Within 24 hours, two journalists were shot dead in Jharkhand and Bihar. While Hindi daily Hindustan bureau-chief Rajdev Ranjan was shot dead in Bihar’s Siwan, stringer Indradev Yadav was shot in the naxal-prone Chatra district of Jharkhand on May 12. Both were shot at close range, but the two cases are very different. Here’s all you need to know about Yadav, Ranjan and the theories swirling around their murders.
Indradev Yadav, stringer and the man with multiple identities
Yadav, 45, was also known as Akhilesh Pratap Singh or AP Singh. He had one identity in Chatra, where he worked, and a different identity in the district of Gaya, where he was born. He had a third identity online. Yadav was shot by unidentified men near Devaria panchayat secretariat in Chatra. “We have recovered five blank cartridges from the spot. These were fired from .9mm gun,” Chatra Superintendent of Police Anjani Kumar Jha told Newslaundry. Three bullets were found in Yadav’s body. Jha said the incident took place between 8pm and 8.40pm, on May 12. The police department is also looking into the call details of the slain stringer and the footage collected from the CCTV cameras installed in the area. “Yadav used four sim cards. We are checking call details of these numbers (sim cards),” said Jha.
On basis of Yadav’s last movements and CCTV footage, the police have made a few arrests. One of the people taken in for questioning is Birbal Sao, known for taking petty contracts to install electric poles in villages for Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC). Sao and Yadav were seen eating together earlier on May 12. It’s worth nothing that Yadav, who started his journalistic career with Sudarshan TV as stringer in 2006, had also been taking petty contracts from DVC since 2015.
A close friend of Yadav’s and a stringer with regional news channel (Kashish News) Ajeet Sinha told Newslaundry, “He was very polite with everyone. Though we have no idea about the murderer or the reasons behind it, but possibilities of killing him for issues related to journalism or stories seem unlikely.” The culture of taking government contracts or sub-contracts for construction work is common in naxal-infested areas of Bastar-Dantewada in the adjacent state Chhattisgarh. Yadav had been working on petty contracts from DVC for the past year, his friend added.
When asked about the motive of murder, Jha said, “We are not denying any possibility — personal or related to journalism.” However, he declined to comment on the criminal record of those who have been arrested for the interrogation. Jha added, “As the family is in state of shock, we are waiting for them, particularly his wife, to recover and respond.” Yadav is survived by his wife Babita Devi, 32, and daughter Priya Raj, 12, and son Aryan Raj, a student of class two. He had sent his eldest daughter Priyanshu Raj, 14, to Koderma district to prepare for the entrance exam to Vansathali School. A delegation of local journalists had put forward a demand of a government job for Yadav’s wife and Rs 25 lakh, to help her raise her family.
A local journalist, who didn’t wanted to be named, said, “It is an unfortunate incident. However, we feel that his murder is to do with his background.” This journalist pointed out that Yadav’s earnings weren’t in sync with what most media persons earn. “I am working as a journalist for three decades here, have become a staffer of a leading national Hindi daily,” he said. “Yet I have failed to buy a single plot of land. How is it possible that within years he [Yadav] had amassed huge property in a town where he used to live in a rented room?”
Yadav joined local news channel Taaza TV in 2011. He’d come to Chatra after his father forced him to leave his village in Gaya, fearing Yadav may become a victim of the naxal movement. In a few years, Yadav had successfully built a two-storey house and acquired two plots of land in Chatra. According to his friend, in addition to the Rs 15,000-odd he earned as a stringer, Yadav used to earn Rs 10-12,000 monthly from the rented properties. According to one journalist, “He [Yadav] had rented his ground floor to DVC employees.”
Another local journalist and a close aide of Yadav who also requested anonymity claimed Yadav was involved with naxals. “Till 2000, he was area commander of MCC [Maoist Communist Centre] in Rajpur, Kanhachatti (Chatra).” However, after some time, the journalist said of Yadav, “Usne bandook chodd kar kalam thama tha.” (“He had left gun and picked up the pen.”)
Jha confirmed that after the murder, details about Yadav’s past were starting to surfacing. He said, “Few sources had informed us too about his relations with naxal organisations in the past. But nothing is on record.” He added that, “Currently our focus is on investigating the motive of murder and arresting the culprits.”
Ranjan Rajdev, bureau chief for Hindustan in Siwan
Within 24 hours after Yadav’s killing, the bureau chief of Hindi daily Hindustan, Ranjan Rajdev was shot dead in Siwan, Bihar. Ranjan started his journalistic career almost 16 years ago as a stringer for Hindustan. He covered crime and politics extensively in Bihar, particularly during the Lalu Prasad Yadav and Rabri Devi years. According to reports, Ranjan, 42, got a call and left office for a meeting on Friday evening. He was intercepted at 8.30pm by two men on a bike at Phal Mandi, near Siwan station. He was shot at close range with a .9mm pistol: one bullet hit his forehead and another went past his neck. Ranjan died on the way to the hospital. His family has pointed fingers at former Siwan Member of Parliament Mohammad Shahabuddin. Ranjan had written extensively on court proceedings against Shahabuddin.
Superintendent of Police, Siwan, Saurabh Kumar Sah told Newslaundry, “Two people, Upendra Kumar Singh and Jitendra Kumar Singh, had been detained today morning [in connection with Ranjan’s killing] from Jeeradeyi Police Station area. They are known for providing shelters to criminals.”
When asked about the possible involvement of Shahabuddin in the case, Sah said, “Till now we have no proofs about his direct or indirect involvement and if he would be found guilty in further enquiries, we will sure take the necessary action.”
Police sources said there were six people waiting for Ranjan at the spot and two of them shot him at point blank range. They said the way he was killed suggested the killers were hit men or contract killers who work on hire. The probability of a gang hired from out of Bihar can not be ruled out and Sah said there were “probable chances of involvement of some people from Gorakhpur”.
Ranjan’s family remains convinced Shahbuddin is behind the killing and has demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Update: Close to 10 people have been questioned in the case so far, one of who is Parmatma Ram, Rashtriya Janata Dal district president of Siwan. On Sunday, the police questioned Ram who stated that Upendra Singh, who has already been arrested in connection with this case, is an active RJD member. Singh is also close to jailed party leader and former Siwan MP Mohammed Shahabuddin.
Upendra Singh, Shahzad Alam, Jitendra Singh and Vidya Sagar were presented before the court by the police today at Siwan, while Munshi Miyan, a known sharpshooter, was arrested from Pratap Pur.
Meanwhile, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar gave a statement yesterday expressing “deep grief” owing to some incidents of crime in the state. In a press conference held earlier today, Kumar said it will be decided today if the case should be handed over to the CBI.
Ranjan’s killing has been covered extensively by most newspapers and TV channels, including Hindustan. Journalists in Patna, Varanasi, Lucknow and Ranchi also held protest marches yesterday. A vigil has been organised today in Delhi, by the Press Club of India, Delhi, and Indian Women’s Press Corps.
Sources in Chatra Police claimed Birbal Sao and his business partner Jhaman Sao are behind the murder of Indradev Yadav. According to a local journalist, the police had also recovered the weapon and vehicle used in the murder. However, the one who actually shot Yadav is still at large.