GUWAHATI: Journalists’ forums and individuals besides political parties have demanded a high level inquiry on the assassination of yet another journalist in Tripura.

Twenty eight year old Santanu Bhowmik who worked for Deen Raat, a local news channel, was abducted and hacked to death while he was covering a political clash between Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) and CPM’s tribal wing Tripura Rajaer Upajati Ganamukti Parishad (TRUGP) at Mandwai, some 25 kilomtre from state capital Agartala on Wednesday.

Seriously injured Bhowmik was taken to a government hospital, but the attending doctors declared him brought dead.

The IPFT has long been demanding for a separate state — Tipraland for the indigenous Tripuris. The ruling Left front has, however, opposed this demand. There have been a number of bloody clashes in the past on the issue.

Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) was promulgated in more than 10 places of West Tripura and Khowai districts from Tuesday after clashes broke between the supporters of the two organizations.

Deputy Inspector General of Poloce Arindam Nath told media that four IPFT members were arrested from the spot on Wednesday itself.

Journalists in Tripura staged protests and demanded strict action from the state government so that such incidents are not repeated in the future.

Expressing shock at the brutal murder of the young scribe, the Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA) demanded a high level probe into the incident and urged the Manik Sarkar led Left government at Agartala to book the culprits under the law.

The forum also reiterated its old demand for a special protection law for scribes on duty.

Shantanu Bhowmik becomes the seventh Indian victim-journalist this year after the murder of Bangalore based editor-journalist and social activist Gauri Lankesh (55) on September 5. Prior to her, Haryana based television journalist Surender Singh Rana (35) was shot dead on July 29.

The other victims include Kamlesh Jain (42) of Madhya Pradesh (killed on May 31), Shyam Sharma (40) also of Madhya Pradesh (killed on May 15), Brajesh Kumar Singh (28) of Bihar (killed on January 3) and Hari Prakash (31) of Jharkhand (killed on January 2).

India lost six journalists to assailants in 2016, which was preceded by five cases in 2015. The populous country witnessed murders of two scribes in 2014, but the year 2013 reported as many as 11 journalists’ murders, where three northeastern media employees also also killed.

The killing of Sujit Bhattacharya (proof reader), Ranjit Chowdhury (manager) and Balaram Ghosh (driver) inside the office premises of Dainik Ganadoot in Agartala created a sensation as it was unprecedented at the time with Tripura having no recent record of journalist-murders.

“Tripura thus repeated its shameful record on journo-murder after three years. Shantanu’s killing on duty hours also reminds the challenge and risks faced by the working journalists of northeast India. We also extend moral supports to the agitating journalists of Tripura for their endeavor to justice,” said a statement issued by JFA president Rupam Barua and secretary Nava Thakuria.

National Union of Journalists India (NUJI). The Journalists Association of Assam (JAA) and its Tripura state affiliate strongly condemned the brutal murder of the journalist and demanded strict action against te culprits.

Condemning the killing NUJI president Ras Bihari and secretary East Zone Bhupen Goswami termed it as a failure of the administration to grant protection to the media persons.

NUJI also reiterated its demand for a Journalists Protection Act to ensure safety and end impunity for attacks on journalists.

NUJI secretary general Ratan Dixit said, “We demand adequate compensation to the murdered journalist and appeal to the state authorities to ensure that such incidents should not occur in future. In addition, we also demand immediate arrest of the culprits”.

Prasanta Chakraborty, Tripura state general secretary of the NUJI unit said the killing is a most brutal act on the part of any political group in the state.

CPIM official twitter handle alleged that ( https://twitter.com/cpimspeak/status/910735055026143232S ) BJP directly supports IPFT who murdered Santanu Bhowmik after accusing him of being A CPI(M) supporter!

It also said that Chief Minister Manik Sarkar has directed the DGP to investigate the matter with utmost priority and take stern action against the perpetrators.

The Editors Guild of India strongly condemns the killing of Santanu Bhowmik,  a reporter of a local TV channel in Tripura. He was brutally attacked by a mob and killed in Mandai about 35 kilometres from Agartala even though, it is reported, that police were present at the scene. The Guild demands that the Tripura Chief Minister Mr Manik Sarkar have the assailants swiftly brought to justice. Also to take adequate precautions to ensure that such attacks on journalists do not occur in future in the state.

Unfortunately, Bhowmik’s killing is not an isolated incident. Only on September 5, Gauri Lankesh, Editor of Gauri Lankesh Patrika, was brutally murdered in front of her house in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Meanwhile, there are frequent reports of journalists receiving threat letters or being trolled viciously.  There is a growing pattern to these attacks and journalists are increasingly becoming easy targets because of lax law enforcement agencies.

The Guild demands that the Central Government take cognisance of the series of attacks on journalists and ask all state governments to take steps to provide adequate protection to journalists across the country.

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