• Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - 05:30
Reports about the murder of journalist Jagendra Singh, who died from his injuries on Monday after being set on fire in Uttar Pradesh, made it to the headlines but elicited less outrage than the nationwide Maggi ban. After all, Jagendra was not a conventional journalist, at least not anymore - he single-handedly ran a Facebook “newspaper” that took on the town Shahjahanpur’s political-criminal-police nexus. On June 1, Jagendra put up a Facebook post titled “Rinku Yadav’s MLC ticket being sabotaged by Ram Murti Verma”. On the very same day he was set on fire. Verma is a Samajwadi Party MLA from Akbarpur, and is the Minister of State for Backward Classes Welfare. Jagendra’s family has held the minister responsible for his death, and has also alleged police collusion. In a statement before his death on June 8, Jagendra accused Kotwali Inspector Sriprakash Rai of setting him on fire. On Tuesday, an FIR was filed against nine people including Verma and five police officers. The family also claimed that the police are under political pressure. For nearly four years, Jagendra had been running Facebook page “Shahjahanpur Samachar” which has angered many powerful people, according to Rahul Singh, Jagendra’s son. “Mutiple local newspapers used to pick up his reports off Facebook every day,” Rahul told The News Minute. His son said that after working for publications like Amar Ujala, Swatantra Bharat and Jan Sunday for 15 years, Singh had started the Facebook page because he believed it had better reach.  According to Rahul, Jagendra’s stories reached a lot of people in villages via the local papers. He said that his father’s reports alleged that Verma had acquired wealth from land encroachment deals. Jagendra had also comprehensively reported the plight of an anganwadi worker who alleged that she had been raped by Verma and his men, which had consequences. “An attack was carried out on him by the minister’s cronies on April 28 which left him with a broken leg,” Rahul claimed. He added that his father was booked for dacoity, robbing, kidnapping and attempt to murder. “How could he (do all that) with a fractured leg?” Rahul said. Rahul claimed that following the “fake” FIR, his father finally got a call from an unknown person on May 31, who claimed that he could sort the matter out for him with Verma’s nephew and asked him to come to Shahjahanpur. When he received the call, Jagendra was with six other members of his family at their family house in Khutar and his family pleaded with him not to head back to Shahjahanpur, where he lived by himself. He left the next morning. Rahul said that he got a call from his brother the next day informing him that the police had picked their father up. When he reached his father’s house in Shahjahanpur, 55km away from Khutar, he said he wasn’t allowed in by the forensics team. “When I finally made my way in, nothing except my father’s body had been burnt,” Rahul said. The family alleged that along with Verma’s men, the police had entered the house and had set him on fire. The police however, claimed that Jagendra was evading arrest and had attempted suicide. Rahul said he spoke with eye-witnesses who said that “the police and Verma’s chamchas entered the house from the back and got out.” He added that “after locals heard him scream, the police barged back in using the front door, and doused the flames”.