New Delhi: While the court of the chief judicial magistrate in Agartala has sent both constable Nandalal Reang and commandant of the 2nd battalion of Tripura State Rifles (TSR) Tapan Dabbarma to a ten-day police remand on the charge of gunning down journalist Sudip Datta Bhowmik, newspapers in Tripura, on November 23, published blank editorials to protest the killing.
On November 21, 48-year-old Bhowmik, a crime reporter with the Bengali newspaper Syandan Patrika, had gone to meet the commandant’s office in the battalion headquarters R.K. Nagar area of Agartala as per a prior appointment. Bhowmik reportedly had been writing about corruption charges against commandant Debbarma.
The media fraternity in the state expressed shock at the murder. A large group of agitated journalists in the capital city burnt the ‘press’ jackets given by the state government after the killing of journalist Santanu Bhowmick in September while covering a rally in West Tripura district.
While initial reports in the media said Reang shot at Bhowmik from point blank range, reports from Agartala on November 23 claimed that Reang had told the police during his interrogation that it was Debbarma who triggered the gun and killed him inside his office. While Reang was arrested a few hours after Bhowmik’s death, Debbarma was picked up by the police on November 22.
A three-member special investigation team, headed by the deputy inspector general of police (Southern Range) Arindam Nath, was formed on November 22 to investigate the matter.
Bhowmik was cremated on November 22, after his brother arrived from Delhi and his son, who is studying engineering outside Agartala, reached home.
The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress have called a bandh in the poll-bound state on November 23. While the BJP has called a dawn to dusk bandh, demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry and resignation of chief minister Manik Sarkar, the Congress has called a 24-hour bandh and a CBI inquiry.
The ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) in the state has opposed the bandh, stating that the opposition tried to politicise the matter even as the state government had taken prompt action.
On November 23, the Editors Guild of India, in a statement, strongly condemned the killing of Bhowmik and demanded that the “culprits be brought to book” by the state government. The Guild pointed out that it “is not an isolated incident in Tripura”.
The Press Council of India has asked for a report from the state government on the issue.
Meanwhile, state governor Tathagata Roy arrived in New Delhi on November 22 to discuss the matter with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.