Skip to main content

Journalist Shantanu Bhowmik was beaten to death by a mob in Tripura: Why did CPI(M) chief minister remained silent?

By Nava Thakuria*
As India was reacting sharply against the killing of Kannada editor-journalist Gauri Lankesh on September 5 at her Bangaluru (earlier known as Bangalore) residence, a northeastern (NE) State repeated its shocking journo-murder incident on September 20 with brutal killing of a young television scribe Shantanu Bhowmik in Tripura.
A Left ideology-inclined journalist Ms Gauri’s assassination tempted more civil society groups, which are predominantly against the Hindu nationalist ideologue like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha (RSS) along with Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), to come to streets demanding justice. They were in hurry to make statements that the outspoken journalist was targeted by the ruling political elements as she used to criticize both RSS and BJP absolutely.
As the country witnessed series of protest-demonstrations, mostly by the Left organizations, Tripura’s chief minister Manik Sarkar also joined in a protest program at Agartala. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) run province government head thus received rousing appreciations from the media fraternity of India as a whole.
But the reality hunted everyone as Shantanu was beaten to death by a mob in west Tripura and the same CPI (M) chief minister remained silent. The Agartala based journalists, while condemning Shantanu’s murder had to raise voices for. getting reactions from the chief minister. CM Sarkar, also in charge of home portfolio, pronounced a spongy reaction towards the incident.
However, the condemnations from various national and international bodies were pouring against the brutal murder of Shantanu, 29, who used to work for an Agartala based Bengali-language cable news channel named Din-Raat. A series of protest programs were organized by various Indian media bodies across the country demanding justice to Shantanu’s bereaved mother and sister.
On the fateful day, Shantanu went to cover a programme of Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), which was pretesting against the ruling CPI (M) and slowly it turned violent. Claimed to have supports from the tribal population of Tripura, the IPFT maintains its demand for a separate homeland (read Twipraland) for the tribal people out of Tripura. The party, which has seemingly a political understanding with the BJP, continued its violent protests since the last few years.
The IPFT protest program at Mandwai of west Tripura, bordering Bangladesh, soon witnessed the arrival of many cadres belonged to the CPI (M)’s tribal wing Tripura Rajya Upajati Ganamukti Parishad (TRUGP) at the location. Both the parties had already engaged in violent clashes on the previous day at the same location.
So the situation got charged and finally members of both IPFT and TRUGP turned aggressive and later violent. Shantanu started shooting the violent activities with his mobile phone, as his lens-man avoided the professional camera for fear of abusive reactions from the agitators. As Shantanu started capturing the visuals of IPFT members attacking the opponent & police and also damaging vehicles on the roadside, he was asked initially to stop recording.
Later the protesters chased him for the cell phone and some of them turned unruly to finally attack Shantanu with stick-rods and other sharp items. Blood soaked Shantanu was rescued and sent to the hospital by the police, but till then he stopped breathing. His phone was however missing, which was also revealed by the State police chief Akhil Kumar Shukla.
His killing was condemned and condoled by various regional, national and international forums including the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Paris-based Reporters sans/without Borders (RSF), the Brussels based International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) etc, where everyone asked the Tripura government to go for a ‘thorough investigation’ into the death of Shantanu to bring those responsible to justice and also ensure the future safety of journalists.
Shantanu’s mother Papori Nag Bhowmik is a government employee and his sister Pinaki Bhowmik was pursuing college education student in Gangtok. His father Sadhan Bhowmik lives separately in the same locality. Shantanu’s family was close to the CPI (M) and it was visible when his body was covered with a party flag in his residence before the cremation.
With an aim to establish the fact that Shantanu was actually targeted by the IPFT supporters, the State CPI (M) leader Gautam Das officially declared that the young reporter was a member of his party and that is why he was attacked. Das however clarified that Shantanu was a fulltime journalist and he was not involved in any party activities.
Meanwhile, the IPFT also came out with the demand for a CBI probe into the killing to unearth actual facts. The party president Narendra Chandra Debbarma, while condemning the heinous crime, reiterated that assaulting media persons was never their policy. He also commented that without entertaining a high level enquiry, the riling CPI (M) should not accuse IPFT supporters against the scribe’s murder.
Lately after lot of hue and cry, the Tripura government decided to constitute an SIT to probe into the astonishing murder, where DGP Shukla claimed that the police had identified the culprits involved with the slaughtering of Shantanu besides three persons already been arrested. Following the demand of compensations raised by the Tripura based journalists, the State government also agreed to offer rupees one million to the bereaved family.
Soon after Shantanu’s killing, blame games started as the BJP accused the Left government at Agartala of failing the law and order situation. The saffron party also demanded Sarkar’s resignation. The Congress criticized the ruling CPI (M) and also the BJP for triggering communal violence dividing the population with tribal-nontribal (read Bengali) divides.
The tiny State of Tripura goes for Assembly polls next year. The Left parties are in comfortable position as they have 50 seats in the 60-member legislative house. The CPI (M) as well as Sarkar is in power for decades, but the next elections might invites brickbats for both.
Political analysts argue that the BJP would pose a real challenge to the Left government in February-March 2018 with the help of IPFT supporter and sympathizers.
For record, Shantanu was the seventh Indian journalist to be killed this year. The string of killings began with Hari Prakash, 31, whose dead body was recovered in Hazaribag locality of Jharkhand on January 2. Then came another bad news from Bihar, where unidentified goons shot dead Brajesh Kumar Singh, 28, at Samastipur locality on January 3.
The third and fourth incidents involving the murder of working journalists were reported from Madhya Pradesh, where Shyam Sharma, 40, was stabbed to death by miscreants at Anshul locality on May 15 and Kamlesh Jain, 42, was shot dead in Pipliyamandi locality May 31. Prior to them, a Haryana based television journalist (Surender Singh Rana, 35) was shot dead on July 29. Lately, a senior journalist of Punjab (KJ Singh, 66) was found murdered on September 23 along with his old-age mother.
India lost six journalists to assailants in 2016, which was preceded by five cases in 2015. It witnessed murders of two scribes in 2014, but the year 2013 reported as many as 11 journalists' murders, where three northeastern media employees also fall victims to the perpetrators. The killing of Sujit Bhattacharya, Ranjit Chowdhury and Balaram Ghosh at Agartala broke as sensational news as Tripura had no recent record of journalist-murders.
The trouble-torn NE region has lost over 30 journalists to assailants in the last three decades, where Assam and Manipur had lost more media persons. Both the States, where over 30 separatist armed outfits remain active, witnessed the immediate previous journo-murders with Dwijamani Nanao Singh (killed in Imphal) and Raihanul Nayum (Dhubri) in 2012, Anil Mazumdar (Guwahati) and Konsam Rishikanta (Imphal) in 2009 and Jagajit Saikia (shot dead at Kokrajhar in 2008).

Comments

TRENDING

Untold story of Jammu: Business 'down', students fear lynching, teachers can't speak

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released report, seeking to debunk the view that people in Jammu, the second biggest city of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) after Srinagar, people had gone “out celebrating” abrogation of Article 370 which took away the state’s special status, has reported what it calls “abominably high levels of fear” across all sections in the town.

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

By Our Representative
Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are abou…

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Cess for Gujarat construction workers: Spending less than 10%; no 'direct help' to beneficiaries

By Our Representative
While the Gujarat government’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, set up in 2004, as of March 31, 2019, has collected a total cess of Rs 2,097.62 crore from the the builders, it has spent less than 10% -- Rs 197.17 crore. And, as on May 31, 2019, the total cess collection has reached Rs 2,583.16 crore, said a statement issued by Bandhkam Majur Sagathan general secretary Vipul Pandya.
Pointing out that just about 6.5 lakh out of 20 lakh workers have been registered under the board, Pandya said, vis-à-vis other states, Gujarat ranks No 13th in the amount spent on the welfare of the construction workers, while 11th in the amount collected.
And while the builders are obliged to pay just about 1% of the total cost of their project, the calculation of the cess is flawed: It is Rs 3,000 per square yard; accordingly, Rs 30 per square yard is collected. “Had the cess been collected on the real construction cost, it would have been at least Rs 7,000 cr…

Why nobody objected to Gautam Gambhir, Sunny Deol in t-shirt, jean?: Activists

By Our Representative
Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan’s excitement on their first day as MPs was overshadowed by a barrage of sexism over their ‘non- sanskari’ outfits, a group of civil society activists have said in a statement. According to Aarushi Nigam, Divya Kaushik, Riya Sharma, Ruman Ganguly, and Anulekha Agarwal, both Bengali actors and first-time MPs "were certainly excited to take them on when they posted pictures from their new workplace on social media."
Hit by misogynistic comments, the activists say, "Their choice of workwear – jeans and a white button-down shirt for Mimi, a wine-coloured peplum suit for Nusrat – was the first and last word on their political competence for many."
“You’re not on vacation”, “they have mistaken Parliament for Kolkata’s Nicco Park or City Centre”, “this is not a photo studio, this is a place where you should fight for people’s rights and legislate”, “keep some respect towards your Bengali society” were some of the &quo…

Kashmiris in a civil disobedience mode, are going against 'diktat' to open shops

Counterview Desk
A team of concerned citizens, including Ludhiana-based psychiatrist and writer Anirudh Kala, Mumbai-based activist and public health professional Brinelle Dsouza, Delhi-based journalist and writer Revati Laul, and social activist Shabnam Hashmi, travelled to Kashmir and Jammu to understand the impact of the abrogation of Article 370 and the subsequent security clampdown and communication blockade on the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

Gujarat CM aide 'doubts' authenticity of Gandhi article published in 'Harijan'

By Rajiv Shah
A top aide of Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani has doubted the authenticity of the article written by Mahatma on Gandhi January 27, 1948, three days before his death. Hitesh Pandya, who was assistant public relations officer (PRO) under Narendra Modi’s chief ministership in Gujarat, and is currently serving as PRO of Rupani, has said, there is “reason to doubt”, since the article appeared on February 1, 1948, two days after Gandhi’s assassination.

Denied permission in Ahmedabad to protest on Kashmir, NGO seeks online support

By Our Representative
Gujarat chapter of the Delhi-based Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD), which calls itself is a socio-cultural organization established “as a response to 2002 Gujarat riots”, has sought support from state academics, activists and professionals for a petition against the “unilateral” decision of the Government of India to “revoke” Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) legislature’s “right to self-governance”.

Success of 'political' Hinduism: Kashmiris being depicted as antagonists of rest of India

By Anand K Sahay*
There are times in history when facts call attention to themselves; they assert their independence in all its amplitude and are in no need of the crutch of interpretation. Such a moment is visible in Kashmir now. Merely by being on the table, the facts there taunt the regime’s proclamations.

RSS chief's Hindutva motto seems to be: Down with lynching, long live vadh

By Shamsul Islam*
India has turned into the lynching capital of the world. Our country has been tagged with this infamous identity with Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister of India in 2014. The Modi rule herald the beginning of nation-wide spree of lynching of Dalits and minorities. Unfortunately, there is no government data collection on hate-crimes but few media outlets have been collecting the lynch data.