Jagendra Singh published articles on Facebook criticising local minister
Said Ram Murti Verma was involved in rape and high level corruption
The following day police raided his house and he was burned alive
Officers claimed he committed suicide, but are now charged with murder
Verma has also been charged along with police chief Sri Prakash Rai
An Indian politician and five policemen have been charged with murder after a journalist was burned to death days after writing Facebook posts critical of the minister involved.
Jagendra Singh, from Uttar Pradesh, died on Monday after a police raid on his home on June 1, following Facebook posts in which he accused local minister Ram Murti Verma of corruption.
Officers initially claimed Singh committed suicide when they tried to break into his home, but have now been charged after Singh’s son Rahul said they burned his father to death as he watched.
Verma has also been charged with murder after Rahul claimed his father’s death was part of a revenge plot over the Facebook posts.
In three messages uploaded in May, Singh – posing under the alias of Shahjahanpur Samachar, meaning ‘Shahjahanpur news’ – accused Verma of high level corruption.
He alleged that Verma, who is a minister in the government of Akhilesh Yadav, had seized tracts of land and launched illegal mining operations which earned him tens of millions of rupees.
Singh also accused Verma and his men of being involved in the rape of a children’s centre worker, though no charges have so far been brought over these allegations.
The posts all appeared on May 31, and the following day police went to Singh’s house in the Awas Vikas colony in Shahjahanpur to question him.
Officers claimed they knocked on the door and heard Singh answer, but when they asked to come in he did not respond.
According to the Hindustan Times, the officers knocked several more times before opening a window and seeing smoke coming out.
However, Singh’s son Rahul told The Hindu that officers loyal to Verma, including Inspector Sri Prakash Rai, set his father alight as the rest of the family watched.
He claimed authorities had been waging a campaign of terror against the family following his father’s posts about the politician.
He said his father was assaulted in the streets near his home on April 28, and that he had been given burn wounds during a raid by Rai on another occasion.
Rahul said: ‘He told me he was hounded for exposing Verma’s alleged involvement in illegal mining and forced occupation of land.’
Singh was treated at a hospital in Lucknow, the regional capital, but died on Monday, and after several reports by fellow journalists, Verma and Rai were charged with murder, along with four others.
Press Council of India Chairman C K Prasad condemned the alleged killing, saying it was an ‘attack on freedom of speech’ region.
He suggested that an independent fact finding mission needed to be established to get to the truth, and said the council had already commissioned its own investigation.