In a letter sent to veteran journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, a group that calls itself Legal Rights Observatory (LRO) has threatened to file a police complaint and take legal action against him. LRO has taken exception to Sardesai’s choice of guest on his show ‘News Today At Nine’ that airs on the Headlines Today TV channel.
On Monday, after 26 CRPF soldiers were killed in a Maoist attack, Sardesai discussed the Naxal problem in Chhattisgarh on his prime-time news show. The invited guests included Delhi University professor and human rights activist Nandini Sundar, IPS office Dilip Trivedi and MoS (Home) Hansraj Ahir, and LRO had a problem with one of them.
In the letter threatening to file a police complaint against Sardesai, LRO called Nandini Sundar a “naxal worker”.
“With this email I am demanding stringent action against your Editor Rajdeep Sardesai and other members of the editorial board for the shameless act,” wrote Vinay Joshi, Convenor, LRO.
According to Joshi, inviting Sundar — an academic who has worked extensively on Maoist insurgency — to the show was a “shameless act”. Sundar recently authored a book, titled The Burning Forest: India’s War in Bastar, on the Maoist insurgency that has been widely acclaimed.
“Promoting such heinous and violent ideology is punishable crime, and in case your channel fails to take action against guilty people, I will file police complaint,” Joshi wrote, signing off on the threat letter to the journalist and the channel.
Sardesai was not amused. “Let them take me to court,” he told HuffPost India. “They cannot decide who will come for our show or not. Nandini Sundar has every right to speak, as does a minister, as does a CRPF man. I believe in diverse voices in the newsroom.”
“She (Nandini Sundar) has the right to speak on Chhattisgarh. We must hear every view,” he added.
Sardesai said that he believes in showing diverse viewpoints on his show. “I don’t believe in showing one view — many channels do that — and that’s propaganda,” he explained.
On the show, Sundar had said that the government must engage in dialogue with the Maoists. “The government doesn’t seem to get that this is not the way to conduct war against your own people… If the government can have talks with the Naga people, why can’t it have dialogue with the Maoists,” she said.
On Tuesday night, filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri tweeted out the complaint that was filed against Sardesai.
Last year, Sundar had been named as an accused in the alleged murder of a tribal person in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh. Many, including journalists, academics, and human rights and social activists spoke out against her inclusion in the list of the accused.