Journalist arrested in India over Muslim yoga ban report
Pushp Sharma’s is accused of fabricating‘Right to Information’ documents for making up a story, however the journalist has denied these allegations.
Sharma’s report appeared in March in the Milli Gazette, a newspaper aimed at India’s Muslim community.
It quoted what was said to be a government document that banned Muslims from travelling abroad to teach yoga for last year’s World Yoga Day.
His report was based on what he said was an official reply from a Ayush Ministry [government ministry that promotes yoga and ayurveda medicine].
The report said that, after several queries to the ministry, it replied saying that none of the 3,841 Muslims who had applied to become yoga teachers had been hired up to October 2015.
A letter printed alongside the article, purporting to be from the ministry, said that 711 Muslims had applied to travel abroad as instructors during the first World Yoga Day last June, but none was selected “as per government policy”.
The letter does not include a government letterhead and contains a number of spelling mistakes, including an incorrect spelling of the word “yoga”.
The Milli Gazette confirmed Mr Sharma was arrested on Saturday morning. Its editor Zafarul-Islam Khan said the charges were “clear attempts to stifle the freedom of the press”.
Sharma had claimed that he had filed an RTI with the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) enquiring about the Muslim teachers and trainers recruited by it for foreign assignments during the World Yoga Day last year, to which the ministry responded writing that they don’t recruit Muslims.
afarul-Islam Khan, chief editor of the Milli Gazette, said, “The Ayush Ministry FIR against the journalist and the Press Council of India’s suo moto action are clear attempts to stifle the freedom of the press,” reported the India Today.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a yoga enthusiast who says he daily practises the ancient Indian art, lobbied the United Nations to declare 21 June World Yoga Day. The first event was held last year.