WASHINGTON: A media watchdog on Wednesday called on the Indian authorities to set up an independent enquiry into the murder a tribal community journalist in Jharkhand, claiming that the local police investigation has been stalled.
On December 9, 2018, 35-year-old Amit Topno, a community reporter working with Video Volunteers -- an NGO that promotes community media, was shot dead at point-blank range. His body was found by some locals at a roadside in Ranchi.
The Reporters Without Border (RCF) in a statement said the local police investigation in Topno's murder "has been stalled" "Topno's reporting clearly annoyed certain people and, in the absence of any other motive, it is time that investigators focused on the hypothesis that his murder was linked to his work as a journalist," Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk, said.
"In view of the lack of action by the local police, we call on the Indian authorities to immediately appoint a special team to carry out an independent investigation and identify those responsible for this despicable crime as soon as possible," he said.
According to Deepak Bara, the coordinator of the Video Volunteers website, the sensitive stories covered by Topno included the growing conflicts with the local authorities resulting from emancipation movements within the Adivasi minority and their attempts to assert their special rights under their ST status, which is supposed to help them combat discrimination.
In recent months, he had been covering the 'Pathalgadi' movement, in which Adivasi have been erecting large stone slabs at the entrance to their villages inscribed with the articles of the Constitution that accord special privileges to Scheduled Tribes.
These articles are routinely violated and, in Topno's district Khunti, the violations increased after gold was discovered there, fuelling local authority interest, the RSF statement said.