Police in the India state of Chatees Garh have arrested senior journalist Vinod Verma from his home near Dehli on Friday morning. He was arrested for allegedly blackmailing a minister of state against a sex video that he had acquired, according to BBC Urdu.
Police claim that as many as 500 copies of the video were made and burned on CDs, which were recovered at his house upon the arrest.
Vinod, who in the past associated with BBC Hindi Service, is a member of the Editors Guild and has also served as a digital editor at Hindi Amar Ujala, a newspaper with one of the largest circulations in India. Vinod denied having CDs, while adding that he only has a pen drive and that he was falsely implicated in the case
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the party currently ruling in Chatees Garh while Niksal Baris is also more active in the state.
Vinod, also from Chatees Garh, has been a prolific writer on social and political issues, and had recently visited the state with a team from the Editors Guild to prepare a report on the problems journalists face. “The ruling party is displeased with me,” Vinod said after he was arrested.
Vinod is said to be related to a senior Congress party leader, Bhupan Baghel. Baghel said that he also received the alleged CD, while the resultant action by the police proves that the CD is not doctored and is authentic.
“The Chatees Garh government was not happy with Vinod’s reporting and the action aims at suppressing the voice of journalists,” Baghel said.
The minister in question, Rajesh Munter, said that he has watched the CD himself and that it is completely fabricated. He added that he is ready to face inquiries by any institution.
This story has gained traction and has been widely circulated on TV channels, while civil rights organisations, such as People’s Union for Civil Liberties, have deemed it an attack on freedom of the press.
Vinod, after a transit remand served by Delhi court, will be taken to Raipur, the capital of Chatees Garh. A case was registered against Vinod yesterday on the complaint of BJP Minister Parkash Bajaj.
A local journalist from Raipur, Alok Potal, said that Vinod’s name was not even mentioned in the FIR that Bajaj had registered. He said that the police was informed about the shop that was making the copies and that the shop owner directed the police to Vinod.
Following the arrest, the Congress and BJP have indulged in a blame game, each accusing the other of hatching the conspiracy.