Bihar: Journalist Reporting on Sand, Liquor Mafias Shot Dead in Begusarai

Subhash Kumar Mahto was shot dead while returning home from his friend's wedding party. His family claims he was killed because of his dogged reporting on the liquor and sand mafias.

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Patna: A 26-year-old journalist was shot dead in front of his house in Sakho village, which falls under the Bakhri police station, in ​​Begusarai district on May 20.

On the evening of May 20, journalist Subhash Kumar Mahto was returning with his father and other relatives after a community dinner at his friend’s house who was going to get married the same day.  He reached near his house at around 8.44 pm when he was shot in the head by four attackers who then fled the scene.

His friend and journalist Amit Poddar told The Wire, “His father and other relatives moved a little farther from him. At that moment some people came and shot at him from close range.”

He was taken to a local government health centre for treatment where doctors declared him dead.

Mahto had been a journalist for the last four years, and worked as a stringer with some local Hindi newspapers. He was currently associated with a Public App platform as well as Begusarai’s local cable channel City News.

Mahto was reporting on liquor, sand mafias 

According to Mahto’s relatives and journalist friends, his extensive reporting on the liquor mafia and his active support for a ward member candidate in the panchayat elections led to his murder.

Saurabh Kumar, a stringer at a national channel and general secretary of Begusarai District Journalists Association, told The Wire, “In the election of a ward member, Mahto had supported a candidate and that candidate won. Apart from this, he was continuously reporting against the liquor mafia as well as the sand mafias. These can be the reasons behind his murder,” he says.

In 2018, Mahto had run a video report on how a drunk man was let off by the local police. The police had alleged that the video was staged and lodged a case against Subhash under the Information Technology (IT) Act. He was arrested and later got bail from a local court.

Journalist Subhash Kumar Mahto’s press ID. Photo: Special arrangement

‘He was an honest journalist’

Despite only reporting for four years, Mahto was a popular journalist in his village. His Public App account has multiple video reports of the Bakhri police station area.

Saurabh said, “I knew him closely. He was rigorously honest about his profession. This was why it took little time for people to start acknowledging his work.”

“Through the police, we have got information that four-five people were involved. The shooter is wanted in other cases as well. This makes us think that the shooter was hired by people who were angry with Mahto’s work,” he said.

Mahto was the only son of his parents. He has two sisters.

After his death, local journalists met Yogendra Kumar, SP of Begusarai and made three demands – the transfer of the SHO of the local police station, the arrest of the criminals and speedy trial as well as compensation to Mahto’s family.

Verbal spat during wedding celebrations led to murder: police 

Himanshu Kumar, SHO (station house officer) of Bakhri police station told The Wire that the matter was currently being looked into by the Parihara outpost (OP), and that he would only be able to speak about the matter if it came to him.

Meanwhile, the Begusarai SP met Mahto’s family and promised to arrest the culprits as soon as possible.

One of Mahto’s family members told The Wire on the condition of unanimity, “SP has told us that police will arrest culprits within three days and ensure stern punishment.”

SHO of Pahihara OP told The Wire that four accused had been identified and they would be behind the bars soon.

When asked about the motive behind the murder, the SHO said that a verbal spat during the wedding celebrations while the DJ was playing could be the reason behind the murder.

The SHO said, “Some local women were dancing when a group of youth joined in and they allegedly started misbehaving with the women. Mahto opposed this, so there was a verbal spat. This may be the reason behind his murder.”

Police dismissed the role of his reporting on liquor mafia and panchayat polls.

Amit Poddar told The Wire, “Despite protest by Mahto they didn’t stop misbehaving with women. So Mahto started recording a video of their dance. One among the group saw this and asked what he would do with the video. In response, Mahto said that he will send it to the DSP. Then the group left the spot.”

“This verbal spat may be an immediate reason but he was the target of liquor mafias and a defeated ward member candidate. So we strongly think liquor mafias, sand mafias and candidate have role behind this murder,” he says.