Income Tax Department conducted raids at 30 properties of filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, actor Taapsee Pannu, Phantom Films and Kwan Talent Agency in Mumbai and Pune on Wednesday on allegations of tax evasion. According to the evening news reports, Kashyap and Pannu were questioned by income tax officials in Pune.
Phantom Films was a joint venture of Anurag Kashyap, Vikas Bahl, Vikramaditya Motwane and Madhu Mantena that was disbanded after the MeToo allegations against Bahl surfaced in 2018.Kashyap and Pannu are known to be vocal critics of the government on several issues, including CAA/NRC as well as the farm laws. So, there is were accusations of them being selectively targeted for their views. Yet others saw it as part of the continuing agenda of the government to control cultural institutions in general and make Bollywood fall in line in particular.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar said in a press briefing: “The Income Tax department probes someone based on whatever information they get. The issue goes to court later.”
The raids met with pin drop silence from even the most vociferous of Bollywood personalities on social media, save a few tweets by writer-poet-lyricist Hussain Haidry. “This is atrocious. And nothing more than petty vendetta by a regime that can't handle dissent. One can see from miles away that both are small players in their industry. Tax evasion is clearly not the criteria behind the raids. It is only to harass them. When I say small players, I mean not in creative terms, but keeping income tax assessments in mind. The department could have had a look at bigger assessees, but it did not choose to. The motive is clearly not an objective evaluation of undisclosed income or wealth,” tweeted Haidry.
Later in the day he went to ask further pointed questions. “Does anyone in the media have a copy of any notice served by the Income Tax Department? What credible information did the IT Dept. have to conduct a search and seizure on selected persons? What was the source of the credible information? Or will the government simply use the amendment in the Income Tax Act to raid anyone they think they should raid, and no explanations need to be given to anybody? If I remember correctly, this provision was introduced in the 2019 budget. One can see its implementation now,” he tweeted.
Fimlmmaker Anubhav Sinha tweeted in solidarity.
Apart from this rare Bollywood voice, it was left for the political parties other than the BJP to speak up in a show of solidarity with Kashyap and Pannu. They questioned what they perceived as vindictiveness on part of the government against anyone who chooses the route of dissent. They also came down on the use of state machinery—departments like ED, CBI, NCB—as instruments of intimidation. “Hope the income tax department of our country is saved from bonded slavery status soon. Same wishes for ED and CBI too,” tweeted Priyanka Chaturvedi of the Shiv Sena.
“The way in which raids were conducted in the homes and offices of Anurag Kashyap and Taapsee Pannu, this 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,” said Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik.
“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,” tweeted Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav.
Lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan tweeted: “BJP’s A team at work to harass, intimidate and silence those who don’t fall in line. India has never seen such malafide use of the IT dept, ED, NIA, police etc.”