The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation () has warned its contractor of action after passengers on the Bengaluru-Chennai Shatabdi Express got complimentary copies of a “newspaper” carrying headlines such as “Genocide of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists under Islamic rule needs to be recognised” and “UN should label Aurangzeb as perpetuator of holocaust like Hitler”.
The articles on the front page of the Aryavarth Express published from Bengaluru left little to the readers’ imagination about its political leanings on Friday morning.
“We have warned the licensee to see to it that such newspapers do not get circulated inside the trains ever again. As per contract, the licensee is to provide only complimentary copies of the Deccan Herald and a Kannada paper. He should stick to the contract conditions,” Rajni Hasija, chairman and managing director of the IRCTC, told.
Social media was abuzz Friday morning with a few passengers posting pictures of the “newspaper” from the train and wondering whether it was being officially circulated by the state-owned railway operations giant.
“This morning I boarded the Bangalore-Chennai Shatabdi Express only to be greeted by this blatantly propagandist publication on every other seat- The Aryavarth Express. Had never even heard of it. How is @IRCTCofficial allowing this???,” Twitter user Gopika Bakshi asked.
The licensee, PK Shefi, told The Indian Express that the “paper” got circulated as a supplement inserted by the newspaper vendor into the approved newspapers. “Our boys on board who distributed the newspapers did not understand that the newspapers contained this supplement. In any case they do not really read the content of the newspapers they distribute,” Shefi said. “I have instructed them to not distribute any supplements or pamphlets and just distribute the main paper from now on.”
In response to tweets, the IRCTC responded saying it has taken action. “The mentioned ‘Aryavarth Express’ was found inside the regular approved newspaper as insert. The newspaper vendor has been strictly advised to avoid any such inserts in future,” the company tweeted to one passenger. “Onboard monitoring staff will keep a strict vigil of the same. The licensee of the train has also been counselled,” it added.
While the passenger claimed that she found the “newspaper” not as an insert, and many other users started linking the episode with the recent communal violence in Delhi, the Bengaluru divisional railway manager instructed his team online to take action on the matter.
Published from Bengaluru, Aryavarth Express has been edited by Prashant Goenka for the past seven years, as per his social media profile. Messages and calls to a number posted by Goenka on a social media account did not elicit any response.