Patna: Two senior journalists were killed after a sport utility vehicle (SUV) rammed into their bike in Bihar late Sunday night, sparking violent protests.
Family members of the victims have described it as a “pre-meditated murder” carried out by a powerful village council official, and not a mere accident.
This is the fourth killing of journalist in the state in the past two years.
Police said journalist Navin Nishchal, 35, and his colleague Vijay Singh, 25, were returning on their bike after covering a procession, held to mark the major Hindu festival of Ramanavami, when a speeding Mahindra Scorpio came from behind and rammed into their bike, crushing them to death.
The incident took place near Nahasi village under Garhani police station in Bhojpur, a central Bihar district some 70 kilometres west of Patna, on Sunday evening.
Navin worked for prominent Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar while his colleague Vijay was stringing for a vernacular magazine.
Villagers alleged the pair were crushed to death by a powerful village council official, Mohammad Harsu, who was driving the vehicle at the time of accident.
“Before the incident, the village council official had heated arguments with the journalists after which he had threatened them with dire consequences. Shortly after that, they were crushed to death on a busy sate highway,” villagers alleged.
In a case registered with the police, victim Navin’s brother accused the said village council official of cold-blooded murder.
According to the complainant, the accused was nursing a grudge against the journalists over some news reports.
The incident sparked strong protests in the areas as angry villagers blocked the road and set afire a vehicle on Monday. On the fateful evening too, they had torched the Scorpio although its occupants managed to flee.
The police department while taking the matter seriously has formed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the case. The team got a major breakthrough when it arrested the main accused who was absconding after the incident while raids were on to nab the other accused persons. The investigation was being monitored at the level of zonal inspector general of police Nair Hasnain Khan, authorities said.
“We have arrested the main accused Mohammad Harsu while raids are on to nab the other accused persons,” local district superintendent of police, Bhojpur, Avkash Kumar told the media on Monday.
This is the fourth incident involving the killing of journalists in the past two years. In January last year, unidentified gunmen shot dead a journalist, identified as Braj Kishore Rajesh, in Samastipur district.
Earlier in November, another journalist Dharmendra Singh, who was working for a Hindi daily, was killed by three motorcycle-riding criminals in Rohtas district. He was sipping tea at a tea stall in the morning when the gangsters shot him dead.
Another journalist Rajdeo Ranjan was shot dead by criminals in Siwan district in May 2016. The victim who worked for a prominent Hindi daily was returning home in the evening after work when the motorcycle-borne criminals shot him from a close range. Before leaving the spot, the shooters also shot in his temple to ensure he does not survive.