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Vidya Subramaniam complaint: Congress, BJP spar over freedom of speech
Thursday October 31, 2013 7:53 PM, IANS

A complaint from a senior journalist was Thursday the cause of a sparring match between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The Congress said the opposition party and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), were threatening the freedom of the media while the BJP alleged that the Congress was spreading lies.

Citing a complaint filed with Delhi Police by Vidya Subramaniam, a senior journalist with The Hindu newspaper, accusing affiliates of the BJP and the RSS of threatening her for writing against them, Congress leader Ajay Maken urged union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde to probe the charge.

"It is requested that instructions be issued to Delhi Police to look into the matter in right earnest, and bring the guilty to book," Maken wrote in a letter to Shinde.

"The contents of the complaint are self explanatory, in underlining that the threats being made to Subramaniam because she wrote a factual and verified piece about the RSS reneging on a written undertaking to (India's first home minister) Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that it would be an apolitical organisation," he said.

The home minister has ordered an inquiry into the matter.

Shinde told reporters that he had sent the letter to Home Secretary Anil Goswami, who had asked Delhi Police to probe the matter.

Shinde said people should have the capacity to bear criticism in a democracy, and sending out threats was wrong.

Maken said many women journalists were being threatened by the RSS and BJP for writing objectively about them.

"The Congress is committed to the freedom of the press, the dominance of truth in public discourse and non-violence," Maken said.

"Such intimidation amounts to a serious assault on our democracy and constitution," he said.

Maken said if the BJP's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi was building a statue of Sardar Patel in Gujarat, he should first learn to follow that lofty leader's ideals.

BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said Vidya Subramaniam had spoken to a TV channel and dissociated herself from Maken's statement.

"Congress is trying to create a controversy and take political advantage... the Congress dirty tricks department is at work," she said.

RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav accused the Congress of spreading "lies".

"Ajay Maken lied abt FIR against RSS? Media says there is none in d said Thana. Desperation leading to lies? If there are threats," Madhav tweeted.

"A case under Section 506 of Indian Penal Code (punishment for criminal intimidation) was registered, regarding the complaint of Vidya Subramaniam at the Parliament Street Police station. The same day, the matter was referred to Tamil Nadu Police," Deputy Commissioner of Police S.B.S. Tyagi told IANS.

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