Defending his RTI-based story which alleged the Centre's discrimination against Muslims in the Yoga teachers' selection process for International Yoga Day last year, investigative journalist Pushp Sharma has said that he has proof that all the RTI replies in his possession are authentic.
In an announcement made on 12 March AYUSH (Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy)minister Sripad Naik refuted the claim made on the Milli Gazette, a fortnightly newspaper, calling the report "fabricated" and "a piece of misreporting".
"The contents regarding religion based data in the so-called Annexure- I are not only fabricated but factually incorrect also," said a clarification issued by AYUSH.
Here are the documents issued by the Ministry along with the clarification-
The curious case of ANNEXURE-1
As per a report published in the Milli Gazette, in response to a recent RTI query, the Ministry of AYUSH had reportedly admitted that, "as per government policy, no Muslim candidate was invited, selected or sent abroad" as a trainer/teacher during World Yoga Day 2015.
As per the daily, the ministry made the statement in response to an RTI query, filed by Sharma, about Muslim teachers and trainers recruited by AYUSH for foreign assignments during World Yoga Day.
As proof, the Milli Gazette uploaded the RTI query's responses on their website, one of which included Annexure 1 that carried the reply with the mention of the alleged 'discriminatory policy'.
Find Annexure 1 here.
However, the ministry denied issuing any such document in response to Sharma's RTI.
"The same forwarding letter of the Ministry has been used by a section of the media in this matter, but with a non-existent, fictitious"ANNEXURE- I", (which has never been issued by the Ministry)," wrote the ministry.
Pushp Sharma defends the story
Speaking to the Catch, Sharma said, "The government is now talking as per their political convenience but I stand by my claim which has been made in the story."
Sharma said that the Annexure is authentic and he received it as a part of RTI replies which he filed with AYUSH.
"The Milli Gazette has uploaded all the documents on its site. One of them is a letter from the ministry, another is Annexure I and then there are two computer generated printouts with details which are usually never sent to RTI applicants," said Sharma.
As per Sharma, someone has unknowingly passed on the two papers along with the annexure. He added that the RTI receipt even got his educational qualifications incorrect.
He alleges that the ministry is now trying to play safe. "If we commit a mistake, they call us 'fraud' and when they are at fault they term it a 'clerical mistake'."
Alleging a number of misdoings in the ministry, Sharma also claimed that he will soon expose AYUSH supported by a bulk of documents which he has collected over 10 years.