A journalist was shot dead in Ballia district of Uttar Pradesh on 24th August. The man’s death makes this the third journalist killed consecutively in the last 3 months in Uttar Pradesh.
The media is considered as the fourth pillar of a democracy. It plays a crucial role in dissemination of information which can be both useful and harmful to certain people. But what happens when the media knows something that the ones with a vendetta don’t want people to know?
On Monday, Ratan Singh, a journalist working for a private TV channel was found dead in the Phephana area of Ballia district in eastern UP, about 250km from the state capital Lucknow. Singh was shot dead at 9pm allegedly by 3 men who had been chasing him. According to the police, the shooter was an associate of Singh and the murder may have been caused by a fight turned violent. All three men allegedly involved in the attack have been arrested. The police said that Singh, who lived in an urban part of the district had been involved in a property dispute over a house in his village for the last few years. Speaking about the investigation, SP Denendra Nath said
“He was shot dead at the residence of the village head. It's being told that they had some old dispute. The investigation is underway. All accused will be arrested soon.”
Subhash Dubey, Deputy Inspector General, Azamgarh Range, told reporters that the murder had nothing to do with the fact that the man was a journalist. However, Ratan Singh’s father Binod Singh disputed the claims by the police. He said that there was no property dispute and that the police were spinning a story.
This is the third case of a journalist being murdered in the country in the third consecutive month in Uttar Pradesh. In July, 35 year old journalist Vikram Joshi was murdered in front of his daughters (5 and 11) in Ghaziabad District of Uttar Pradesh. In a video captured on a CCTV camera, Vikram Joshi can be seen travelling on his motorbike with his two daughters when a group of miscreants stop him and beat him up before he is sprayed with bullets. Joshi was rushed to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries two days later. The murder came four days after Joshi lodged a complaint against 3 people at the Vijay Nagar Police Station for harassing and making objectionable comments against his neice. Vikram’s brother told the media that the police had failed to investigate Joshi’s complaint allowing the men to plan a revenge attack. Later nine men were arrested in connection with the attack.
A month before Joshi’s murder, another journalist Shubham Mani Tripathi (25) was shot dead near the Gangaghat area of Unnao district in UP. Tripathi was returning home on his motorcycle with a friend when he was shot dead by “unidentified persons”.
Tripathi worked as a journalist for a small news agency called Kampu Mail. It was deciphered from a facebook post that Tripathi wrote 5 days prior to his murder that the jornalist had been investigating an illegal sand mining racquet by the local sand mafia allegedly involving illegal construction approved by government officials. Tripathi had also expressed fear that these men would harm him. Another Journalist from Unnao, Vishal Maurya told the Committee to Protect Journalists that the police were aware of the threat to Tripathi’s life as he had informed them of the same. He had also mailed letters to state authorities saying that he had been threatened.
These incidents come not just as a shock to the media fraternity in the country but to journalists worldwide. They reflect an unhealthy mindset of people who do not fear the law or the repercussions of their actions. It brings to light the issue of people with power silencing the people trying to bring to light the problems this country faces. It is also a representation of the state of law and order, not just in Uttar Pradesh but in India as a whole. Pressure is now building on the Yogi Adityanath run UP government to bring these cases to justice and reduce crime in the state. This comes at a time when the rape cases and cases of crimes against women are at an all time high in the state.