A journalist was gunned down on Tuesday by a Tripura State Rifles (TSR) trooper during an altercation in western Tripura, raising political tensions and triggering widespread anger.

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TSR Second Battalion Rifleman Nandu Kumar Reang opened fire from his AK-47 assault rifle, killing Sudip Datta Bhowmik, 50, in Bodhjung Nagar, a police official said.

Reang was the bodyguard of Second Battalion Commandant Tapan Debbarma. The slain journalist went to meet Debbarma at the battalion headquarters some 25 km north of Agartala. Police arrested the TSR trooper.

The body of Bhowmik, a reporter with ‘Syandan Patrika’ and television channel ‘Vanguard’, was brought to the Gobind Ballav Pant Medical College and Hospital in Agartala. It would be kept at the Medical College and Hospital until Wednesday. He is survived by his wife, a government teacher, and two children.

Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar strongly condemned the killing and asked the director general of police to probe the incident.

Both Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leaders rushed to the hospital and the residence of the slain journalist.

The BJP called a 12-hour state-wide shutdown on Thursday. “Chief minister Manik Sarkar should step down immediately,” BJP state president Biplab Kumar Deb told the media.

Various Journalists organisations in the northeast, including the Tripura Working Journalists Association, Tripura Journalists Union (TJU) and the Agartala Press Club, denounced the killing and demanded a high level probe into the incident.

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The TJU also demanded the resignation of the home minister. The portfolio is held by the chief minister.

Journalists organizations across northeast condemned the killing. The Kohima Press Club (KPC) general secretary Alice Yhosi said, “The club is seized with apprehension at the repeated murder of journalists across the country which brings to question the safety and security of journalists in a country that widely professes freedom of press.”

Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA) has strongly condemned the repeated murder of journalists in Tripura and urged the Manik Sarkar-led government in Agartala to take serious note of the development.

“Tripura lost a young journalist (Shantanu Bhowmik) to assailants on September 20 and within two months the state has reported one more journo-murder. It is shocking and the state chief minister, also in charge of home portfolio, must take the call seriously,” said a JFA statement.

“It is alarming that the number of journo-murders has increased drastically this year. The Union government must not buy more time for formulating a strict policy to safeguard the media persons and ensure justice to the victim families,” added the JFA statement issued by president Rupam Barua and secretary Nava Thakuria.

On September 20, a television journalist, Santanu Bhowmik, 28, was killed allegedly by some activists of a party in Mandai, 35 km from Agartala.

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