Avinash Jha, a reporter with the news website BNN News based in the village of Benipatti, in the Madhubani district of the eastern Indian state of Bihar, went missing on the night of November 9 and was found dead on November 12, according to news reports and BNN News chief editor Kanhaiya Kashyap, who spoke to CPJ by phone.
According to The Wire, he was last seen at about 10 p.m. at a medical clinic he owned in the town. On November 12, Jha’s family members found the journalist’s body about three miles outside Benipatti, according to multiple news reports, which said the body was severely burned.
Jha, also known as Buddhinath Jha, also worked as an activist who investigated local private medical clinics, according to those news reports.
According to Kashyap, Jha both reported on those clinics for the news outlet and filed complaints about them with authorities. On November 7, Jha announced on his Facebook page that he would initiate a new campaign against illegal clinics on November 15, according to Kashyap and a report by India Today. CPJ was unable to locate that Facebook page.
On November 14, the police arrested six suspects in the killing, identified as Roshan Kumar, Bittu Kumar, Deepak Kumar, Pawan Kumar, Manish Kumar, and Purna Kala Devi, according to India Today.
In a statement, police alleged that Jha had met with Devi at a local clinic on November 9, where five men abducted the journalist. CPJ was unable to find contact information or public statements by Devi or the other suspects. Kashyap said that Devi worked a nurse at a local clinic.
Police have also claimed that Jha might have been killed due to a conflict surrounding an alleged “love triangle,” according to India Today. However, Kashyap told CPJ that he doubted that theory, noting that it was not mentioned in the public police statement, and that he believed Jha was targeted for his journalism
India Today also reported that the journalist’s brother, Trilok Jha, believed Jha was murdered because of his coverage.
As of late November 2021, there had been no developments in the investigation since the arrests, Kashyap told CPJ. CPJ texted Satya Prakash, the police superintendent for Madhubani district, which is overseeing the case, for comment, but did not receive any reply.