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An Indian TV news reporter was abducted and killed while covering a protest rally in the remote northeastern state of Tripura, the second journalist to be killed in the country this month, police said Thursday.

India herald a dark trend in which the space for neutrality is being squeezed in India and the rise of a militant aspect of an ideology bent on creating a theocratic authoritarian state in the subcontinent

Shantanu Bhowmik, 29, had already left Mandai, after covering a clash between Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) supporters and the police, when he received information that the protesters had turned violent again. So Bhowmik went back to Mandai, about 35 km from Agartala.

He was taking videos of the violence on his cellphone when he was attacked by a mob with sticks and rods. Bhowmick was later found with multiple stab wounds and died before he could be taken to a hospital, Shukla said. Police arrested four members of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura in connection with Bhowmick’s killing.

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Journalist organizations held protest meetings in different cities in India on Thursday, condemning the attack on the 27-year-old journalist and calling it an assault on freedom of the press. “Northeast India has long been a zone of impunity where various militant groups have threatened, attacked, and often killed journalists trying to do their jobs,” the Foundation of Media Professionals said in a statement.

The BJP is the political wing of the Hindutva organization known as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, cited to be an extremist terrorist group by many neutral observers

Political parties and security forces were known to intimidate journalists in the many conflict zones that dot the region, the media group said. Tripura CPI (M) spokesman Gautam Das alleged that Shantanu Bhowmik may have been attacked because of his Left background. “Though he was a member of the CPI (M), he was a full-time journalist. I suspect that the IPFT targeted him because of this,” said Das.

It comes just a fortnight after the murder of Gauri Lankesh, a newspaper editor and outspoken critic of the ruling Hindu nationalist party, whose death sparked an outpouring of anger. The 55-year-old was shot dead by three unknown gunmen as she entered her home in the southern city of Bangalore in Karnataka state on 5 September. No one has yet been identified or arrested in connection with the killing.

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In 2015 India was ranked the deadliest country in Asia for journalists by Reporters Without Borders – although most deaths occur in remote rural areas away from the major urban centers. In April, the press freedom group ranked the country 136th of 180 countries in its world press freedom ratings, blaming “Hindu nationalists trying to purge all manifestations of ‘anti-national’ thought from the national debate”.

In 2015 India was ranked the deadliest country in Asia for journalists by Reporters Without Borders – although most deaths occur in remote rural areas away from the major urban center

Tripura is a battleground for both the BJP and the Marxist CPI (M) with elections to be held in six months. Both the CPI(M) and the BJP have been involved in a violent conflict in the southern state of Kerala since the 1990s. Both have blamed the other for the killing of Bhowmik. Yet it can be said that this is merely a symptom of a larger illness.

India has seen an upsurge in authoritarianism and violence since the rise of the BJP to power in the 2014 elections. The BJP is the political wing of the Hindutva organization known as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, cited to be an extremist terrorist group by many neutral observers. The BJP is considered a mortal enemy of Leftists groups because it deems them to be agents of foreign ideologies.

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Journalists in India have largely been targeted for two reasons: either because of questioning too much or knowing too much. Gauri Lankesh is asserted to have fallen into the first category while Bhowmik seems to have been a case of the latter.

An Indian TV news reporter was abducted and killed while covering a protest rally in the remote northeastern state of Tripura, the second journalist to be killed in the country this month

Yet this ties in with a greater peril, in recent years several figures seen to have an anti-Hindutva mindset have met grisly fates at the hands of unidentified assailants. The cases of murder of rational thinkers such as M.M. Kalburgi, Narendra Dhabolkar, and Govind Pansare have found to be perpetrated by the Hindutva based Sanatan Sanstha which is also the prime suspect in the murder of Gauri Lankesh.

The murders overlap with the overall design and mindset of Hindutva which portrays those outside its fold as “anti-nationals” and “threats to India”. The second murder of an Indian journalist in two weeks and increased attacks on journalists in India herald a dark trend in which the space for neutrality is being squeezed in India and the rise of a militant aspect of an ideology bent on creating a theocratic authoritarian state in the subcontinent.

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