The recent revelation by The New York Times (NYT) regarding the investigation over the expansionist China’s funding to destabilize nations that pursue democratic practices, has come not as a surprise. It was the Enforcement Directorate (ED) that began investigating the New Delhi-based NewsClick over foreign funding in 2021, well before the last week’s NYT report revealed the news portal’s alleged Chinese links. One wonders why Union Sports, Youth Affairs, Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Singh Thakur chose to pick up the issue now quoting the NYT report raises serious questions. Does he feel trusting NYT report worthier than that of the investigating agencies like the ED, which is an established constitutional body? Was it part of his party or his government’s strategy to checkmate the Congress and Communists, when the ‘no-confidence’ motion on Manipur mayhem is being discussed in both the Houses of Parliament? The Opposition, in fact, abundantly made it clear that its intention to bring the no confidence was not to pull down the government as it has no numerical strength, but to ensure the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who, otherwise, was reluctant to come to the House and participate in debates. That too when the north-eastern Himalayan state, Manipur, has been engulfed by ethnic violence for the last three months! Well, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may counter by stating that such atrocities on women are also prevalent in West Bengal or Rajasthan, both states run by non-BJP governments. Yet, what prevented the Centre to pull up or dismiss such governments?
More so, after the post-poll violence in West Bengal where thousands of Hindus were forced to migrate and pro-Pakistan rallies were taken out in predominant Muslim border areas to warn powers- that-be in Delhi? One may even ask the Prime Minister what prevented his government from probing allegations of foreign funding links with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which helped it win Punjab assembly polls. And the funder was then identified as George Soros, who is accused of destabilizing some nations. Against that backdrop the timing of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s decision to take shelter under the NYT report to nail its opponents like the Communists and Congress sounds bizarre, to say the least. The ED is already on the job and so are the other investigating agencies against the Soros’ funds routed through those rogue parties, media, and other so-called non-governmental organisation (NGO) outfits. What is more interesting is that NewsClick, reportedly funded by American tech mogul Neville Roy Singham, chose to sprinkle its coverage with ‘Chinese government talking points’. And, the BJP seized the report to target the Congress, accusing it of defending the news portal during the agency’s investigation.
Meanwhile, the ED investigation revealed that a foreign fund of Rs. 38.05 crore was fraudulently infused for three years into NewsClick. The funds were allegedly distributed to several controversial journalists, including an accused in the Elgar Parishad-Maoist link case, Gautam Navlakha and associates of Teesta Setalvad, both convicted in several cases and served jail terms too. A search carried out by the ED at the offices of PPK NewsClick Studio and its associated entities and its directors and shareholders (ten all) located in Delhi NCR under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) seized indiscriminate documents, which include digital data and foreign currency. The scrutiny of the evidence revealed questionable infusion of Rs 9.59 crore by Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Rs 28.46 crore by way of export of services. It also revealed that FDI of Rs. 9.59 crore was received in April 2018 by way of subscription of shares of NewsClick (a loss-making company that was registered in January 2018) at a premium of Rs. 11,510 per share at a face value of Rs Rs. 10 from Worldwide Media Holdings LLC, a Delaware-based limited liability company. The ED investigation revealed that NewsClick director Prabir Purkayastha had known Navielle Roy Singham of Worldwide Media Holdiings since 2017. Based on seized digital evidence, it was disclosed that an intricate scheme was designed by Prabir together with Singham, who is reportedly affiliated with the Communist Party of China (CPC). Prabir and employees of NewsClick Studio have failed to explain the receipt of Rs. 28.46 crore from foreign entities. That apart, the opaque source of Rs. 38.05 crore has been traced back to a person in China. It has been alleged that NewsClick shareholder Amit Chakraborty, in his statement under PMLA, said that Singham is the ultimate owner of funds received from the US. A payment of Rs. 52.09 lakh was made to Bappaditya Sinha, another shareholder in NewsClick. He is also a member of the IT Cell of Communist Party of India-Marxist and manages the Twitter (now X) handles of party’s various leaders.
The Chinese fund received was allegedly transferred to several controversial activists who allegedly wrote against the government, including Teesta Setalvad’s husband Javed Anand, daughter Tamara, son Jibran besides Navlakha, to name a few. The ED also moved an application to the competent court for the interrogation of Navlakha in Taloja Jail. Other materials found during the ED search include the National Investigation Agency charge-sheet on Pakistan-based militant organisation Lakshar-e-Taiba co-founder Hafiz Saeed and various literature, posters and paintings related to communist ideology, travel details of the NewsClick directors to China, Venezuela, Tunisia, etc. Thus, the summary of the evidence establishes the complete influence of China on Prabir and his other associates. Another key finding from the ED’s investigation is the involvement of Singham, who reportedly contacted Prabir for the dubbing and subtitling of two Chinese movies, “Red Star over China (2019)” and “The Secret of China (2019)”. These films were produced by the CPC’s propaganda department in Sichuan and the Shaanxi party provincial committee.
Against that backdrop, it would be unfair for the nationalist media to push these startling revelations under the carpet, in a bid to give ‘fire cover’ to the Lutyens’ and sell out journalists to foreign agencies, which are bent upon destabilizing a fast-developing economy like India. And, would it be wise for Modi’s responsible cabinet colleague, Thakur, to take shelter under the NYT report, instead of the country’s probe agencies? Maybe, he might have taken the NYT shelter as the Opposition have no faith in Indian investigating agencies, however autonomous they may be, as they see them as tools of the ruling BJP-led NDA to defame them as well as the media which opposes the right-wing party-headed government at the Centre. Amazing, but true!