Odisha Journalist Killed In Bomb Blast; Police Suspect Maoist Hand

Bhawanipatna/Bhubaneswar, Feb 5 (PTI): A journalist in Odisha’s Kalahandi district was on Saturday killed in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast by suspected Maoists targeting security personnel, a police officer said.
The IED went off when Rohit Kumar Biswal, a reporter-cum-photographer of a leading Odia daily published from Bhubaneswar, reached near a tree where a couple of posters and a banner were put up by Maoists asking people to boycott the five-phase panchayat polls beginning later this month.

“Whenever such posters are seen, the police have an SOP (standard operating procedure) to deal with the situation as there is a possibility that IEDs have been planted there targeting security forces. Our team was alerted but before we reached the spot, the unfortunate incident happened,” Kalahandi district SP Dr Vivek M said.

The 46-year-old reporter reached near the tree before police personnel searched the area with a metal detector for planted IEDs and died on the spot after the explosion, he said.

The posters were pasted on the tree while the banner was hung close to it near Domkarlakhunta village and close to a bridge in Madanpur Rampur block. The police found no more IEDs on the spot.

A joint team of CRPF and police have begun a probe, sources said.

The journalist is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced ₹ 13 lakh as financial assistance for his family. While the Odisha Police will provide ₹ 9 lakh, the remaining ₹ 4 lakh will be given from the Journalist Welfare Fund, said Manas Mangaraj, the media advisor to the state government.

“There is no place for violence in democracy. I strongly condemn the incident and the state government will take stern action against the persons involved in the killing of the journalist,” the chief minister tweeted.

He also expressed condolence towards the family members of Biswal.

BJP national vice-president Baijyant Panda also condoled the killing.

“Very sad at the murder of journalist Rohit Biswal by Maoists in Odisha. All you idealist young students & Liberals, know that leftists have killed nearly 100m people, by far the most in history. Remember this when you hear anyone praise the Left or say Lal Salaam. Om Shanti,” he said in a Twitter post without elaborating.

Odisha Union of Journalist President Prasanna Mohanty condemned the incident and demanded adequate compensation to Biswal’s family.

The organisation also sought proper security for scribes working in the Left Wing Extremism dominated districts.