Police have detained two people in connection with the murder a 42-year-old journalist, Rajdev Ranjan, who was shot dead in Bihar on Friday. Bike-borne assailants gunned him down at close range near the railway station in the Bihar town of Siwan. He was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Police said the reason behind the killing is unclear, and he was not known to have conflicts with anyone. Ranjan was the local bureau chief of Hindustan, a major Hindi daily in the state.
The police said it appeared to be a professional shooting, given Ranjan was shot straight through the temple, Hindustan Times reported. A second bullet hit him in the neck. The police are now interrogating the two detainees, but said that there were five assailants in total.
The Indian Express reported that Ranjan left the office after receiving a call, telling a colleague he had some “urgent work”. It was unusual for him to leave work at that hour, the colleague added. Ranjan had worked as the paper’s Siwan bureau chief for seven years and reported extensively on crime and politics. In particular, he had tracked the court cases against former Siwan MP Mohammad Shahabuddin, who is facing a life sentence for abduction and murder.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi was quick to lay blame, saying “The Bihar CM [Nitish Kumar] should take steps to salvage the law and order situation at home instead of frequently making trips to nurse his political ambitions.” A spokesperson for the Rashtriya Janata Dal party, which is a member of the state’s ruling alliance, said they will ensure that the culprit is caught soon.
The killing comes a day after Akhilesh Pratap, a television journalist from Chatra, Jharkhand, was shot dead by unidentified people. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday condemned the murder of the journalists, reported PTI. "Independent investigation may be instituted & guilty be punished," Jaitley said on Twitter.
The Press Council of India also condemned the killings on Saturday, reported PTI. “It is a matter of grave concern that three journalists were killed in the country in the last four months and another died in a tragic accident while on the line of duty,” PCI chairman Justice (retd) Chandramouli Kumar Prasad said.
“I urge upon the government of India to enact a special law for protection of journalists and speedy trial of cases of attacks and assaults on them in special fast track courts as recommended by the sub-committee for safety of journalists appointed by the Press Council,” he said. In April, a report by Reporters Without Borders, a global advocacy group, had called India “Asia’s deadliest country for media personnel, ahead of both Pakistan and Afghanistan”.
A United States media watchdog organisation Committee to Protect Journalist called for a tough investigation in the two cases. “While police investigations into the murders of journalists are welcome, investigations without arrests or tough prison sentences for the killers send the wrong message,” said Sumit Galhotra, a senior research associate in the group's Asia programme.