September 21st, 2017
A journalist who was covering a clash between the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) and the Tripura Rajaer Upajati Ganamukti Parishad (TRUGP) in Mandai village in West Tripura was beaten to death on Wednesday, September 20.
The journalist, Shantanu Bhowmick, was working for local television channel Dinraat.
Bhowmick had gone to Mandai, 35 kilometres away from the state capital of Agartala to cover the clash between IPFT and TRUGP.
According to The Financial Express, the DIG of Tripura Arindam Nath said that four IPFT members have been arrested in connection to the death.
Since the incident, internet data services have been suspended in Agartala and Section 144 has been imposed in some areas.
Over one hundred activists of the Gana Mukti Parishad (GMP), the tribal wing of the ruling CPI(M), were injured in the clash with IPFT workers at Chhankhola area of Khowai district. The clash took place when the Parishad’s supporters gathered at the bus stand at Khowai town to travel to Agartala to attend a rally.
The journalist, Bhowmick, had gone there to cover the latest development.
“An altercation ensued but did not escalate into a clash at the bus stop due to interference by other people,” said Superintendent of Police, Nagendra Debbarman, to the Northeast Times.
Later, IPFT workers attacked the GMP activists with sticks and iron rods and injured at least 118 of them, six seriously, and damaged at least 15 buses.
As the police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the crowd, the mob attacked Bhowmick. A journalist from Agartala reportedly said that Bhowmick was first hit on his legs with a stick. He fell down on the road and was hit on the head. His body was later dragged by the mob and hid behind the local stadium.
The incident took place at around 12.30 PM and his body was later recovered by the police from the stadium. His body was later brought to the government-run Govind Ballabh Pant Medical College and Hospital.
The Tripura Journalists’ Union has demanded a CBI inquiry on this incident. The Agartala Press Club and Tripura Working Journalists Association are organising a silent funeral procession in Agartala on Thursday, September 21.
Personnel from the Tripura State Rifles and Assam Rifles were reportedly deployed in sensitive areas of the districts and prohibitory orders under Section 144 in Tulashikdar and Rajanagar apprehending breach of peace.
CPI(M) have claimed that the attackers were IPFT activists. Section 144 was imposed in more than 10 places of Tripura, including Khowai district and Mandai.
Additionally, on Tuesday, over 60 members of the TRUGP were injured in separate attacks allegedly by rival IPFT cadres at 12 places in Tripura.
The Logical Indian take: No country for journalists?
This is the second incident of a journalist being killed in less than a month. On September 5, senior journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead by unidentified assailants outside her house in Bengaluru. She was the editor of the Lankesh Patrike, a Kannada weekly known for its vocal criticism of right-wing outfits and strong anti-establishment credentials.
93 journalists and media professionals were killed in 2016, according to a report by the International Federation of Journalists. With five journalists being killed, India ranks eighth in the list of number of media professionals killed in the past year.
Rajdeo Rajan from Siwan (Bihar), Narendra Dabholkar from Pune (editor of Marathi weekly Sadhana), Jagendra Singh from Uttar Pradesh, Umesh Rajput from Raipur (Chattisgarh) are the scribes who were murdered in 2016.
From investigating scams to exposing criminal links of politicians or even being critical of the government in power – there are ample reasons for journalists to be targeted in the country.
The brutal murder of journalists like Shantanu Bhowmick reminds us how our country is becoming more and more unsafe for journalists. The media is regarded as the fourth pillar of democracy. But with the latest turn of events, one can safely say that the voices of dissent, rational thinking and truth is being stifled even as self-censorship rises. Freedom of the press is being attacked in our country.
Assassinations, threats and physical violence against journalists are no less than a crime against the society since this curtails the freedom of expression. The Logical Indian community condemns the killing of journalist Shantanu Bhowmick and urges the concerned authority to investigate the incident and ensure that strict action is taken against the guilty.