A number of newspapers in Tripura chose to leave the space for editorials blank in their Thursday, November 23 edition — in protest against the murder of senior journalist Sudip Datta Bhowmik. Meanwhile, normal life across the state was severely affected due to two simultaneous bandhs called to protest the killing.
Most of the daily newspapers that carried editorial columns had only solid black colour with several journalists’ bodies observing Thursday as a ‘black day’. English newspapers, including the Tripura Observer and Tripura Times and Bengali newspapers like Dainik Sambad, Syandan Patrika and Tripura Darpan, were those that kept their editorial spaces blank.
Speaking to ANI, the Editor of Tripura Times, Manas Paul, said, “As far as institutional protest is concerned, we have left our editorials page blank for today’s edition of our newspaper. Murder of two journalists within 2 months is a matter of serious concern.”
While a 12-hour bandh was called by the opposition BJP, the Congress has called for a 24-hour bandh, both of which began at 5 am on Thursday. Both parties have accused the Manik Sarkar-led Left Front government of being responsible for the murder of two journalists in the state in a gap of just two months.
Syandan Patrika senior reporter Sudip Datta Bhowmik was shot on November 21, allegedly by a constable of the 2nd Tripura State Rifles (TSR). His editor claimed he was killed because of his series of reports on “financial irregularities and corruption cases” involving TSR Commandant Tapan Debbarma. According to the police, Bhowmik had also reported on Debbarma’s “extramarital affair”.
Though the ruling Left Front, while opposing the bandh, appealed to the people not to heed to the opposition’s call, educational institutions, banks and business establishments remained shut all over the state, while attendance in government offices was low due to absence of public transport. Very few private vehicles were seen plying on the streets of Agartala, the state capital. Flights to and fro Agartala, however, continued to operate, with the absence of taxis and autorickshaws causing immense inconvenience to passengers.
Security personnel were deployed in large numbers in sensitive localities of the state capital as well as in other districts and sub-division towns since early morning. Ruling Left Front constituent CPI(M) volunteers took out motorcycle processions raising slogans against the bandhs, while BJP volunteers too went around the capital city on motorcycles shouting slogans against the government’s alleged failure to protect lives of people.
Earlier on Wednesday, editor and owner of Syandan Patrika, Subal Kumar Dey, alleged, “Bhowmik was called by Tapan Debbarma, the 2nd TSR Commandant, and murdered in cold blood. Sudip’s only crime was that he had exposed a number of financial irregularities and corruption cases in which Debbarma was involved,” he alleged.
Debbarma, a senior Tripura Police Service (TPS) officer (1998-batch) waiting for an IPS nomination, was arrested on Wednesday morning. He and his personal guard, Nanda Reang, who was arrested on Tuesday, have been sent to 10-day police custody.
This is the second murder that took place nearly two months after the murder of television journalist Santanu Bhowmik. Shantanu of local TV news channel Din-Raat was killed in a mob violence at Jirania under Mandai police station, about 40 km from Agartala on September 20. He was on an assignment to cover clashes between the IPFT and the Tripura Rajaer Ganamukti Parishad (TRUGP).
BJP in to “dirty politics”
Meanwhile, the CPI(M), the largest constituent of the ruling Left Front government in Tripura, has accused the BJP of playing “dirty politics” over the tragic murder of journalist Sudip Datta Bhowmik. “The state secretariat of the CPI(M) strongly condemns and opposes the dirty politics which the BJP has started playing over the tragic incident of murder of journalist Sudip Datta Bhowmik,” a statement issued by Rakhal Mazumdar on behalf of the CPI(M) state secretariat said.
The CPI(M) also termed as “unjustified” the BJP’s call for a bandh on Thursday, with the statement saying that the police had already arrested the two main accused and necessary investigations had begun. “Moreover, while school students are currently having their annual examinations, while the state’s electoral rolls are undergoing revision at the instance of the Election Commission. The unjustified bandh will only disturb the examinations and the electoral rolls revision,” the statement said.
The main ruling party also wanted the investigation to unearth as early as possible why exactly journalist Datta Bhowmik had gone to the 2nd TSR headquarters on Tuesday, and also what exactly had transpired leading to a situation in which he was shot by a TSR jawan.
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