PATNA: The Bihar police arrested five people on Wednesday for the murder of a senior journalist at Siwan, even as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) looked set to take over the investigation into the case.
The arrested people have been identified as Rohit Kumar, Vijay Kumar, Rajesh Kumar, Vishu Kumar and Sonu Kumar Gupta, all between 20 and 25 years of age. Police said Rohit — whose father has been indicted in a murder case — is the main accused, and has already confessed to the crime.
However, none of the five arrested people have criminal records.
Rajdeo Ranjan, the bureau chief of Hindi daily Hindustan, was shot dead near the Siwan railway station on May 13. The incident, which followed the murder of a teenager by the son of a JD(U) legislator, caused a major uproar with opposition parties dubbing it as a reflection on the state’s deteriorating law-and-order situation.
Police said Rohit was allegedly associated with one Azharuddin Beg alias Laddan Mian, henchman of former Siwan MP Mohammad Shahabuddin.
Laddan arranged for the contract killing, they said, adding that he paid `15,000 in advance to the five suspects.
The special investigation team constituted to probe Ranjan’s murder had earlier interrogated 15 people, of whom eight were believed to be Shahabuddin’s accomplices. The former RJD MP is imprisoned in connection with an abduction-cum-murder case.
Speaking on the arrest of the five suspects, ADG (headquarters) Sunil Kumar said, “We arrested them from different parts of Siwan on Wednesday morning. A country-made pistol of 7.65mm bore and two live cartridges (hidden at Sonu’s house) were recovered from them.”
Police had their eyes on Laddan from the very day of the crime, he added. Kumar maintained that while there was no indication of Shahabuddin’s complicity, police will not hesitate to act if he was found to be involved.
“The motive and the conspiracy behind the crime will become clear once the other accused are arrested,” he said. Laddan, who was released from Siwan district jail on April 24, reportedly fled the city along with his family two hours after the murder. Police suspect that accomplices of Mukhtar Ansari — a politician lodged in Agra jail — provided Laddan with a safe hideout after he absconded.
“The relationship between Shahabuddin and Mukhtar is well known. Laddan was probably helped by Mukhtar’s associates who are active in the Mau-Ghazipur area of eastern Uttar Pradesh. We are using inputs provided by the intelligence department to locate him,” a police officer said.
Ansari represents Mau in the Uttar Pradesh assembly.
Kumar said Ranjan was followed from his office by Vishu and Rohit on a white Apache bike, and Vijay and Rajesh on a black Avenger cruiser. “The pistol recovered from the suspects match the bullets found at the scene of the murder. Three motorcycles were also seized from their possession. We will conduct forensic tests to check if the motorcycles bear any bloodstains,” he added.
The ADG said though the CBI has taken a copy of the FIR for conducting a preliminary inquiry, the police will continue with the probe spearheaded by Siwan superintendent of police Saurabh Kumar Sah.
According to sources, police were also looking for one Vikash Kumar Singh from Balia in Uttar Pradesh. Singh, arrested earlier for the murder of BJP leader Srikant Bharti, was recently released from Siwan jail.