Another journalist killed in Tripura: Militancy is the main reason for murders of North East scribes

A senior Tripura journalist Sudip Datta Bhowmik was shot dead by a Tripura State Rifles (TSR) jawan on Tuesday. This was the second murder of a journalist in the line of duty in Tripura since September.

Sources had told Firstpost that Bhowmik was allegedly killed by the jawan following an altercation at RK Nagar inside the 2nd Battalion Headquarters of TSR.

The murder came jsut two months after Shantanu Bhowmik, a local TV journalist, was abducted and later killed on 21 September, allegedly by members of the Indigenous People's Front of Tripura.

According to The Hindu, the activists attacked the journalist with sharp weapons while he was covering a road blockade by IPFT, which was demanding a separate Tipraland.

Journalists unions condemn killings

Various journalists organisations in the North East, including the Tripura Working Journalists Association, Tripura Journalists Union (TJU) and the Agartala Press Club, denounced the killing of Bhowmik and demanded a high level probe into the incident.

The TJU also demanded the resignation of the home minister. The portfolio is held by Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. The reaction was somewhat similar after Shantanu was killed by alleged IPFT activists on 21 September.

A silent rally of journalists was taken out in Agartala with the body of the young television journalist, who was cremated at Jirania. Many journalists' organisations in Agartala, Kolkata, Guwahati and New Delhi had vehemently condemned the killing.

But beyond the usual condemnation of such killings, the fact remains that the larger North East region has been unsafe for on duty-journalists.

 Another journalist killed in Tripura: Militancy is the main reason for murders of North East scribes

File image of slain journalist Sudip Datta Bhowmik. Facebook/ Sudip Datta Bhowmik

Militancy: the reason behind the killings?

Since 1987, 31 journalists have been killed in the North East, Bhowmik being the latest casualty. While Tripura saw the murder of two journalists in the last three decades, the situation is grimmer in Assam and Manipur.

Twenty-four journalists have been murdered in Assam since 1987. On the other hand, six journalists have been killed in Manipur during the same period.

The common link between the killings in Assam and Manipur seems to be active militancy in these states.

While in Assam, several deaths have been attributed to ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam), the picture is unclear in Manipur. This is because the state has been reeling under multiple insurgencies. Moreover, none of the groups have ever claimed responsibility for the murders.

As noted by a 2004 Frontline article, " It is a well-known fact that two (Lalrohu Hmar and Th Brajamani Singh) were killed for writing against militants."

"Since 1982, six journalists in Manipur have been tortured and killed. But the police has failed to arrest any of the perpetrators. Though the press is referred to as the fourth pillar of the democracy, there is no protection offered to them." a Firstpost article noted.

In Assam, the article noted that none of the investigations into the murders have been able to punish the perpetrators.

"After my brother's assassination, an FIR was lodged in a nearby police station. As it was a very sensitive case, we appealed to the government for a CBI probe. In fact, we even approached the then chief minister Tarun Gogoi and also Union ministers, but nothing came out of it," the article quoted the brother of slain journalist Parag Kumar Das as saying.

While Bhowmik's death was clearly a fallout of a altercation, Shantanu's murder was once again linked to the ongoing ethnic crisis in Tripura. The IPFT and the Twipraland State Party since 2009 have been agitating for upgrading the existing Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) to a separate tribal state.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Nov 22, 2017 15:51:35 IST