation.

“Law is taking its own course. This government does not believe in interfering. If somebody does something wrong simply because they belong to the media, you cannot expect the government to keep quiet.”

The CBI raids come days after NDTV anchor Nidhi Razdan had an on-air verbal tiff with BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, after he alleged that the news network was following an “agenda”, during a debate over the new central notification on cattle trade and slaughter. The BJP leader was told to leave the programme.

The CBI move triggered sharp reactions from some journalists, politicians and commentators.

Congress leader and former Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said the raids were a “direct assault” on the freedom of the press.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee termed the raids as a “disturbing trend” and her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal said it was an attempt to “silence independent and anti-establishment voices”.

Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav retweeted Banerjee and other tweets condemning the CBI raids.

Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman of the Observer Research Foundation who was earlier associated with the BJP and was close to L.K. Advani, said: “Raid on Prannoy Roy has less to do with financial wrongdoing, more with the ‘wrong’ of NDTV being an independent media voice. I condemn it.”

Historian Ramachandra Guha, who writes for various national and international periodicals, tweeted: “The UPA regime was defined by cronyism and corruption; this BJP government…is consumed by the desire to punish its critics and rivals.”

N. Ram, a veteran journalist and publisher of The Hindu and its former editor, said: “Those who value media freedom must speak out and act (be)cause they know that while nothing will happen in the end, the process is the punishment”

Shekhar Gupta, also a veteran mediaman, said: “CBI FIR for 48 cr ‘loss’ to private bank. Remember that line: name the man comrade, I’ll give you the charge?”

(IANS)

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Fresh snowfall, landslides shut Jammu-Srinagar highway

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jammu srinagar highway
ANI File Photo

Jammu, Feb 21: Fresh snowfall in the Bannihal sector and multiple landslides in the Ramsoo-Ramban sector blocked the Jammu-Srinagar highway, prompting halt of all traffic on Thursday on the strategic route.

“Over a foot of fresh snow has accumulated on the highway in Bannihal sector. There have been multiple landslides triggered by heavy rain at places in the Ramsoo-Ramban sector, as well,” a traffic department official said.

It is raining heavily along the 300-km stretch at various places both in the Kashmir Valley and the Jammu division.

“No vehicular traffic will be allowed on the highway today. Snow and landslide clearance operation will be started immediately after the weather improves,” the Traffic Department said.

The official said stranded vehicles along the highway were all parked at safe places.

The highway is regarded as the jugular vein of the landlocked valley as all essential supplies are routed to Kashmir through this road. Each time the highway gets blocked, shortages of essential supplies hit the valley.

From February 6 to 12 the highway had remained shut causing acute crisis in the valley.

IANS

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Pulwama fallout: Security of 18 separatists, 155 politicians in J&K withdrawn

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Jammu kashmir Mirwaiz Umer Farooq
The security cover of four senior separatist leaders -- Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Shabir Shah, Professor Abdul Gani Bhat and Bilal Lone were already withdrawn on Monday. (Photo Credit- Reuters)

Jammu, Feb 21: The Jammu and Kashmir administration on Wednesday withdrew security of 18 separatists and 155 political persons in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack on February 14 in which over 40 CRPF troopers were killed.

An order issued by the Home Department late on Wednesday said security cover of separatists and some mainstream politicians was also being withdrawn/downgraded apart from those that were initially withdrawn on February 18.

As per the new order, the new list includes names from the National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.

Some of them are Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik, former IAS officer Shah Faesal and PDP leader Waheed Para.

“Over 1,000 personal security guards and 100 vehicles provided to the secured persons are being withdrawn,” officials said here.

The security cover of four senior separatist leaders — Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Shabir Shah, Professor Abdul Gani Bhat and Bilal Lone were already withdrawn on Monday.

The decision to cut down heavily on separatist leaders’ cover was taken in the aftermath of the Pulwama attack when an explosive-packed SUV rammed into a bus of a Central Reserve Police Force convoy on the Jammu-Srinagar highway killing 40 paramilitary troopers on the spot in the worst-ever terror attack in the state since militancy struck there in 1989.

IANS

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Women, children used to ferry Pulwama explosive: Intelligence sources

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CRPF troopers killed in suicide attack in Pulwama

New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS) Women and children helped terrorists to ferry the deadly explosive RDX grade 5 (for military use) and ammonium nitrate from transit point Tral in Pulwama district in south Kashmir in carrying out a suicide attack on a CRPF convoy on February 14, intelligence sources told IANS.

More than 40 Central Reserve Police Force troopers were killed when a local suicide bomber, Aadil Dar, rammed his SUV into a bus carrying the troopers from Jammu to Srinagar.

The sources said the trigger for the explosive was manufactured locally and that ammonium nitrate was used as an oxidizer in the RDX explosive.

The attack took place on Jammu-Srinagar highway near Latoomode in Pulwama around 3.33 p.m. on February 14, stunning the over 2,500 troopers who were part of the convoy.

The military grade RDX was procured from across the border and the device was assembled around 10 km from the blast site, the sources said.

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