India: 5 Suspects Arrested in Journalist’s Killing

Kshitij Nagar
New Delhi
160525-IN-journo-suspects-620.jpg Indian journalists pay respects to slain colleagues Rajdeo Ranjan and Akhilesh Pratap Singh in New Delhi, May 16, 2016.
Kshitij Nagar/BenarNews

Indian police claimed a major breakthrough Wednesday in the recent killing of a journalist in the eastern state of Bihar, saying they had arrested five people in connection with the case, including a man who allegedly fired at the reporter.

The five suspects – Rohit Kumar, Vijay Gupta, Rajesh Kumar, Ishu Kumar and Sonu Gupta – were hired to kill Rajdeo Ranjan, bureau chief of the leading Hindi-language daily Hindustan, police said, adding that none of them had previous criminal records.

Police said Rohit Kumar confessed to firing at Ranjan, who was shot five times at close range in the head and neck by motorcycle-borne assailants in Bihar’s Siwan district on May 13. Ranjan was one of two journalists killed this month in separate shootings in eastern India.

In the Ranjan case, police have recovered a 7.65 bore pistol and three motorcycles, including the one used as the getaway vehicle, Additional Director General (ADG) of Police Sunil Kumar told reporters, without divulging more details about the suspects.

He said the arrests were made in an overnight operation that began late Tuesday.

District Superintendent of Police Saurabh Shah told BenarNews that his team’s investigation relied on “both technical and human intelligence.”

“Over the last 12 days, we were tracking two different groups of suspected hit men. We eventually zeroed down on this group, whose routes mirrored Ranjan’s,” Shah said.

He said the suspects were being interrogated to determine the identity of the individual who contracted the hit on Ranjan, who was well known in the region for his reports on alleged criminal activities and corruption.

‘Hired killers’

ADG Kumar labeled a sixth man, Laddan Mian, a person of interest in the case. Mian is believed to be a close aide of ex-member of parliament Mohammad Shahabuddin, who is serving a life term for an attempted murder conviction.

Last week, Shahabuddin was shifted from the Siwan district prison to a jail in Bhagalpur.

Inspector General (Prisons) Anand Kishore told BenarNews that Shahabuddin was moved because of an “internal security audit report” that cited security concerns if the ex-MP and district strongman remained in Siwan jail.

While speaking with BenarNews last week, Ranjan’s family had hinted at a “political link” to his death.

Following announcement of the arrests on Wednesday, Ranjan’s father, R.K. Choudhury, said he was pleased that the media attention in the case had forced authorities to act swiftly, but voiced concern over the real culprits being brought to book.

“The people arrested are hired killers. I’m waiting for those who hired these killers to be acquainted with the law,” Choudhury told BenarNews.

‘Good beginning’

Ranjan’s killing, which occurred less than 24 hours after another journalist, Akhilesh Pratap Singh, was shot dead in a similar fashion in the neighboring Jharkhand state, had sparked a series of protests by Indian journalists last week.

The killings came barely a month after Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked India, the world’s most populous democracy, 133rd of 180 countries on its 2016 World Press Freedom index.

“This is a good beginning. The pressure on the government and police by Indian journalists seems to have paid off,” Press Club of India president Rahul Jalali told BenarNews.

“But we need to be careful as to how the police build the case from here. We need to ensure that those who are really involved, the people who contracted these five shooters are brought to book,” he said.

In Jharkhand, which forms part of the region affected by a Maoist insurgency, police said they had arrested three people in connection with Singh’s killing.

Superintendent of Police A.K. Jha said Singh was killed because he refused to pay a levy of Rs. 700,000 (U.S. $10,400) to a breakaway faction of the banned Communist Party of India-Maoist group.

“This group is called the Tritya-Sammelan Prastuti Committee [TPC]. We have heard of similar demands before,” Jha told BenarNews.

“We can confirm three arrests so far in the case,” Jha said, identifying the three men as Birbal Sao, Jhamman Sao and Suraj Sao. “We suspect three more to be involved and search is on to nab them.”


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