A television journalist died in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, a day after he flagged threats to his life to the police from the liquor mafia because of his reportage.
The deceased, who has been identified as Sulabh Srivastava, had written to ADG Prayagraj alleging that the liquor mafia was unhappy with his news reporting and there was a threat to his life.
Srivastava had recently run a news story against the liquor mafia in the region. Then on 12 June, he wrote to the Prayagraj additional director general of police to seek protection.
However, the police said Srivastava died in a "motorcycle accident."
Who is the TV journalist?
Sulabh Shrivastava was a TV journalist who had worked for ABP News and its regional arm ABP Ganga, as per NDTV.
What did he say in his letter to the police?
According to The Indian Express, seeking protection, the journalist had said he had been informed by sources that the liquor mafia was angry with him after the publication of his report and wanted to harm him or his family.
He wrote to the police, saying he felt he was being followed every time he stepped out of his house since his report on raids on illegal liquor factories in the state.
"The report was broadcast on TV and also published on a digital platform," Shrivastava said in the letter, reports Scroll.in. "The report is being talked about and some people have said it has upset the liquor mafia. I have heard from sources the liquor mafia could harm me and my family. My family is very scared."
Where was he found dead and under what circumstances?
As per the police, the 42-year-old news reporter died after his motorcycle rammed a pole near a brick kiln in Sukhpal Nagar under the Kotwali police station area on Sunday.
The ABP journalist was coming returning to Pratapgarh after covering news, said a police official.
"He was injured after falling from his motorcycle near a brick kiln. He was helped by labourers present on the spot and his family members were also informed about the incident. An ambulance was also called on the spot after which he was taken to the district hospital where he was declared brought dead. A police team later visited the accident spot and prima facie, it was found that the bike slipped and collided with a pole and a hand pump. We are investigating the matter," Surendra Dwivedi, additional superintendent (East) Pratapgarh said.
But a photograph of Shrivastava's body showed injuries on his face and his clothes were partially removed " his shirt has been almost entirely removed and his trousers unbuttoned and pulled down " NDTV reported.
Srivastava's wife, Renuka Srivastava told ANI that her husband had covered a story after which three to four people started following him. He had submitted an application to ADG regarding the same. "Neither any action was taken nor security was given. I'm not sure but it looks like murder," she said.
What did the police say?
However, the police have maintained that Srivastava died in an accident. Additional Superintendent of Police Surendra Dwivedi said Srivastava died in a crash while returning from Asrahi village under the Lalganj police station area after reporting on an illegal arms manufacturing unit uncovered there.
Dwivedi said initial investigation revealed that Shrivastava's bike crashed into a pole. "A detailed investigation of the case is underway," the official added.
As per ANI the police have registered a first information report against unknown persons in the case.
"It is an unfortunate incident. If anyone is involved, action will be taken. Based on the evidence, it doesn't look like murder. But family members are alleging his murder. Eyewitnesses informed us about accident," ADG Prem Prakash told the news agency.
Opposition demand probe into death
The Samajwadi Party (SP) on Monday demanded a high-level inquiry into the death of a journalist.
"The mysterious death of a TV reporter in an alleged accident is extremely sad. The BJP government, in this case, should constitute a high-level probe, and tell the family members and the public that despite the apprehension of murder by the liquor mafia expressed by the reporter, why he was not provided security," SP chief Akhilesh Yadav said in a tweet in Hindi.
All India Congress Committee general-secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra lashed out at chief minister Yogi Adityanath, saying the government is allowing the liquor mafia to run scot-free.
"The liquor mafia has killed from Aligarh to Pratapgarh but the UP government is silent. Journalists are asking dangerous questions to expose the truth. The government is asleep," she tweeted in Hindi.
Not first such incident
In January, Ashu Yadav, a journalist with a local Hindi daily in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, was found dead in the backseat of his car.
In November, a 22-year-old journalist's body was found on a railway track in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao district. A case was filed against a sub-inspector and a constable after the journalist's family alleged that they had murdered him.
In another harrowing example from last year, a journalist was charred to death along with his friend in a fire that broke out in his village house under suspicious circumstances in Balrampur district.
With inputs from PTI