28, Mar 2018 | CJP Team
Two journalists, Navin Nishchal and Vijay Singh, who worked for the Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar, were killed when an SUV ran into their bike in Bihar’s Bhojpur district, on Monday, March 26. Locals and family members have alleged that the journalists were “murdered“, and that a former village head was responsible. The SUV involved in the incident was allegedly driven by Mohd. Harsu, who is reportedly married to former village head Saheeda Pravin.
Nishchal’s brother has registered an FIR against Harsu, his son, who police say is called Dabloo, and others. Police say the FIR names six individuals, and that Harsu has already been implicated in multiple criminal cases. According to Nishchal’s brother and some villagers, Nishchal had recently been involved in heated arguments with Harsu. Nikhil, son of one of the journalists killed, call the incident a “conspiracy” and alleged that after hitting the bike, Harsu escaped from the site of the accident on one of two bikes that were right behind the SUV.
In a separate but chillingly similar incident that also took place on Monday, March 26 in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhind town, Sandeep Sharma, 36, who worked for Bhopal Based News World TV, was killed after a truck mowed down his two-wheeler. The truck’s driver was arrested later that day. Police have registered a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and established a special investigation team to look into the matter. Chambal DIG Sudhir Lad said that video footage and initial questioning of the driver indicated that the incident was an accident, but promised to “carry out a comprehensive probe if there is one per cent of foul play”.
Sharma’s family members and other local journalists have alleged that he was killed for revealing alleged collusion between the police and the sand mafia. Sharma and Vikas Purohit, New World TV’s local bureau chief, had set up a sting operation that allegedly found that a sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) Indraveer Singh Bhadoriya was seeking bribes in exchange for permitting vehicles carrying sand that was mined illegally from the Chambal river to pass without undergoing checks. After the story was aired, Sharma and Purohit applied for police protection, claiming they had received threatening calls and that their lives were under threat. Sharma’s application reportedly indicated his concerns that SDPO Bhadoriya could incriminate him in a criminal matter or have him killed in a road accident. It sought Bhadoriya’s immediate transfer and an investigation into him, and also said the SDPO should held accountable of something happened to Sharma. Bhadoriya was not transferred following the story, but was transferred later for a matter involving a local MLA.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s government has recommended a CBI investigation into Sharma’s death, following calls from Congress leaders Ajay Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notices to the chief secretary and director-general of police, seeking a detailed report in four weeks. The NHRC noted that media reports of the incident indicate negligence by the administration, particularly the police. “The tragic death of the journalist is indicative of violation of human rights as well as democratic rights,” it said, citing Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) in which the right to freedom of opinion and expression is enshrined. The NHRC has also issued a notice to Bihar’s government over the deaths of Nishchal and Singh. When asked about these recent deaths of Indian journalists, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ spokesperson said, “We, of course, are concerned about anything that would suggest the harassment or violence against journalists, anywhere in the world and would do so in this case”.
*** Feature Image by PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images