In Bihar, former village chief held for mowing down journalisthttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/in-bihar-former-village-chief-held-for-mowing-down-journalist/

In Bihar, former village chief held for mowing down journalist

The driver of the SUV was arrested after angry locals had protested the murder and set the vehicle ablaze.

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Villagers had intercepted the vehicle, but its occupants fled. (Source: ANI)

A journalist, Navin Singh and his associate, Vijay Singh were killed Sunday night in Bihar’s Bhojpur after they were run over by an SUV driven by a former village mukhiya, who was allegedly unhappy with the journalist’s coverage of local issues. The driver of the SUV was arrested after angry locals had protested the murder and set the vehicle ablaze. Navin Singh (40), the Garhani block stringer with Dainik Bhaskar and his fellow villager Vijay (25), who also writes for magazines, had argued with the former mukhiya, Mohammed Harshu and his son Dablu at a betel shop on Sunday evening, which police said could have provoked the murder.

Harshu was allegedly upset with Navin’s coverage of an anti-encroachment drive in Garhani and his reports on a human chain against dowry and child marriage. Police have booked Harshu, son Dablu and two unidentified persons for the double murder. Bhojpur SP Avkash Kumar said Harshu had a criminal record.

According to police, Navin and Vijay allegedly had a heated argument with former Garhani mukhiya Harshu and his son Dablu on Sunday evening. Harshu was reportedly upset with Navin for his coverage on an anti-encroachment drive by the local administration to vacate government land recently. Harshu, who had allegedly encroached upon a piece of land, was also affected by the drive. Though most local newspapers had covered the story, Harshu was particularly upset with Singh. A Garhani resident said Harshu had even threatened Singh with dire consequences. Though Singh did not react to the threat, Vijay had allegedly told Harshu that present Garhani mukhiya was “much better” than Harshu.

After the argument, police said, as soon as Vijay started his bike with Navin riding pillion, Harshu allegedly started up his Scorpio SUV and ran over the two, killing them on the spot. Angry villagers protested with the bodies, set fire to the SUV and blocked road traffic demanding the immediate arrest of the accused.

Pramod Mukesh, Dainik Bhaskar resident editor for Bihar, said: Though I do not recall any specific story by Navin, he has been covering local incidents well. Let police find out more.” A senior Dainik Bhaskar journalist told The Indian Express: “Though Navin would often do routine coverage, I do recall our good coverage of the anti-encroachment drive but he had not named any illegal occupant in the story.”

“Navin had also done a story a few months ago on how the Garhani circle officer had allegedly forced people to join the all-Bihar human chain against dowry and child marriage. We later learnt that this report also upset Mohammed Harshu, who was said to be close to the then circle officer,” he said.

According to a Garhani resident, Harshu, also known as Harshu Mian, would often spar with local journalists. Navin, who worked as a journalist for over 15 years, had previously worked as the Garhani block stringer with Hindustan and had joined Dainik Bhaskar when it was launched in 2016 from Bhojpur. He is survived by his wife, Nitu and two children, a daughter in class XII and a son in class X. He stayed at his native Bagwan village, barely four km from Garhani and about 20 km from Ara town.

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Garhani police station in-charge Shamim Ahmed said: “We have booked a case of murder against Mohammed Harshu, his son Dablu and two unknown people. Preliminary investigations suggest Navin and Harshu had argued. We are trying to determine if there was any enmity between the two because of any news articles published in Dainik Bhaskar.”