Bhowmick was beaten and stabbed to death in Mandai, on the outskirts of Agartala, the state capital, where the local TV station Dinraat (“Day and Night”) had sent him to cover the clashes between police and members of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), a local tribal-based party that issued a call yesterday for acts of violence against a rival faction.
The reporter was at the very centre of the confrontation when the police launched a massive charge at a roadblock built by IPFT activists. Several men abducted him during the ensuing turmoil. The local police reported his death today. They said they had found his beaten and stabbed body after the melee was over. He was 28.
Bhowmick was the second journalist to be murdered in the past two weeks in India, following Gauri Lankesh, a well-known woman journalist gunned down in the southern city of Bangalore on 5 September.
“Death has again struck the Indian media,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “Violence against journalists in India has reached a very worrying level. Shantanu Bhowmick’s death is utterly unacceptable and we call on the Indian authorities to shed all possible light on this matter by identifying those responsible, both within the political parties and the police force. More broadly, we ask the Indian government to accept its duty to protect journalists, the keystone of media freedom and respect for democracy.”
Four IPFT members have been arrested but their exact role in Bhowmick’s murder has not yet been clearly established. The IPFT is part of the National Democratic Alliance, a coalition of parties led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP.
After yesterday’s clashes, the local Internet was disconnected on the official grounds of preventing the spread of rumours. Demonstrations to pay tribute to Bhowmick were organized later today in several cities.
Ranked 136th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, India is marked by growing radical nationalism.