Police have detained four people in connection with the murder of senior journalist Rajdeo Ranjan, Siwan superintendent of police Saurabh Kumar Sah said on Saturday. They are being interrogated, he added.
Five people on motorcycles opened fire at Ranjan, Siwan bureau chief of the Hindi daily Hindustan, as he was heading home from work on Friday. While one of the bullets hit the 42-year-old in the head, another struck him on his neck. He was declared dead on arrival at the nearest hospital.
Police sources said the manner in which the murder was carried out, with the senior journalist being shot straight through the temple, indicated that it was a professional hit.
Ranjan was employed with Hindustan — a sister concern of Hindustan Times — for 20 years. Investigators, who recovered five empty cartridges from the spot, are yet to ascertain the motive behind the murder.
Sources said Ranjan had written against local politicians on several occasions, evoking death threats from many quarters. Siwan is the stronghold of former RJD parliamentarian Mohammad Shahabuddin, who is serving a life sentence for the abduction and murder of two people in 2004.
Senior JD(U) leader Shyam Rajak sought to downplay the issue by saying that “aam aadmi maare nahi jaa rahe (the common man is not getting killed)”. He, however, hastened to add that the murder was condemnable, and the perpetrators would be brought to book soon.
Ajay Alok, another party leader, told ANI that the culprits would be nabbed in 48 hours. “No matter who the criminals are, the government is determined to hunt them down...” he said.
The incident has mounted further pressure on the Nitish Kumar government, which was already reeling under the road-rage murder of a teenager at the hands of Rocky Yadav, the son of a JD(U) legislator.
The BJP grabbed the opportunity to attack the state government over the deteriorating “law-and-order situation in the state”. Taunting Kumar, party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said that while the chief minister was visiting Varanasi, Biharis were migrating out of the state because “criminals rule the roost”.
Hussain described the killing of Ranjan as an attack on the “fourth pillar” of democracy. “The law-and-order situation in Bihar has become so bad that people are migrating to other states. It is not jungle raj but maha jungle raj here,” he said.
According to colleagues, the journalist was supposed to celebrate his 14th wedding anniversary with a gala party on Saturday.
India is considered one of the most dangerous places for journalists in the world with political influence mixed with a nexus between criminals and industry causing a surge in crimes against reporters. A 2015 study by Reporters Without Borders said India was the deadliest for journalists in Asia, ahead of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Nine journalists were killed in the country last year, with only war-torn Syria and Iraq recording more deaths.