The District Magistrate of Mirzapur Anurag Patel on Tuesday, 3 September, said that the journalist who made a video of the 'namak-roti' (salt and flatbread) being served to children as mid-day meal, should have taken a photograph instead of recording the video since he is a print journalist.
When confronted by reporters, he said, “One person was calling another and saying, ‘I am making a video (and) I will make it viral.’ You help me in making this video go viral.”
"You are a print-media journalist. You could have clicked a photograph if you had felt that something wrong is taking place and publish it," the official said. "But he did not do this, and hence, his role seems to be suspicious."
Patel said that it seemed that the journalist was involved in criminal conspiracy and, therefore, a case was registered against him.
The video of students of being served salt and roti in their midday meal at a government-run primary school in Mirzapur district had gone viral on social media on 22 August, triggering widespread outrage and leading to the suspension of two teachers.
FIR Filed for Shooting Video to Malign UP Government
The police had lodged a case on Monday, 2 September, against journalist Pawan Kumar Jaiswal and a representative of a village head, Rajkumar Pal, for allegedly conspiring and deliberately recording the video in a well-planned manner to malign the state government.
Jaiswal, village-head representative Rajkumar Pal and unidentified people have been booked under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharging duty), 193 (false evidence) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code, a senior officer said.
According to the complaint, Jaiswal and Pal conspired and deliberately made the video in a well-planned manner and did "despicable work" of maligning the image of the state government by recording a video of school children being served salt and roti in mid-day meal.
On being questioned about his earlier remarks on rice and salt had been served to children, he said, “In khichdi, salt and rice is put right? Daal is also added.” He further denied that this had not been happening for many days and that it had happened only once.
In Mirzapur, media persons held a protest at the district collectorate on Tuesday over lodging of the FIR. A delegation of around 25 reporters also met Vindhyachal Divisional Commissioner Anand Kumar Singh and demanded that the case against the journalist be withdrawn.
"We want that the entire episode be investigated. The divisional commissioner said he will seek a report in this regard from the district magistrate and act accordingly," Mirzapur Press Club secretary Ajay Shankar Gupta said, PTI reported.
Villagers in Support of Journalist
Meanwhile, locals in Jamalpur where the incident took place are reportedly backing the journalist.
An NDTV report quotes the cook employed in the school as saying that the reports are true and that the headmaster of the school is at fault. “"The reports are totally true. Mamata and me, my colleague, cooked and served rotis with salt. Why did Murari sir (school headmaster) not stop us? The reporter is not at fault at all. It is Murari sir's fault," Rukmani Devi, the cook, reportedly said.
The report also quotes other villagers complaining about discrepancy in giving bananas and milk in the mid-day meal.
We Will Probe the Matter: UP Government
The Uttar Pradesh government on Tuesday said it would examine the FIR against the journalist who recorded a video of schoolchildren being served salt and roti as midday meal last month, amid growing resentment over the case against him.
"Action has been initiated against all those found prima facie guilty in the entire matter," state government spokesperson Shrikant Sharma said. "As far as the FIR is concerned, we are getting it examined."
Basic Education Minister Satish Dwivedi had said on Monday that the action against the journalist for merely exposing corruption and highlighting reality should not have been taken.
The complaint stated that Pal was aware that only rotis were cooked and vegetable was not cooked in the Siur primary school in Jamalpur block.
But "instead of arranging it", Pal called Jaiswal and "pressed him to run it" on the electronic media, according to the complaint lodged by Mirzapur block education officer Prem Shankar Ram at the Ahraura police station on Saturday.
Jaiswal, however, had denied the allegations. "This is against journalism. You can see the news and verify it," he had told a television channel.
(With inputs from PTI)