Something Rotten

The Adityanath government's targeting of journalists in Uttar Pradesh

On 8 June, Prashant Kanojia was picked up by the Lucknow police for tweeting about Uttar Pradesh chief minister Adityanath. shahid tantray for the caravan
01 December, 2019

On 8 June, around noon, four people in ordinary clothes abducted me from the front of my house in Mandawali, on the Delhi–Uttar Pradesh border. “You had tweeted against Baba ji,” they said, referring to the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Adityanath. “Now face the consequences.” On hearing this, the first thought that entered my mind was that these people must be from the Bajrang Dal or the Vishva Hindu Parishad. Out of them, two had worn chappals, which made it difficult to confirm whether they were from the police. The car in which they pushed me appeared to be private car, not a police vehicle. They raced it to Noida, inside Uttar Pradesh. After an argument in the car, they revealed that they belonged to the Lucknow police and had come to arrest me. When asked what the matter was, they replied that it was my tweet about Adityanath in which a woman claimed that she was Adityanath’s lover. I had written the tweet in a comical fashion: “Love concealed doesn’t stay concealed, Yogi Ji.”

I repeatedly asked them to show the warrant if they wanted to arrest me. But they listened to nothing. I noticed several calls coming on their mobile phones, which included caller names like “CO Sir,” “Pandey Ji,” and “CM media.” They kept saying on the phone that they were taking “Sir” and coming to Lucknow. This was beyond my understanding at the time but I later realised that this was being done on the order of the chief minister’s office. They did not reveal much more throughout the journey. Delhi to Lucknow is a journey of only five to six hours, but we did not reach until 10 pm. They had roamed the highway for ten hours. During the journey, I started fearing that this might be a fake encounter, since no first-information report had been filed to my knowledge. At around 10 o’clock, about a hundred policemen took me to a hospital. Looking at the large number of policemen, the doctor enquired whether I was a terrorist. After that, my thumb impression was taken and I was made to stand in a dark alley.

An hour later, I was brought to a magistrate’s house. That gave me momentary relief, because I had come to know that the magistrate was young and educated. I hoped he might listen to my version of events. Some policemen entered the house and then came back out to accompany me inside. By then I had not guessed what had transpired. I asked an officer where I was being taken. He replied, jail. Apart from that he did not say anything. At 12.20 am, I was taken to the Lucknow jail. According to rules, if a jail is closed at night, it will only open the next morning. The constable at the jail said that he would not be able to take me in and that I should be brought the next morning. The policeman replied that it was an order from above that I had to be jailed now. I was brought inside the jail and all my money was snatched away from me. I asked for the receipt; they said I would not be given anything.

I was put in a barrack along with murderers and rapists. I asked for food but even that was denied. The constable who went to leave me at the barracks asked why I kept on working against the government. He walked away, not waiting for an answer.