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IT Raids at the Houses of Anurag Kashyap and Taapsee Pannu – Procedure or Targeted Manhunt Against Dissenters?

On 3rd February 2021, the Income Department conducted raids at the residences of film industry actor Taapsee Pannu and actor/director Anurag Kashyap. Any and every avid user of Indian Social Media in general and Twitter in particular will know that both Anurag Kashyap and Taapsee Pannu are outspoken critics of the government and have lent their voice to various causes, including the ongoing farmer protests and last year’s protests against the controversial citizenship law that challenged PM Modi.

Political Reaction to the Raids

Several ministers across the opposition slammed the tax raids, saying Kashyap and Pannu were the centers of the target because of their views on the Centre’s working. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) minister Nawab Malik said the way in which raids were conducted in the homes and offices of Anurag Kashyap and Taapsee Pannu is definitely the usage of Enforcement Directorate or the Income Tax against those who take a stand against the government or its policies. “Anurag Kashyap and Taapsee Pannu have raised their voice against the Modi government’s policies. This action is an attempt to suppress their voices.”

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi used three popular Hindi idioms on Thursday to hit out at the government and accuse it of carrying out raids against those who are pro-farmers. Putting out three popular Hindi idioms – ”Ungliyon pe nachana”, ”Bheegi billi banna” and ”Khisiyani billi khamba noche” — Mr Gandhi stated what he believes they mean in the current context. In his three-pronged attack, he alleged that the central government makes the Income Tax department dance to its tunes, friendly media gets cowed down before the Centre and the central government raids those supporting farmers. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejaswi Yadav called the raids a “condemnable act”. “They first employed IT, CBI, ED to conduct raids on vocal and upright political rivals for their character assassination. Now Nazi govt is chasing social activists, journalists & artists to threaten them against calling spade a spade,” Yadav tweeted

Congress leader and cabinet minister Ashok Chavan termed the income tax raid against Anurag Kashyap and Taapsee Pannu as a retaliatory act of the Modi government. Maharashtra cabinet minister Yashomati Chandrakant Thakur said those who speak in their (the government’s) favour is god and the ones who speak against is a traitor.

IT Department

Giving details about the searches, the officials said that the production house staff was not able to explain discrepancy of around ₹300 crore. The officials also said that they found evidence related to manipulation and under-valuation of share transactions of Phantom Films amongst the film directors and shareholders, having tax implication of about ₹350 crore. Evidence of cash receipts by the leading actress amounting to ₹5 crore has also been recovered, they further said. The officials added that further investigation is on, adding that raids are still being carried out.

The searches, part of a tax evasion probe against Phantom Films, were carried out across 28 locations in Mumbai and Pune on Wednesday, according to government release. Properties linked with Reliance Entertainment group CEO Shibhasish Sarkar and some executives of celebrity and talent management companies KWAN and Exceed were also raided. During the search, seven bank lockers were found which have been placed under restraint, the release said.

The others searched include some Phantom Films production house employees, which was dissolved in 2018, director-producer Vikramaditya Motwane, producer Vikas Bahl and producer-distributor Madhu Mantena.

Recent Political Activities of the Duo

Pannu’s last tweet before the raids was on March 1, in which she strongly spoke about the Supreme Court asking a man accused of repeated rape whether he was willing to marry the woman.

However, in a thread of three tweets yesterday, she appeared to be ridiculing the raids and mocking the government for wasting time at finding nothing against her.

Kashyap, meanwhile, has been quiet on Twitter in recent time. He visited the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Shaheen Bagh during the anti-CAA protests last year.

Digpu News Bottomline

It is true that these raids may have been based on credible inputs against the duo and proper procedure may have been followed, however, one cannot help but notice how raids like these have been only against vocal dissenters in the recent times, with pin point accuracy. While people closely associated with the government keep getting amnesty and support even in cases of sexual offences, drugs and murders.

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