This week, two journalists were brutally murdered in two states. In both cases, police negligence played a significant part. Sunil Tiwari was killed in Madhya Pradesh’s Niwari district on July 22 and Vikram Joshi on July 20 in Ghaziabad district, Uttar Pradesh.
Before their murders, Tiwari and Joshi had repeatedly appealed to the police for help. Sunil alleged that he was being targeted for his reports and faced threats to his life, while Vikram had filed complaints against the group of men who eventually allegedly killed him.
No action was taken on either of their complaints. Both their families now blame the police for their carelessness and dereliction of duty.
Sunil Tiwari: ‘If the police had taken action, my brother’s life would have been saved’
Sunil, 39, a stringer for Nai Duniya newspaper, lived in Putrikheda village in Niwari. He also ran a TVS Motors dealership. On May 25, he uploaded a video on his Facebook page, appealing to the Niwari police superintendent, the Niwari collector, and the Jhansi police superintendent for help.
In the video, Sunil claimed that he and his family had received death threats for the past year after he exposed the “illegal activities” of three men: Avdhesh Tiwari, Narendra Tiwari and Anil Tiwari. He said he and his family were living in “constant fear”, and said that if something “unpleasant” happened to him, the three men and their families must be held responsible.
Newslaundry could not identify where Sunil had “exposed” the illegal activities.
Sunil added that he had submitted an application to Mukesh Shrivastav, then the Niwari police superintendent, but no FIR was registered against Avdesh, Narendra and Anil. “Many applications” were also submitted to the collector and Niwari superintendent. He claimed that he was also being extorted for Rs 5 lakh.
Towards the end of the video, he appealed to journalists to help him get justice and police security for himself and his family.
Sunil’s family told Newslaundry that he had submitted over 20 applications in this regard to Karanpal Singh, the inspector in charge of Sendri police station. A resident of Putrikheda also said, on the condition of anonymity, that Sunil and Avdesh were distant relatives, and there was rivalry between the two over a land dispute.
Sunil Tiwari's family.
Karanpal Singh from the Sendri police station.
On the evening of July 22, nearly two months after his video, Sunil was killed, allegedly by a group of seven or eight men. He was with his younger brother Ashish at the time, on their way home after closing Sunil’s TVS Motors dealership for the day.
“We left our shop at around 6 pm on two motorcycles. Sunil and our relative Raghavendra were riding on one; my friend Nitesh Kushwaha and I were on the other,” Ashish told Newslaundry. “Nitesh and I stopped at a paan shop for two or three minutes while Sunil and Raghavendra went ahead.”
When Ashish and Nitesh set off again from the paan shop, he said, he saw seven or eight men attacking his brother near a canal on Putrikheda Road. Three of them reportedly had guns.
“They fired at both his legs so he couldn’t run away. Then they started beating him with a lathi, farsa and lohangi,” Ashish said. A farsa is an axe, and a lohangi is a long stick with an iron tip. “After he fell down, they continuously hit him all over his body. Then they started firing at us. We started running, throwing stones at them since we didn’t have anything else with us.”
Ashish also called a few members of their family, who were about two km away, from his mobile phone. As his family members rushed to the spot, he said the assailants left in a brown Tata Safari and a Scorpio.
“My brother was unconscious but alive. We took him to the Niwari district hospital but except for a single doctor, no one was available at the hospital because of coronavirus,” Ashish said. “The doctor refused to see my brother and asked us to go to Jhansi. We then took him to the Jhansi Medical College but by that time, he was dead.”
He added: “They killed my brother in front of my eyes and I couldn’t do anything. I saw him dying helplessly. My brother had given more than 20 applications to the police regarding the danger to his life, but no one took any action. If they had taken action on time, his life would have been saved.”
The police have booked seven people for Sunil’s death: Avdesh, Narendra, Anil, Mohit Tiwari, Praveen Purohit, Balveer Kamariya and Rohit Shukla.
Newslaundry contacted Mukesh Shrivastav, the former superintendent of the Niwari police whom Sunil had addressed in his video in May. Shrivastav was transferred from his post about a month ago. Shrivastav said, “I don’t remember if I received any such application. I don’t have any information about it.”
Newslaundry also reached out to Akshay Kumar Singh, the Niwari collector whom Sunil mentioned in his video. Singh said, “As far as I can recall, a land dispute matter was taken care of by revenue officials.” This is a reference to the dispute between Sunil and Avdesh. Singh added: “I am not in office now. I have to go through the files to make any comment on the question related to life threats.”
Vahini Singh, the present superintendent of the Niwari police, assumed office in July, while Sunil had appealed for police security in May.
Mukesh Shrivastav, the former superintendent of the Niwari police.
“I was not the SP at the time. I was new in the district and was not informed about any such video,” Vahini Singh said. “But within just seven days of joining, I put one of the accused who committed the crime in the gunda list and threw him out of my district. He now lives in Jhansi, and that’s where he came from to commit the murder. The murder spot is just 50 metres from the Uttar Pradesh border.”
Avdesh is the accused from Jhansi. Vahini Singh said she “made sure” that the land dispute between him and Sunil was settled. “I did all that I could in terms of preventive measures. I also attached the station house officer and beat in-charge of Sendri police station...He was supposed to be more proactive. We have also provided a five-member police team as security to the family.”
Vikram Joshi: ‘My brother’s daughters saw them kill their father’
Two days before Sunil’s death, journalist Vikram Joshi was shot dead in Ghaziabad. Vikram worked for Jansagar Today.
On July 16, Vikram had submitted a complaint to the police, claiming that his niece was being sexually harassed by a group of men, including Ravi Kumar, who lived in the same area of Vijay Nagar. On July 17, Vikram and his sister went to the office of the senior superintendent of the Ghaziabad police and filed a second complaint against the group.
On July 20, Vikram was on his way home with his two minor daughters after attending a birthday party. He was accosted by the same group he had complained about, and then allegedly beaten and shot in the head. He was taken to Yashoda hospital in Ghaziabad where he succumbed to his injuries.
Aniket Joshi, Vikram’s younger brother, told Newslaundry that the police had never taken the harassment case seriously.
“It all started last year during Holi, when my niece was first harassed by Ravi. A fight broke out when we protested against Ravi,” Aniket said. “The matter was reported at the Vijay Nagar police station and Ravi was sent to jail under Section 151 of the Indian Penal Code. Some time later, when he was released, the police suggested a compromise, saying that Ravi and others would not pass lewd comments from now on, or come to our locality or talk to us.”
Nearly one year later, on July 16, Ravi allegedly harassed their niece again, Aniket said. “A fight broke out between us and we went to the police station to file a complaint. But the police did not take any action against them. On July 17, Vikram and our sister went to the office of the SSP Ghaziabad but no action was taken again.”
On July 20, the family attended a birthday party of another niece. Three members of the group landed up, Aniket claimed, at about 8-8.30 pm.
“We told them we don’t want to indulge in any kind of fight and asked them to leave. They went away. Vikram immediately called sub-inspector Raghavendra Tomar, the chowki in-charge, and asked him to send some cops since those men had come again to trouble us. Tomar said he could not come as he was not well, and said he would contact my brother in the morning. He did not send any other officers either.”
At about 10.30 pm, Aniket, Vikram, and Vikram’s two daughters prepared to leave the party. Aniket asked his brother to wait for a couple of minutes while he packed a parcel of sabzi. Vikram told Aniket that he would wait outside.
Aniket told Newslaundry that Vikram was beaten and shot in the head while he waited outside.
“When I came out of the house, my five-year-old niece, Vikram’s daughter, came running and told me my brother was being killed,” Aniket said. “My elder niece was standing and crying. They saw them kill their father.”
Nine people have been arrested in connection with Joshi’s death, including Ravi Kumar, Akash Bihar, Abhishek Valmiki and Chotu. The police said that the nine arrested were the same men against whom Vikram had filed the police complaints.
“We repeatedly asked for the police’s help but they didn’t help,” Aniket said. “If they had sent cops that night, my brother’s life would have been saved. After his death, the police showed promptness in arresting the killers. But his life would have been saved if the police had shown the same promptness before.”
After Vikram’s death, sub-inspector Raghavendra Tomar and Rajeev Kumar Singh, the station house officer of Vijay Nagar police station, were suspended. Newslaundry sent a questionnaire on the matter to Kalanidhi Naithani, the senior superintendent of the Ghaziabad police. This story will be updated if Naithani responds.
Update: This piece has been updated to add that Vikram Joshi was taken to Yashoda hospital after he was attacked.
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