Rakesh Singh ‘Nirbhik’, a journalist in Uttar Pradesh’s Balrampur, died after “miscreants” set fire to his house on November 27. Rakesh was being treated in a Lucknow hospital, where he succumbed the next day. He had sustained 90 percent burn injuries.
Rakesh worked with the Hindi newspaper Rashtriya Swaroop.
His wife, Vibha Singh, claimed that neighbours, whom she wouldn’t name, had seen two men enter their home in Kalwari village late on November 27, get into an argument with Rakesh, and set the house on fire.
Vibha and her two children were away visiting Rakesh’s sister. Rakesh’s friend Pintoo Sahu was staying with him and his charred body was later recovered from the house.
In a video shot by a local journalist, Rakesh is heard saying he was “burnt alive for working on a story”. It is not clear what story he was referring to. According to Siddharth Kalhans, a journalist from Balrampur currently based in Lucknow, Rakesh had recently reported on irregularities in the disbursal of funds by the local pradhan.
Recently, according to a local reporter who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal, Rakesh had approached Balrampur’s district magistrate saying he feared for his life, but the administration took no action.
Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Vibha Singh asked why the police had failed to protect her husband. She also questioned why they had not taken any family member along when they shifted Rajesh Singh to Lucknow for treatment.
Devranjan Verma, Balrampur’s police superintendent, said “two suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident so far”.
Hemant Tiwari, the president of UP Reporters Association, urged the state government “to take strict action against culprits”.
Vivek Mishra contributed reporting.