In what has come as a surprise to India’s media industry, veteran journalist Rajdeep Sardesai has been taken off air for a period of two weeks by India Today following his tweet and on-air claim regarding the death of a farmer during the January 26 tractor rally that was carried out in protest of the farm bill.

On Republic Day this year, farmers protesting against India’s controversial farm laws took out a tractor rally which was led by several farmer leaders. However, the rally soon led to clashes amongst the farmers and police personnel. The Delhi Police claims that almost 300 police personnel were injured and they have also booked over 30 farmer leaders in an FIR.

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In a now-deleted tweet, Rajdeep Sardesai had said: “One person, 45-year-old Navneet killed allegedly in police firing at ITO. Farmers tell me: the ‘sacrifice’ will not go in vain.”

However, the Delhi police released a video in which a tractor can be seen overturning which could be the cause of the farmer’s death. Speculations remain rife as to whether the farmer lost control of his tractor due to a tear gas canister.

Following the release of the video, Rajdeep Sardesai retracted his tweet and said: “While the farm protestors claim that the deceased Navneet Singh was shot at by Delhi police while on a tractor, this video clearly shows that the tractor overturned while trying to break the police barricades. The farm protestors’ allegations don’t stand. Post mortem awaited.”

In his live coverage of the event, the journalist had also said on air that: “What we do know is that while the farm protesters that we met insist that the person who died named Navneet Singh was shot at, but the police has provided us with a video that shows very clearly that the tractor overturned.”

However, his tweet and statements drew ire from several BJP leaders who demanded that an FIR should be filed against Sardesai for allegedly spreading “fake news”.

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