Shankar died at a local hospital a day after being beaten by unidentified assailants with iron rods, according to news reports. The journalist was returning home after filing a report in Chilakaluripet town in Guntur district in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
Shankar was a senior journalist for the Telugu-language daily Andhra Prabha, who had frequently reported on the “oil mafia,” a common term for criminals who intercept shipments of kerosene oil and gas and thin it down with much cheaper oil, according to news reports. Shankar had also written about corruption in the rice mill trade shortly before his death, according to The Hoot, a South Asian media watchdog group. The journalist, who was also honorary president of a Guntur press club had written a series of stories on allegations of corruption in the public distribution system, news reports said.
A statement by the Indian Journalists Union said Shankar was killed for his coverage of a group that had engaged in the illegal sale on the black market of rationed essential items, including kerosene oil, for the poor, which was supplied through the country’s food security system known as the Public Distribution System, reports said. Thirty-eight percent of kerosene is smuggled or misused to adulterate diesel oil, according to news reports citing the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.
In January 2013, an activist was murdered in the nearby Maharashtra state after he exposed the illegal sales of kerosene oil and ration cards. An official working as a district collector was burned alive in Maharashtra state in 2011, allegedly by members of the “oil mafia,” according to news accounts.
The Minister for Agriculture, P. Pulla Rao, condemned the murder and ordered an investigation. A day later, Nimmakayala China Rajappa, the Andhra Pradesh home minister, directed police to form a special team to investigate the case and promised Shankar’s family that justice would be served, according to The Hoot.
In April 2016, Narayan Naik, superintendent of police for Guntar, told CPJ a suspect had been charged in connection with the murder, but did not provide further details.
Shankar is survived by his wife, according to news accounts.