Bihar was a state infamous for its jungle raj. Mafias, anti-social elements, violent dons – Bihar had it all. But why are we speaking in the past tense? Is the jungle raj of Bihar over? Well, we have been told that on a number of occasions. The JD(U) government, led by Nitish Kumar loves to hail their governance model as one which rid Bihar of the era of jungle raj and violence. But a shocking, gory and indescribable incident has shocked the conscience of the state, as a 23-year-old independent journalist and RTI activist has been murdered in the most gruesome of ways, and his half-charred body has been recovered days after his family set on a pursuit to trace him.
Buddhinath Jha, alias Avinash Jha, was a journalist working with a local news portal. He disappeared two days after he uploaded a Facebook post that named medical clinics that he alleged were “fake”. According to NDTV, Buddhinath apparently received numerous threats and offers of lakhs in bribes, neither of which deterred him from his work. Avinash Jha single-handedly became the biggest thorn for the mafia of private medical clinics in Bihar’s Madhubani district, and it seems he paid for the same with his life.
The hospitals he named were Maa Janki Sewa Sadan Ambedkar Chowk Benipatti, Shiva Poly Clinic Makiya, Sudama Health Care Dhakjari, Anshu Kasht and Center Dhakjari, Sonali Hospital Benipatti, Aradhana Health, and Dental Care Clinic Benipatti, Jai Maa Kali Sewa Sadan Benipatti, RS Memorial Hospital Benipatti, Aljina Health Care Benipatti, Sanvi Hospital Nandibhoji Chowk, Ananya Nursing Home Benipatti, and Anurag Health Care Center Benipatti.
NDTV claimed Jha was last seen on Tuesday around 10 pm near his house near Lohia Chowk in Benipatti, about 400m from the local police station. After his family lodged a missing complaint on Wednesday, police searched for him in vain until Friday morning when his cousin received a call regarding a body found along the highway passing through Betoun village. Jha’s remains were identified by a ring on his finger, a mark on his leg, and a chain around his neck.
According to the victim’s brother, Chandrasekhar – who alleged a big conspiracy behind the killing of his brother, Avinash had filed many RTI queries regarding the ongoing fake nursing home scam in his district. He had been, for years, trying to bust the nexus of private hospital operators, staff, and authorities scamming the people of the district.
For a journalist to be killed and burnt only because he dared expose the private medical clinic mafia of his district is surely an indicator of how well the jungle raj elimination has gone in Bihar. The killing of Avinash Jha is actually a message by anti-social elements to all journalists – shut up and suck it up. Illegal activities continue unabated in Bihar, and those who dare expose the same are simply killed. This is the single most important theme of the murder of Avinash Jha.
Not the First Time
In the past, there have been many killings of journalists, activists, and whistleblowers in Bihar, right under the government’s nose. Under the reign of Rabri Devi – wife of Lalu Prasad Yadav, a young NHAI engineer Satyendra Dubey was murdered. He had exposed corruption in the Golden Quadrilateral highway project in Bihar in 2003. Dubey was gunned down in the early hours of November 27, 2003, in front of the Circuit House in Gaya when he was going to his residence after alighting from a train from Varanasi.
In September, unidentified motorcycle-borne assailants shot dead an RTI activist, who investigated the alleged land encroachments and irregularities in the public distribution system, in Bihar’s East Champaran district. In the past decade, at least 11 RTI activists have been killed in Bihar. A Sudarshan TV journalist was also murdered this year in the East Champaran district. In 2020, 32-year-old RTI activist Pankaj Kumar, who initially went missing, was found dead with bullet injuries, on the bank of Sone River in Patna.
It has become clear that murdering someone in Bihar right under the government’s nose is no herculean task. For all, it takes to do so is one simple locally manufactured pistol and a two-wheeler. With this lethal combo of infrastructure, criminals continue to reign supreme in Bihar, and the famed “sushaasan babu” is nowhere to be found.