On 22 June, the National Human Rights Commission issued a notice to the chief secretary of Lucknow regarding a complaint accusing the Uttar Pradesh administration of cracking down on a journalist for reporting unflattering news. On 26 March, Vijay Vineet and Manish Mishra, both journalists with the Hindi paper Jansandesh Times, published a report about the dire straits of villages in Varanasi district, where members of the Musahar community, a Dalit sub-caste, reside. In Koiripur village, Musahar children were compelled to eat seeds from wild grass to keep from starving, they reported.
The Musahar families in the village had been unable to procure food owing to the sudden announcement of the national lockdown. That same day, Vineet received a notice from Kaushal Raj Sharma, the district magistrate of Varanasi. In it, Sharma had termed the article “false,” adding that it was a “sickening attempt to stigmatise the Musahar families.” He demanded that the report be rescinded and that the newspaper issue an apology in the following day’s edition, adding that an inquiry would be launched if this was not done.
The next day, a human-rights activist named Lenin Raghuvanshi filed a complaint with the NHRC regarding Vineet’s case. Raghuvanshi said Sharma’s notice was a “threat” to journalists. “The administration’s attitude is such that no journalist or newspaper will publish ground realities,” the activist wrote. In its notice, the NHRC asked the chief secretary of Lucknow to take appropriate action on the issue in eight weeks, and to inform the body of its action.