A news report over alleged employment of child labour in a cashew processing factory, old rivalry and paranoia led to the murder of the Odisha TV journalist, who was killed while coming back home after a hard day’s work 12 days ago.
Tarun Acharya(29), a stringer of Odia TV channel Kanak TV, was on his way to home in Khallikote town of Ganjam district on May 27 night when a few assailants stopped his motorcycle and slit his throat. He died on the spot. The incident happened close to Khallikote police station. He is survived by his wife, a 10-month-old daughter and old parents.
Though police initially suspected the brother-in-law of Acharya — Milu Acharya — to be behind the murder, they finally managed to track the mastermind, Prusty, an owner of a cashew-nut processing factory. The police however could arrest only one of the three of Prusty’s accomplices who were entrusted with the task of bumping off Acharya.
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Few days before the murder, Acharya had published a news report in Odia daily Sambad about child labourers being employed at Prusty’s cashew-nut processing factory in Khallikote.
“Both the deceased and the mastermind had old rivalries over trivial issues. After Acharya turned a stringer with Kanak TV during the Lok Sabha elections, he had reportedly threatened Prusty. He reportedly used to abuse Prusty over mobile phone.
“When the news of child labourer being employed was published, Prusty saw it as an attempt by Acharya to finish off his business prospects. He was growing restive and wanted to teach a lesson to his old rival,” Ganjam SP Ashish Kumar Singh told The Indian Express.
Soon after the report was published in the newspaper, a hassled Prusty confided his growing problems with Acharya before 3 of his friends.
“They assured Prusty that Acharya would be cut to size. They were paid Rs 50,000 and three new SIM cards for the murder. The day before the murder the trio, who killed the journalist, stayed in an IB where they dined and got drunk. The next morning they started tracking Acharya’s movements. On May 27 evening, one of the killers called the journalist over phone and spoke to him for 25 seconds,” said Singh.
An hour later, the three followed Acharya on two motorcycles as he made his way to home, finally catching up with him less than 100 metres away from Khallikote police station.
“One of them hit Acharya’s motorcycle from behind. As he fell down, one of them slashed his neck with a knife. The blade tore through Acharya’s windpipe, instantly killing him,” a police official in charge of the investigation said.
“The three were not even professional killers or else they would have taken a country-made revolver or something like that, available so easily in southern Orissa. It was Acharya’s misfortune that the knife struck his wind pipe.”
After the murder, the trio fled to Berhampur town, without knowing that the journalist had died. As TV channels and newspapers started reporting the case next morning, the trio switched off their phones. But with the police chasing the cousins of the journalists, named in the FIR, they again switched on their mobile phones thinking that police were on a blind chase.
The cops even interrogated Prusty, the cashew nut processing factory owner, but were not convinced over the theory that he could kill the journalist over a small news report. Police were also veering to the conclusion that the journalist’s cousin, Milu Acharya was the main mastermind, as he had fled his home soon after the murder.
Unable to get any clues a week after the murder, the cops then started scanning the call records of the deceased journalist, more particularly the calls made in the last 2-3 hours before the murder. All the calls made to the journalist’s mobile were checked, but one of the phones was always switched off.