New Delhi: It was about 2:30 pm on Wednesday, journalists had gathered to cover the rally of Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT) in Mandai — about 25 odd kilometres from Agartala.
As the rally grew restless, the police moved in and it turned into a riot-like situation. The IPFT supporters did not want their acts to be recorded and did not let cameramen switch their equipment on.
One young journalist, Shantanu Bhoumik, decided to brave the onslaught and recorded the scenes on his mobile. As he took a few steps ahead, almost instantly, the police lathi-charged protestors.
In the ensuing melee, it is alleged that some of those present in the crowd stabbed Shantanu. By the time police could pick up the 26-year-old and take him to the government-run GB Pant Medical College and Hospital, he had died.
Shantanu used to work for the local Dinrat News channel and after his death, journalists from Agartala sat on a protest demonstration outside the Chief Minister's residence till 10:30pm on Wednesday.
Chief Minister Manik Sarkar later assured media persons that a thorough probe would take place and that the guilty will not be spared. On Thursday, Shantanu's body will be kept at the press club from noon, before being taken for the final journey.
Prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC have been imposed in more than 12 places in the state following clashes between IPFT and CPI (M)'s tribal wing – Tripura Rajaer Upajati Ganamukti Parishad (TRUGP). Internet services have also been shut down across the state. Notably, IPFT has been agitating for a separate tribal state and is known for its violent protests.
Close to 30 journalists have been killed across the North East in last 12 years, making it one of the most dangerous places for media in the country.
India's track record in bringing journalist killers to the book has been abysmal. The country ranks number 13 on Committee for Protection of Journalists impunity index of 2016, which spotlights countries where those who kill journalists walk away scot-free. The recent high-profile murder of acclaimed journalist Gauri Lankesh too has remained unsolved, a fortnight after her death.