Vinod Verma was arrested at 3:30 am from his Ghaziabad home
Nearly 300 CDs, pen drive seized from his home
Reports say he was working on story against a Chhattisgarh minister
A senior journalist involved in an investigative report on the Chhattisgarh government last year was arrested around 4 am on Friday from his home near Delhi on charges of extortion. Vinod Verma, a member of the Editors Guild of India, was picked up from his Ghaziabad home by a police team that caught the last flight out of Raipur.
The police claim they have seized hundreds of CDs, a laptop and a pen drive from his home. Mr Verma, they say, was making copies of a sex CD allegedly featuring a minister and "intended" to distribute them. The police, however, refused to disclose the contents of the tape to the media.
"I have a sex CD of a Chhattisgarh Minister...the Chhattisgarh government is not happy with me," Mr Verma told the news agency ANI.
A freelance journalist, Mr Verma has been Digital Editor at Amar Ujala and has also worked with the BBC Hindi service.
He was part of a fact-finding team of the Editors Guild that travelled to Chhattisgarh last year to examine cases of intimidation of journalists.
His arrest followed a complaint yesterday by Prakash Bajaj, a member of the Chhattisgarh BJP's IT cell, that "someone had a CD of his boss (the minister)".
Late last night, the police took a flight to Delhi and went to a shop that had allegedly made 1,000 copies of the sex tape. The shop owner allegedly named Mr Verma as the man who had commissioned the copies.
The Chhattisgarh government claims Mr Verma was working with the state's opposition Congress to discredit the ruling BJP. The journalist, it says, is related to state Congress chief Bhupesh Vaghel. Mr Vaghel has denied it.
"This is an attack on democracy and we condemn this. They are targeting a journalist to protect their minister," Mr Vaghel said.
The pre-dawn arrest has triggered outrage, with a deluge of posts on social media. The Congress' Pramod Tiwari tweeted that the arrest was a clear message that "If you speak against the BJP you will be crushed."