India Today has suspended its senior anchor and consulting editor Rajdeep Sardesai for two weeks for his on-air claim that Delhi Police had shot and killed a farmer during the Republic Day (26 January) tractor rally.
The channel has also deducted a month’s salary from the journalist on its payroll. Sardesai has not commented on the issue.
On January 26, farmers’ protesting against the three farm laws defied Delhi Police to take their tractor rally to several places they had promised not to venture to. A day later, the police registered cases against farmer-activists like Rakesh Tikait, Darshan Pal and Gurnam Singh Chaduni and rent-a-cause activist Yogendra Yadav — most of whom had distanced themselves from the rioting mobs after instigating them for two months.
Several videos surfaced as the tractor-driving rich farmers backed by middlemen clashed with the police during the tractor march. Delhi Police said that these farmer-rioters left more than 300 police personnel injured. The police later booked 37 farmer leaders in an FIR in connection with the riots.
Two farmers’ unions withdrew from the agitation because of the events that unfolded on Republic Day.
Sardesai had claimed in a tweet, “One person, 45-year-old Navneet killed allegedly in police firing at ITO. Farmers tell me: the ‘sacrifice’ will not go in vain.” He was not alone. Leftist news websites corroborated his claim soon, citing “sources” on the ground whereas the following video makes it clear Sardesai was lying.
Navreet (not Navneet) happened to be visiting India from Australia where he had migrated some years ago and come under the influence of Khalistanis in Melbourne. He had recently got married and had come to Village Dibdiba in Rampur of Uttar Pradesh to celebrate
The video substantiates the statement by Delhi Police that the farmer had died when his tractor overturned. Later, Delhi Police released its own video where the tractor could be seen ramming a barricade, losing control and falling by the roadside.
Minutes after this video was released, Sardesai retracted his statement and said, “While the farm protestors claim that the deceased Navneet (sic) Singh was shot at by Delhi police while on a tractor, this video clearly shows that the tractor overturned while trying to break the police barricades. The farm protestors’ allegations don’t stand. Post mortem awaited.”
Apparently to save his skin, Sardesai then tweeted that he appreciated the police, saying they showed “great restraint” at Red Fort and ITO.
The propagandist did not stop at that. During his live show at 5:47 PM on 26 January for India Today, telecast after the tweet, he said, “What we do know is that while the farm protesters that we met insist that the person who died named Navneet (sic) Singh was shot at, but the police has provided us with a video that shows very clearly that the tractor overturned.”
Several BJP leaders demanded that an FIR be filed against Sardesai nevertheless or his job be terminated for spreading “fake news”.
Delhi Police filed a total of 22 FIRs related to the 26 January riots. The cops have detained around 200 people so far. Multiple videos and CCTV footage are being scanned to identify those involved in the violence and strict action will be taken against the culprits, Delhi Police Commissioner SN Shrivastava said.