The local police officer in charge of the case said Sulabh Srivastava’s body was discovered at the side of a road in Pratapgarh district at around 9:45 p.m. yesterday and, without waiting for any autopsy result, the officer decided that Srivastava was the victim of a road accident, having apparently struck a a hand pump and a power utility pole while riding a motor-cycle in the rain.
This is strongly disputed by members of his family, who told the Newsclick website that they have established that colleagues saw him for the last time when he was on his way back from reporting in the locality of Kotwali Lalganj at around 10:30 p.m., nearly an hour after the police claim to have found the body. His body bore the marks of injuries and his shirt was torn off, two pieces of evidence that clearly contradict the road accident claim.
Furthermore, Srivastava wrote a letter to the Additional Director General of police in the city of Prayagraj on 12 June, the eve of his murder, saying he had been the target of threats since 9 June, when he published a report for the website of ABP News, the TV channel for which he worked, about local alcohol bootleggers who had accomplices within the police. He said in the letter that he had been followed constantly since 9 June.
“It is extremely shocking to see the Pratapgarh police trying to classify Sulabh Srivastava’s death as road accident despite all the evidence that should already allow them to conclude that it was a murder,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “In view of the unacceptable errors in the Uttar Pradesh administration’s preliminary investigation, we call on Indian home minister Amit Shah to immediately appoint an independent team of investigators. Impunity for crimes of violence against journalists in Uttar Pradesh must end.”
Newspaper reporter Shubham Mani Tripathi died on the spot when he was shot six times on a suburban street in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, a year ago, on 19 June 2020. As RSF reported at the time, Tripathi had said in a Facebook post shortly before his death that he feared he could be killed because of his investigations into illegal land expropriation by the local “sand mafia.” The investigation into his murder has stalled.
India is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.