Patna: The Siwan district bureau chief of Hindi daily Hindustan was shot dead this evening, throwing up fresh questions on the government's law and order claims and sparking fears that Siwan was back to its dark days.
Rajdev Ranjan (46), who was shot from close range while he was going to office on a motorcycle, was known in the media fraternity for a series of hard-hitting stories against jailed gangster and former RJD MP Mohammad Shahabuddin, and was to celebrate his wedding anniversary tomorrow. He had a nearly 25-year career in journalism and had become the district bureau chief in 2004.
Witnesses said men on a motorcycle were following Rajdev and shot him from close range near the fruit market on Station Road. As he fell to the ground, local residents rushed him to hospital where the doctors declared him dead.
"The incident happened around 7.45pm near Andar Dhala area, which remains dark after sunset," Siwan SP Saurav Kumar Sah told T he Telegraph. "He (Rajdev) was immediately rushed to Sadar Hospital in Siwan town. We are still unclear how many shots were fired at him."
The police suspect a few people and efforts have been started to nab them, the SP added. Police sources said Rajdev had been regularly reporting on a couple of gangsters, and the way he has been shot hints at sharpshooters.
Journalists thronged the Sadar Hospital in Siwan, where Rajdev's post-mortem was about to start at the time of filing this report. They raised questions on law and order and said Rajdev was known for his sense of humour and helpful attitude. Top district administration officials were also at the hospital.
"Once criminals had put a gun to Rajdev's temple and threatened him, but he did not yield and upheld the sterling tradition of journalism," remembered a Siwan-based professor who did not wish to be named. "There were bomb attacks on his office another time to terrorise him."
Rajdev's murder is the latest incident in Siwan that throws up questions about district, once famous as the fiefdom of Shahabuddin.
From the 1990s till 2005, Siwan was synonymous with Shahabuddin's terror and a series of murders including that of former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union president Chandrashekhar led to fear taking a vice-like grip over the district. Local journalists did not dare to write against the MP. The situation changed after 2005 when the NDA took over power and Shahabuddin was convicted in three murder cases and lodged in jail. Media reports against him began to appear.
Since 2013, the Siwan situation has nosedived and several murders - including of political activists and witnesses in cases - have happened. In March this year, minority welfare minister Abdul Ghafoor visited Shahabuddin in jail.
Rajdev's murder, which comes on the heels of the murder of a Class XII student allegedly by the son of a JDU MLC and an RJD strongman, is not going to help the government's insistence that Bihar is no more lawless than any other part of the country.