A few questions to Siddharth Varadarajan

Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of the web-based journal The Wire, tweeted on Tue, Mar 31, 2020:

On the day the Tablighi Jamaat event was held, Adityanath insisted a large Ram Navami fair planned for Ayodhya from March 25 to April 2 would proceed as usual and that ‘Lord Ram would protect devotees from the coronavirus”. https://t.co/rO09bSkHSe via @TheWire_in

This tweet created angst amongst many Hindus, and one of them filed a complain at a police station in Uttar Pradesh near the border with Delhi.  Recognising the complaint, the police served a FIR against Siddharth Varadarajan.

However, because of the lock-down due to the pandemic caused by Covid-19, perhaps asking Varadarajan to cross the state border of Delhi to personally appear for some questioning would not be proper. So maybe the UP police can send some questions to him in an email. We would like to suggest the following draft:

“To: Siddharth Vardarjan, Editor, The Wire.

We have served an FIR to you with respect to your following tweets:

Siddharth (@svaradarajan) tweeted at 0:45 AM on Tue, Mar 31, 2020:
On the day the Tablighi Jamaat event was held, Adityanath insisted a large Ram Navami fair planned for Ayodhya from March 25 to April 2 would proceed as usual and that ‘Lord Ram would protect devotees from the coronavirus”. https://t.co/rO09bSkHSe via @TheWire_in
(https://twitter.com/svaradarajan/status/1244704844264247296?s=09)

Siddharth (@svaradarajan) tweeted at 2:43 PM on Wed, Apr 01, 2020:
I should clarify that it was Acharya Paramhans, Hindutva stalwart and head of the official Ayodhya temple trust, who said Ram would protect devotees from coronavirus, and not Adityanath, though he allowed a public event on 25/3 in defiance of the lockdown and took part himself.
(https://twitter.com/svaradarajan/status/1245278212596346881?s=09)

Since there is a lock-down, and we do not wish to inconvenience you by having to travel to the police station in Uttar Pradesh, we would appreciate if you could answer the following questions by email:

1.) What is the source of the quote you attribute to the UP chief minister, Yogiji Adityanathn?  We know that in a subsequent tweet, some fourteen hours later, you have said that you have misattributed the statement to the Chief Minister.  However, as a professional journalist, you must have some source on the basis of which you made the attribution in the first instance.  Please give the reference to publication, if it was in print.  Or to a video, if the medium was electronic.

2.) If your source was an individual, please obtain from him the print or electronic source for the quote.  We do not want the name of the individual – just the source of the information.

3.) In your first tweet, you have said that the Chief Minister ‘insisted a large Ram Navami fair planned for Ayodhya from March 25 to April 2 would proceed as usual’.  Again, please provide a link for your statement – print, electronic, even if it was from an individual.

4.) We recognize that in your second tweet, you have specifically referred to the event on March 25, and not to the period of Navratra and Ram Navami.  How did this realization occur to you?

5.) In your second tweet, you have attributed the statement to Acharya Paramhans. You have also said he is the head of the official Ayodhya trust. We presume that you are talking about the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Nyas. Where did you get the information that Acharya Paramhans is the head of the Nyas?  Once again, please provide a link for your statement – print, electronic, even if it was from an individual.

6.) The March 25 event was for shifting the deity of Ram Lalla from the tent that he resided in since December 6, 1992.  It was to facilitate the reconstruction of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir.  Such events require fulfillment of certain rituals as per the Hindu tradition.  Such events are permitted during the lock-down under certain conditions. However, to call it a public event is not at all correct. Since both your tweets were posted AFTER the March 25 event had taken place, can you please enlighten us why you call it a ‘public’ event?

7.) In your first tweet, you had called the whole programme starting from March 25 to be ‘large’. We would like to know what is your definition, in terms of the number of people attending, of a ‘large’ event.

For your information, the events starting with the beginning of Navratri on March 25 and ending with Ram Navami on April 2, were planned much before there was even an inkling that the world would have to confront a new virus called Covid-19. The participation of the Chief Minister for the March 25 programme was also pre-planned. And, as per protocol, his security personnel have to be in close vicinity.

Based on your replies, there could be certain follow-up questions that we may need to ask you.  Being a professional journalist, it should not be very difficult for you to provide the information sought.  We trust four days should be sufficient, and we eagerly look forward to interact with you further.”

Even if the police do not send the questionnaire, we hope that Varadarajan provides the information to the public in the interest of having an informed discussion.


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About the Author

Ashok Chowgule
Working President (External), Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bharat.