Commandant of TSR battalion arrested in senior Tripura journalist’s murder
The commandant of the 2nd battalion of Tripura State Rifles was arrested by the police on Wednesday in connection with the murder of senior journalist Sudip Datta Bhowmik, who was allegedly shot dead by a trooper on Tuesday.
Sudip, who worked with a local Bengali newspaper, Syandan Patrika, and a news channel, Vanguard, as ‘an investigative journalist’ had gone to the TSR 2nd battalion, located 20km from Agartala, for a news report. An altercation ensued between 50-year-old journalist and TSR’s Nandagopal Reang, who is Debbarma’s personal guard.
Reang allegedly fired at Bhowmik from his service AK-47 assault rifle in the ensuing melee. The bleeding journalist, who was hit on his stomach, was rushed to GB Pant Medical College and Hospital, where he was declared brought dead.
Several theories and claims have surfaced regarding the motive behind the murder—the second such killing of a journalist in the state after Santanu Bhowmik, 28, was hacked to death while covering a clash between two rival tribal groups at Mandai on September 20.
Subal Dey, editor and proprietor of Syandan Patrika, claimed that Bhowmik was targeted by the commandant as the journalist had written 11 stories against him in the newspaper.
“It was a cold-blooded murder and they tried to hide the body to destroy evidence. He was killed because he had exposed the commandant’s corrupt practices through his pen,” said Dey and also claimed that they crafted a well-designed ploy to portray Sudip as an “extortionist”.
Police, however, claim Sudip had stolen an envelope containing money or some confidential documents from Debbarma’s table while the latter was in the toilet on Tuesday.
When Debbarma asked Reang to conduct a body search of Sudip, it led to an argument following which the soldier shot at him twice from point-blank range.
Tripura governor Tathagata Roy has said he is going to Delhi and will submit a report to Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Sudip’s killing.
“I would see the end of the killing. How a journalist was killed by a TSR personnel within the battalion headquarter complex?” he was quoted as saying by news agency IANS.
With assembly polls due next year, the murder has heated up the political atmosphere in the state.
Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has called for a 12-hour strike in the state on November 23 in protest of the killing.
However, the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) criticised the BJP for politicising the incident.
“The ‘bandh’ called by BJP is totally undemocratic. It will hamper normal lives and especially, the annual examinations started in schools and revision of electoral rolls for the coming assembly polls,” CPI(M) said in a statement.
The Congress has demanded a high-level inquiry into the murder.
Various journalists organisations in the northeast, including the Tripura Working Journalists Association, Tripura Journalists Union (TJU) and the Agartala Press Club, have also denounced the killing and demanded a probe into the incident.
The TJU has also demanded the resignation of the state home minister, a portfolio held by the chief minister Manik Sarkar.
Sudip is survived by his wife, a government teacher, and two children.
(With agency inputs)