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

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

J&K continues to be haunted, as parts of India 'degenerate' into quasi-Kashmir situation

By Rajendran Narayanan*, Sandeep Pandey**
“Jab har saans mein bandook dikhe toh baccha kaise bekhauf rahe?” (How can a child be fearless when she sees a gun in every breath?) remarked Anwar, a gardener from Srinagar, when asked about the situation in Kashmir. On November 30, 2019, a walk through an iron gate in a quiet neighbourhood of Srinagar took us inside a public school. It was 11 am when typically every school is abuzz with activity. Not here though.

Indians have made 119 nations their ‘karma bhumi’: US-based Hindu NGO tells Rupani

Counterview Desk
In a stinging letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the US-based Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), referring to the report citing his justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – that “while Muslims can choose any one of the 150 Islamic countries in the world (for residence), India is the only country for Hindus" – has said, he should remember, Hindus have made several countries, including USA, their home.

What about religious persecution of Dalits, Adivasis, asks anti-CAA meet off Ahmedabad

By Rajiv Shah
A well-attended Dalit rights meet under the banner “14 Pe Charcha” (discussion on Article 14 of the Indian Constitution), alluding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi well-known campaign phrase of the 2014 Parliamentary elections, “chai pe charcha” (discussion over cup of tea), organized off Ahmedabad, has resolved on Wednesday to hold a 14 kilometres-long rally on April 14 to oppose the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), enacted on December 10-11.

Tata Mundra's possible closure? Power ministry's 'pressure tactic' on consumer states

By Bharat Patel*
Tata power has announced to the Union Ministry of Power that Tata Power may be forced to stop operating  its imported coal-based Mundra Ultra-Mega Power Project (UMPP) after February, 2020. It is not only unfortunate but also criminal that irreversible damage has been caused to the fragile ecosystem of Mundra coast for a project that will have a running life of only seven years.

Upendra Baxi on foolish excellence, Indian judges and Consitutional cockroaches

By Rajiv Shah
In a controversial assertion, top legal expert Upendra Baxi has sought to question India's Constitution makers for neglecting human rights and social justice. Addressing an elite audience in Ahmedabad, Prof Baxi said, the constitutional idea of India enunciated by the Constituent Assembly tried to resolve four key conflicting concepts: governance, development, rights and justice.

Population control? 10% Indian couples want to delay next pregnancy, but fail

Counterview Desk
Shireen Jejeebhoy, director at Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing, previously senior associate at the Population Council, India, argues that the debate on the country's population was fuelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address to the nation, where he drew attention to “concern” about the challenges posed by this ‘exploding’ population growth, needs to centre around the promotion of rights and education, instead of the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.