Rachit Kaushik, also known as Tantra Baba and the founder of the Sab Loktantra news portal, was arrested by the Punjab Police in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, on Tuesday, February 6. Reports indicate that Kaushik was apprehended while attending his niece’s wedding.
Upon investigation, it was revealed that Kaushik was detained based on an FIR filed against him regarding derogatory remarks against a particular religion.
The FIR, which prompted Kaushik’s arrest, did not explicitly name him or mention his association with Sab Loktantra. Rather, it was lodged following a complaint from Alisha Sultan, a pastor from the Salem Tabri Police Station area in Ludhiana. Sultan alleged that on January 17, a Twitter account named ‘noconversion’ posted derogatory content about Christian women and nuns, potentially inciting communal tensions.
The complainant accused the account owner of insulting Christian women and nuns and asserted such posts could incite communal tensions, which might disturb peace in the country.
Although the FIR mentioned that copies of the posts were attached to the complaint, the links to those posts were not included. Additionally, the FIR, registered under Sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 153A (promoting enmity), 153 (giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 504 (intentional insult) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 67 of the IT Act, did not specify which posts by the said account hurt the religious sentiments of the complainant.
According to the OpIndia report, Kaushik’s mother disclosed that Punjab Police detained her son due to his criticism of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in his videos. One of these videos, shared by the ‘noconversion’ account on X on January 16, discussed alleged income received by Kejriwal’s son from renting treadmills to the CM’s residence. Despite this, Kaushik did not address Christians or speak against conversions in the clip. Kaushik’s mother recounted that a Punjab Police officer remarked, “We have been tracing you for a long time. Finally, we caught you,” during the arrest.
Interestingly, the FIR provided to Rachit Kaushik’s family does not mention Rachit at all. It only references the Twitter handle ‘no conversion’. The FIR also omits any mention of the video targeting Arvind Kejriwal and his son. Consequently, it appears likely that Rachit may have been arrested because of the video shared by the ‘noconversion’ Twitter handle.
In response to Rachit’s arrest, journalist Vikas Bhaduria claimed in a tweet that Rachit Kaushik presented a video exposing the Kejriwal administration paying Rs 10 lakh in rent to Arvind Kejriwal’s son for leasing a treadmill at Sheesh Mahal. Following this disclosure, Rachit Kaushik was reportedly abducted by armed individuals during a wedding ceremony yesterday. His wife’s cries were heard, leading to suggestions of dictatorship.
सच दिखाओगे तो उठा लिए जाओगे, पत्रकार #RachitKaushik_Kidnapped ने एक वीडियो दिखाया कि किस तरह अरविंद केजरीवाल के बेटे को केजरीवाल सरकार शीश महल में ट्रेड मिल किराए पर उपलब्ध करवाने के लिए 10 लाख रुपये किराया दे रही है, इसके बाद कल एक शादी समारोह से रचित कौशिक को कुछ बंदूक़ धारी… https://t.co/tOP5Auasgm
— Vikas Bhadauria (@vikasbha) February 7, 2024
Supporters of Rachit are accusing Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal of silencing independent journalism.
Twitter user Mr Sinha described Rachit’s arrest as a disgraceful act by Punjab police, stating, “This journalist conducted a program about Kejriwal’s son and was abducted yesterday. His associates allege that it was Punjab police in plain clothes. If true, there’s nothing more shameful than this. If his report was false, it should be a matter of defamation, and Arvind Kejriwal should file a lawsuit.”
This journalist did this show on Kejriwal’s son, and got kidnapped yesterday. His friends are claiming that it was Punjab police in civil dress.
If it’s true, nothing can be more shameful than this.
— Mr Sinha (@MrSinha_) February 7, 2024
“What if they also resort to such kidnappings? The Home Ministry must intervene. This is becoming a new norm; all opposition parties are engaging in it shamelessly and without fear,” tweeted Mr. Sinha, defending the founder of the news portal.
अरविंद केजरीवाल के शीश महल का सच दिखाने के बाद टाइम्स नाउ की महिला पत्रकार को पंजाब पुलिस ने अवैध तरीके से उठा लिया। और अब खबर आ रही है कि अरविंद केजरीवाल का बेटा कैसे लाखों में खेल रहा है यह वीडियो दिखाने पर पत्रकार रचित कौशिक का अपहरण हो गया है। बताया ये जा रहा है कि केजरीवाल…
— Arbind Jha (@arbindjha) February 7, 2024
Amid Kidnapping Accusations, Muzaffarnagar Police Asserts Punjab Police Apprehended Individual with Non-Bailable Warrant
The detention of the founder of the news portal triggered memories of the arrest of Times Now journalist Bhavana Kishore by Punjab Police in the previous year.
As social media users rallied behind Rachit, criticising the Punjab government for his arrest, so-called fact checker Muhammad Zubair tweeted that Rachit had been detained for spreading false information and clarified that no abduction had occurred.
— Mohammed Zubair (@zoo_bear) February 7, 2024
According to a report from the Indian Express, Ludhiana Police Commissioner Kuldeep Singh stated that Kaushik was apprehended following the filing of a case against him for allegedly committing offenses related to insulting religious sentiments and inciting discord among various religious groups.
Delhi-based BJP leader Tajinder Bagga, who was earlier picked up by the Punjab police, used X to draw a connection between the arrest and Kaushik’s alleged exposé on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s son.
Meanwhile, on his Instagram channel “Sab Lok Tantra,” Kaushik claimed in his latest post that he was a “bold voice of Hindutva, famous journalist, political analyst” who was “picked up under a political conspiracy” by Punjab Police from Muzaffarnagar after he “presented some facts on his channels regarding Arvind Kejriwal, his family, and the Punjab government.”
Supporters are advocating for “Justice for Baba” and “Rachit Kaushik kidnapped” hashtags on X since his arrest.