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AYUSH 'no-Muslim policy': Journalist claims "people in power trying to do character assassination." Picture: Schoolchildren attend a yoga session at a camp in Ahmedabad, India, Jan. 9, 2016.Reuters

A journalist linked to a news website that published a story claiming that the AYUSH ministry discriminated against Muslim candidates is being questioned after the ministry refuted the claim earlier this month. The Milli Gazette had published a report, March 11, citing a Right to Information (RTI) document that the ministry has called a fabrication. 

Journalist Pushp Sharma was Tuesday questioned by the Kotla Mubarakpur police, New Delhi, after the AYUSH ministry (AYUSH stand for Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) filed a complaint demanding investigation into the "fake" RTI query, Zee News reported. 

A March 12 clarification by the ministry said: "The Ministry of AYUSH has noted with anguish certain mischievous misinformation being spread in certain section of media and social media quoting a reply to an RTI by mentioning a fabricated draft as Annexure I to that letter, which has never been issued by the Ministry of AYUSH or any of its agencies." 

The police registered a case of forgery against Sharma and called him for questioning again Wednesday, the Hindustan Times reported. 

Sharma spoke to the HT Wednesday morning and said the AYUSH ministry is targeting him to contain damage done to their secular image. He also said he has documents to support his report.

"I have another yoga fraud story in the pipeline from the tourism ministry that will further expose this issue. Today I am going to the police with all the documents — there are postal envelopes in which I got the replies and detailed replies," he told the HT.

"They can't politically accept they don't recruit Muslims as yoga trainers as they have to portray a secular image, but if you file an RTI and ask for numbers, there are no numbers to show," Sharma told the HT.

'The system is hell-bent to do character assassination': Sharma

After the police temporarily released Sharma Tuesday night, he wrote a message published by the Milli Gazette, claiming that "the system is hell-bent to do character assassination, arms-twisting and stoops to the extent of mockery and issuing threats just because of a story."

"I told the SHO of the concerned police station that in media if a group does a story and later any interested group or person updates it and sends facts, then the globally accepted policy is to crosscheck the content and publish or upload it with an apology," Sharma said.

"After listening this for a few minutes, I heard just abuses, and shouts and allegations, like: who is behind you and what is your motive?" he added.

Story on AYUSH ministry's alleged no-Muslim policy

Sharma March 11 published a report in the Milli Gazette based on his RTI query about the total number of Muslim candidates who were "invited, selected or sent abroad as Yoga trainer/teacher during World Yoga Day 2015." 

"The reply makes it clear that a total number of 3841 Muslims applied for Yoga trainer/teacher jobs in the Ayush ministry, including 711 Muslims who applied for short-term jobs as Yoga teachers/trainers in foreign countries but none was selected," Milli Gazette quoted Sharma as saying in the report. 

"As per government policy – No Muslim candidate was invited, selected or sent abroad," the report cited the ministry's reason for not hiring Muslims.

The ministry had called the above details fabricated.

"The contents regarding religion based data in the so-called Annexure- I are not only fabricated but factually incorrect also. The response of the International Cooperation Section of the Ministry clearly said that invitations were sent to yoga experts/enthusiasts without reference to their religions," the release by the ministry read.