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Land dispute behind murder of journalist, say U.P. police

But family refutes police statement

The family of a television journalist who was shot dead in Ballia late on Monday questioned the police narrative that the murder took place over a land dispute, with the immediate cause being a confrontation over storing straw.

Journalist Ratan Singh, who worked with Hindi news channel Sahara Samay, was shot dead inside the campus of the local gram pradhan’s residence in Phephna, said Devendra Nath, Superintendent of Police, Ballia.

Police said a long-running land dispute between the journalist and the accused, and personal animosity, was the reason behind the incident. The murder had nothing to do with the deceased’s journalistic work, Ballia police said.

Inspector in-charge of Phephna was suspended for negligence and for not taking effective measures to resolve the dispute.

Deputy Inspector General of Police Azamgarh Subhash Chandra Dubey said the confrontation was triggered off after the family of the journalist kept straw on the disputed land. In return, the accused side dumped wheat chaff on the land. After the journalist’s family removed the chaff placed by the accused side, the latter did the same with their straw leading to an altercation and “ladai-jhagra”, said the officer.

Mr. Singh was then hit with lathis and shot dead, said Ballia police.

Vinod Singh, the father of the deceased journalist, however, refuted the police statement and said there had been no quarrel over keeping straw on the day. He accused the police of “lying” and even questioned the role of the local police in-charge.

“There was no issue over the puwal (straw). You can go there and see for yourself. There is no puwal or bhusi kept there," Mr. Vinod told reporters.

He said the accused had lured his son to the spot through deceit.

Ballia police said six of the ten accused persons had been arrested.

The two sides earlier has a dispute on December 26, 2019 when both sides lodged FIRs against each other, said the police.

Five persons accused in the murder were also accused in the December case. The journalist had also been named in the December FIR lodged by the other side, but it was found to be wrong during investigation, said the police.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced an ex-gratia of ₹10 lakh to the family of the deceased and directed that all possible action be taken against the accused.

The Samajwadi Party said the murder of the journalist was an unfortunate example of the “jungleraj” under the BJP government in U.P.

Congress State president Ajay Kumar Lallu said that while the U.P. government was oppressing journalists, criminals were murdering them without fear.

“Every day, every hour, innocents are being murdered,” Mr. Lallu said, asking Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath when his “morality” would be stirred.

Mr. Lallu and other Congress workers were stopped in Rae Bareli on Tuesday by the police while they were on their way to meet the family of the deceased in Ballia.

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