Lucknow: Hardly a week after a journalist was allegedly beaten to death along with his wife in Uttar Pradesh’s Sonbhadra district, yet another journalist and his friend in the state were killed on Saturday allegedly over a news report.
The deceased, Rakesh Singh, a native of Kalwari village under Kotwali Dehat police station area in Balrampur district , was working with a Hindi daily , Rashtriya Swaroop. He was reportedly working on an exclusive story with and was with his close friend Pintu Sahu at his residence on Friday night when suddenly an explosion took place after which one of the walls collapsed and a room caught fire. Singh suffered serious burn injuries and died at the Trauma Centre of King George Medical University (KGMU), Lucknow, while his friend died on the spot.
According to the Balrampur police, Singh’s wife and children had gone to a relative’s house two days ago allegedly after some dispute between the couple.
"Investigation has been initiated and we have arrested over a dozen people in the connection with the murder of a local journalist. We cannot come to any conclusion without completing investigation. We have handed over a cheque of Rs 5 lakh to the victim’s family after government order and government has given order to reconstruct the house which has been damaged in the fire," an SHO, who is investigating the case told Newsclick, adding that a group of five separate officers have been formed to find out the accused.
However, Singh's wife Vibha accused the district administration and threatened self-immolation with her daughters if the accused were not send jail immediately.
"Over the last couple of weeks, my husband kept talking to me about some exclusive news which he was going to break next week. With the help of his friend, he was editing some video which was an expose of some high-profile people. For that video, my house was set ablaze and my husband has died. The person who burnt my house even knew about the evidence, everything got burnt," Vibha told Newsclick.
Vibha further alleged that her husband had been killed in a “pre-planned” manner. In the room where the wall collapsed after the fire and explosion, the air conditioner cable was not burnt, she said, adding that the bed on which Rakesh and his friend were lying had turned into ashes, but the small wooden cupboard and copybook kept nearby was intact.
Meanwhile, the incident sparked angry reactions from journalists, various organisations and political parties, who alleged that the death should not be treated as an accident. Singh’s family members and various journalists’ associations in the state demanded a detailed probe into the incident, alleging foul play.
A group of journalists in Balrampur also staged a protest, raising slogans against the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in the state and demanded a CBI probe into the incident. They blamed the state for failing to give any protection to journalists.
"We condemn the slack political and administrative elements in the system responsible for the death of the journalist, and we will continue to hold protest phase by phase till the time he gets justice," Abhiram Tiwari, a local journalist told Newsclick.
Last week, too, a journalist and his wife were allegedly thrashed to death over longstanding enmity with a former sarpanch in Sonbhadra district.
Uday Paswan, a local journalist who contributed stories to a Hindi daily, and his wife, Sheetla, were thrashed to death on November 20 in Barwadih village in Sonbhadra district. Paswan died on the spot while his wife succumbed to injuries at the trauma centre in Banaras Hindu University.
On November 10, another journalist who also worked for a Hindi online website was mercilessly beaten along with his wife allegedly for reporting on irregularities in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) in Uttar Pradesh’s Lalitpur region allegedly by a local Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and his sons.
Two days later, another journalist was found dead on a railway track at Sadar Kotwail area in Unnao district, barely, 65 km from state capital of Lucknow.
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