Writer and photographer Sanjukta Basu is taking legal action against Indian TV channel Times Now for running a show that spread false news about her. In what she calls a ‘David Vs. Goliath’ fight, (taking into consideration the power and clout the Times Network has,) she has sent a legal notice to the Editor-in-Chief Rahul Shivshankar and anchors Vineet Jain and Navika Kumar who carried a malicious story about her, using her photographs, misquotes and other digital material calling her a Hindu hater and thus putting her life in danger in India which is ruled by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which is a Hindu nationalist party.
On April 6, 2018, Times Now ran a two-hour show anchored by Rahul Shiv Shankar and Navika Kumar in which they claimed that Sanjukta Basu was one of the ‘recruits’ in Indian National Congress (INC) President Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Troll Army.’ Basu, who is a TED fellow was shown on TV with ‘Hindu hater’ and ‘abuses Indian army’ tags splashed on her. The channel insinuated that she was being paid by INC.
After the show was aired Basu took to social media to speak about the harassment and violence she suffered due to the channel and its journalism. She announced that she was going to sue the channel and started a crowdsourcing channel to raise funds for the defamation suit. On April 25, 2018, she made public the legal notice that her lawyer sent the channel.
Times Now is owned and operated by the Times Group, which is India’s largest media conglomerate. The channel has come under heavy criticism after BJP came to power for siding with the right-wing Hindu government on various issues, the most notorious of them being a doctored video clip that they aired on 17 February 2016 that led to the arrest of student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). The students were charged with sedition on the basis of the fake video clip.
Sanjukta Basu, while taking on the channel, said that she was aware of the power imbalance between an ordinary citizen and the largest media house in the country but she was determined to take the fight forward posing this question: ‘If ordinary citizens are attacked maliciously for their digital presence, if their digital conversations are distorted, manipulated picked out of context to suit a particular agenda, then by what stretch of imagination can we claim that we are a mature digital nation?’
Sanjukta has been attacked by right-wing trolls for her strong anti – BJP opinions in the past. The notice points out how traumatic it is for a woman who has faced sexual harassment and other verbal violence online at the hands of trolls to be called a troll herself.
Advocate Anas Tanwir, who represents Sanjukta said that they had given Times Now seven days’ time to respond. While they are hoping that they tender an apology, if it doesn’t happen, Basu will file an FIR for Criminal Defamation/Civil Defamation, he said.