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Death of Assam journalist sparks protests, Rahul Gandhi & Congress blame BJP

Journalist Parag Bhuyan died Thursday after being hit by a speeding car in Tinsukia. Different narratives have since emerged on how the accident happened and who is responsible for it.

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Guwahati: Congress MP Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter Friday to condole the ‘mysterious’ death of Assamese journalist Parag Bhuyan a day ago, adding that “real journalism in BJP-ruled states of Assam, Madhya Pradesh and UP is being silenced while those doing ‘tamasha’ are given protection”.

Bhuyan, a journalist from Kakopathar town of Upper Assam’s Tinsukia district, had stepped out of his house Wednesday to visit a nearby pharmacy, when he was mowed down by a speeding vehicle from the opposite side. He died of his injuries Thursday morning, and since then, different narratives have emerged on how he died and who could be responsible.

The incident sparked angry reactions from journalists, various organisations and political parties, stating that his death cannot be treated as an accident. Bhuyan’s family members and various journalists’ associations in the state demanded a detailed probe into the incident, alleging foul play.

In Guwahati, Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) workers staged a protest, demanding justice. Raising slogans against the BJP government in the state, the protesters demanded a CBI probe into the incident and blamed the state for failing to give any protection to journalists. The Congress protesters were restricted by the police, and later taken away in a bus.

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal Thursday offered his condolences and ordered a CID probe into Bhuyan’s death. The police in Tinsukia, meanwhile, have claimed that they have seized the vehicle involved in the incident, and have arrested driver James Mura and handyman Baba Bordoloi from the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border.

Also read: ‘Assault on press freedom’ — Editors Guild seeks MHA action against attack on journalists

Who was Parag Bhuyan?

Bhuyan, 52, was a prominent Assamese journalist in Tinsukia district working for the regional media, and the vice-president of the Tinsukia Press Club. He covered most of the major stories in his area — from insurgency to politics, illegal coal and timber syndicates operating in Kakopothar to cattle smuggling, as well as corruption and law and order.

He last worked as a senior reporter with the Guwahati-based Pratidin Time group, and as a local reporter for the Assamese daily Axomiya Khabar.

Nitumoni Saikia, editor-in-chief of Pratidin Time, said in a statement that Bhuyan’s death is suspected to be a “planned murder”, and that he had received “personal threats” for exposing the illegalities and corruption around Kakopathar.

The Tinsukia District Journalists’ Association (TDJA) said it did not want to call Bhuyan’s death a “planned murder” as the investigation is underway, but did demand a thorough investigation into the case that remains shrouded in mystery. A six-member TDJA committee has also been formed for an independent investigation into the possible circumstances leading to the death.

“The incident happened Wednesday night when Parag went to the pharmacy at around 8:10pm. A vehicle from the opposite side hit him with such force that he was thrown to a distance of about 20 feet. There was no other vehicle on the road and the incident happened close to the Kakopathar police station,” Rana Jyoti Neog, TDJA secretary, told ThePrint.

Bhuyan was rushed to the Assam Medical College hospital in Dibrugarh in a critical condition, from where he was referred to Aditya Nursing Home in the same city for advanced treatment. Bhuyan succumbed to his injuries at around 9:50am Thursday morning.

“In recent days, he was aggressively reporting against the coal and timber mafia and illegal groups operating out of Kakopathar. He last reported on BJP leader Dipanjali Kakati assaulting a police officer, after which the story was picked up by but other media as well,” said Neog.

“He was arrested a couple of times for alleged association with proscribed outfit United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), and had also served a jail term,” Neog added.

Guwahati Press Club president Manoj Kumar Nath and general secretary Sanjoy Ray added in a statement: “The circumstances under which the senior journalist has lost his life hints towards foul play, making it a fit case for a high-level inquiry.”

Brother is ex-leader of BJP ally AGP

Parag Bhuyan was the brother of Jagdish Bhuyan, a two-time MLA from Sadiya in Tinsukia who served as minister of tourism under Prafulla Kumar Mahanta’s Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) government between 1998 and 2001. He left the AGP to become state convener of the newly floated Assam Jatiya Parishad.

Jagdish Bhuyan said in an interview to Pratidin Time: “My brother was murdered; it is not an accident. He had been vociferous against the illegal groups in our area. Many a time, even I received threats and warnings for the stories he reported. But every time, he would tell me it is his duty to bring to light whatever illegal is happening. I wish all aspects related to his death are investigated.”

Also read: More Indian journalists prefer to tweet than go on the field to report — it suits the govt


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