Rizavana Tabassum, a journalist from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, was found hanging in her room on Monday morning. The police suspect it to be a case of suicide. A note was reportedly found in her room that allegedly held Shamim Nomani responsible. Nomani was arrested for abetment to suicide after Rizavana’s father filed an FIR against him.
Nomani is said to be a youth volunteer with the Samajwadi Party. Rizavana wrote for a number of media outlets, including the Wire, Print and Quint. She had completed PG diploma in Hindi Journalism from Banaras Hindu University.
Rizavana’s brother, Mohammad Azam, told Newslaundry, “Rizavana didi didn’t come out of her room until 10 in the morning. After multiple calls, when she didn’t respond, we broke the lock and found her hanging.”
Asked about her association with Nomani, Azam said, “We live in one of the poor localities. There’s a trust in our area which supplies food to make sure no one dies of starvation. Didi spoke to that trust to get ration and distribute it among the deprived. Shamim was a volunteer who used to help the delivery people.”
He, however, rubbished rumours of Rizavana’s romantic involvement with Nomani.
Azam said Rizavana wrote an article for the news website Newsclick Sunday night, and it is expected to be published soon.
Newslaundry also spoke with a friend of Rizavana’s. “Rizavana was upset for the past one week,” she said on the condition of anonymity. “We tried to talk to her but she didn’t say much.”
Abhishek Pandey, head of the local police, said, “The police went to her place after a call from her family. Her body has been sent for postmortem and an FIR has been launched. The complaint has been launched on the basis of the note found in her room.”
Khabar Lahariya, where Rizavana worked as a freelance journalist, tweeted: “Today, we lost our friend and colleague, fellow journalist Rizavana Tabassum. Rizavana worked with us at Khabar Lahariya in various capacities, and grew as a journalist and digital media professional over the years we knew her. Rizavana was the first Muslim woman from her area of Varanasi to study media and establish herself as a professional journalist. We spent nine years together, reporting in villages and towns of Uttar Pradesh, on the desk in Delhi, travelling together, sharing life experiences, both of joy and struggle. We’ll never be able to forget her: her voice, her journalism, her sharp and flavourful humour, her temper and her affection.”
Rizvana’s last post on Twitter was her about her experience of being harassed in BHU for being a Muslim and reporting while wearing a hijab.
After news of Rizavana’s death emerged, several people who knew her or were acquainted with her work, expressed their grief.
Disclaimer: The report erroneously mentioned that the BHU report was Rizavana's last published report. Correction has been made. The error is regretted.