The killing of journalist Rajdeo Ranjan, who worked for the Hindi daily Hindustan, and Akhilesh Pratap Singh, who worked for a TV channel, underscores two things: First, India is becoming a dangerous place for journalists who wish to do their work diligently. This has become visible in a prominent way over the past six years, ever since the murder of Sushil Pathak of Dainik Bhaskar in Chhattisgarh in 2010. Since then every year journalists have been killed in one part of the country or the other. Second, Nitish Kumar’s return to power last November was predicated on good governance and economic growth, for which Mr Kumar could claim credit. But within a month of his return to power, two engineers were killed. This was followed by a succession of murders, including those of two leaders of opposition parties, in his state.
Mr Kumar’s claim that the crime rate in Bihar has come down with the introduction of prohibition may be true, but where he is wrong is in suggesting that crime has a relationship with the consumption of liquor. Though there is no doubt that drunken brawls often lead to violence and murder, there are other factors which drive this endemic violence. There are conflicts at every level in society, individual and social. And individual rivalry can be a representation of social conflicts. What is important is what Mr Kumar, who is ready for a CBI probe into Ranjan’s killing, can do as chief minister to improve the administration and send the message that the law is supreme and no one can get away with murder. This is also important because there is a political connection to each of the killings that has taken place since December. The upshot of this is that political cover gives a criminal the insulation he needs to carry on with business as usual. And if such insulation comes from Mr Kumar’s party or his allies, his government cannot absolve itself of responsibility. Already his deputy chief minister has shot himself in the foot by comparing criminal acts in the state with road rage incidents in Delhi.
Another thing to note is that journalists are killed mostly in small towns, where miscreants find a conducive environment. This has been pointed out by the Committee to Protect Journalists, an international non-profit organisation. For example, Mohammed Shahabuddin, former MP from Siwan, who has been in jail long before his conviction, has been linked to many murders over the past 20 years. This means he can carry out his operations from jail. Monitoring the activities of such worthies more closely could be an effective way of finding out how effectively their networks run.