Arrest of HRD and Journalist Pushp Sharma
Mr. Pushp Sharma is an award winning investigative journalist based in New Delhi. His reporting for The Milli Gazette focuses on both Indian Muslim issues and broader human rights abuses in India, and he has uncovered scandals including state corruption, sentences against innocent people, and disappearances. As a result of his work, Pushp himself has become the target of judicial harassment and ongoing police investigations.
On 15 March 2016, Delhi police seized the human rights defender from his home in Lajpat Nagar. The police took Pushp to KotlaMubarakpur police station in New Delhi for interrogation, and allowed him go home approximately four hours later with the instructions to report back to the police station the following day. Local sources believe that Pushp Sharma is being targeted for his investigative story published in The Milli Gazette, in which he claimed the government had admitted to discriminatory hiring practices.
It seems the system is hell-bent to do a character assassination ... just because of a story. - investigative journalist Pushp Sharma
As part of his investigative work, Pushp has been filing Right to Information (RTI) requests for the past 10 years and regularly contributes news stories based on RTI replies from Indian authorities. In the story which is believed to have prompted his arrest, Pushp wrote that in an RTI response he received from the authorities, the government said that it was against policy to hire Muslims as trainers for International Yoga Day events.
After Pushp left the police station on the night of 15 March following his arrest, he issued the following public message to his readers:
My stand is the same now after this ordeal at the hands of the Delhi Police. I got many papers from the Ayush Ministry which any journalist will use if he gets such stuff which is harmful to the interests of the social and secular fabric of the country. Moreover, when the concerned ministry issued a press release denying what I had reported, we followed all journalistic rules and uploaded the ministry’s press release as well as other documents in our possession. I told the cops that if any story is questioned by an interested party, then the globally accepted norm is for the interested party to provide its version which is later published or uploaded by the editorial board of the publication after consulting legal experts. We too follow same policy and are open to this even now.
Moreover, I told the SHO of the concerned police station that in media if a group does a story and later any interested group or person updates it and sends facts, then the globally accepted policy is to crosscheck the content and publish or upload it with an apology. After listening this for a few minutes, I heard just abuses, and shouts and allegations, like: who is behind you and what is your motive? I told them that my decision and reason to do any story is always journalistic. So obviously people in power will try to spread rumours, do character assassination or try to connect me with some political outfit.
It seems the system is hell-bent to do [a] character assassination, arms-twisting and stoops to the extent of mockery and issuing threats just because of a story.
I will revert with another exposé on Yoga soon, if I continue to have my freedom.
Front Line Defenders believes that the arrest and persecution of Pushp Sharma is in response to his powerful investigations into corruption and social justice in India. Front Line Defenders calls for an end to the harassment of Pushp and other human rights defenders and journalists in India, and calls on the Indian authorties to ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate and peaceful work.