By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Sept 21: The New Delhi police arrested a veteran Indian journalist Rajeev Sharma on Sept. 14 under the Indian Official Secrets Act (OSA) alleging that he had been spying for the Chinese government as he was found in possession of defence-related classified papers.
DCP of the Special Cell Sanjeev Kumar Yadav on Saturday confirmed that the investigation of the case is underway and that the accused was held under the suspicion of violating India’s espionage law that makes sharing government secrets punishable for up to 14 years in prison.
The police statement said that the journalist travelled to Kunming, China in 2016 where he was asked to supply information about India’s army movements and India’s disputed border with Tibet in exchange for cash and “luxury items”. He allegedly received around Rs. 3 million between Jan 2019 and the present. He was also paid $500 for writing articles on the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
Tenzin Tsundue, poet and activist, told Phayul that he had been closely following his work over the last years. He said, “When a journalist repeatedly writes only negative reports on a community interpreting whatever different situations one tends to doubt his intent. . . [Rajeev Sharma] wrote duplicitous reports like the one where he reported that His Holiness was “terminally ill with prostate cancer” on 11th June 2018 in the Quint.
“In another article Nov 2018, he tried to project a divide between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibetan government in exile. Such negative reports amount to libel published with malicious intent.” Tsundue feared that such reportage damages the welfare of a community and creates unnecessary conflict.
The strategic affairs analyst wrote a piece on Sept 7 in the state-backed Chinese news mouthpiece Global Times titled “A rapprochement road map Beijing and New Delhi benefits both countries” where he argued that the border conflict needs to be curbed in order to work towards the common objective of a peaceful future. He had previously worked with United News of India, The Tribune, and Sakaal Times, and also contributed to foreign publications such as The Diplomat.
A Chinese businesswoman exporting Indian pharmaceuticals to China and her two Nepalese associates have also been arrested for their alleged involvement in the case.