Madhya Pradesh Journalist Murder: Police Forms Special Investigation Team

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Madhya Pradesh Journalist Murder: Police Forms Special Investigation Team

Policemen at the location where the journalist was killed.

Balaghat:  Madhya Pradesh police today announced constitution of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the murder of local journalist Sandeep Kothari, who was burnt to death allegedly by three persons linked to mining mafia, following which his protesting family members performed his last rites.

Mr Kothari's mortal remains, which were brought to Katangi police station in the district earlier in the day from Wardha in Maharashtra, and performed the last rites Balaghat in evening after police submitted a written assurance of an impartial SIT probe.

His kin had earlier refused to perform his last rites while insisting that six more persons behind the murder be arrested.

Mr Kothari's kin, including his father Prakashchand, mother Kanchan Devi and brother Naveen, relented only after ASP Neeraj Soni gave in writing that IG, Balaghat range, DC Sagar has announced setting up of SIT.

Meanwhile, police produced Vishal Tandi and Brajesh Daharwal, the two accused arrested so far in connection with the case, in a local court which remanded them in police custody for seven days.

Police have also announced a reward of Rs 30,000 on another accused Rakesh Nasvani, who is absconding.

State Home Minister Babulal Gaur told PTI that police are investigating into the killing of the journalist from all angles. "A hunt is on to arrest the one more accused who is absconding," he added.

When asked about the reports that mining mafias have orchestrated Mr Kothari's murder, the Home minister said, "It will be too early to draw conclusion or conjunctures."

Mr Kothari was burnt to death allegedly by three persons, suspected to be closely linked to mining mafia, who set him ablaze apparently over his refusal to withdraw a court case, after abducting him from Katangi three days back, the police had said.

His body was found lying near a railway track at Sindhi town in Wardha district of Maharashtra on Saturday night.

Madhya Pradesh Working Journalists Union has demanded a CBI probe into the incident, with it's Balaghat district president Indrajeet Bhoj recalling the deceased as an "impartial and courageous" journalist.

"It was very unfortunate the criminal cases have been registered against him. However, unfazed by the cases, he boldly and fearlessly wrote against the mafias," Mr Bhoj said in a statement.

Demanding that police unmask the "white-collar" criminals involved in the killing, Mr Bhoj said the journalists will launch a protest if the probe is not handed over to CBI and a bill to protect journalists is not brought in the forthcoming Assembly session.

Opposition Congress and BSP have already demanded a CBI probe into the incident.

The Congress has also set up a three-member panel comprising MLAs to probe Mr Kothari's death.

Senior Congress leader Raja Pateria has alleged that Mr Kothari was falsely implicated in different cases by police at the behest of the mafia.

"The way he was killed speaks and shows that it was a large conspiracy that led to his murder and it needed to be bared," he said.

Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh police headquarters today issued a press release stating that Mr Kothari was a history-sheeter involved in 15 cases including rape.

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