RAJDEO RANJAN WAS A MAN OF HABIT. He liked to go on a long walk every morning, before meeting a few friends at a popular chai stall behind Siwan’s city council building, at about half past eight. He would stay there for the next two hours or so, reading the papers and talking news and politics. Then he would head home to bathe and have lunch, before leaving for work on his motorcycle. He normally reached his office, at the Babuniya Modh square in the central part of the city, by noon, and spent the afternoon and early evening putting together news dispatches and handling paperwork for Hindustan, the Hindi national daily where he served as Siwan district’s bureau chief. By half past seven, he would send the day’s stories to the paper’s regional office in Patna, about 150 kilometres to the south-east, and start on a leisurely evening ride around town, stopping here and there to meet friends and contacts. He would pick up snacks for his two children along the way, and get home no later than ten.
On the evening of 13 May, the 46-year-old Ranjan had made it barely a kilometre from his office when five assailants on motorcycles gunned him down at point-blank range. Drenched in blood, he was taken to the nearest hospital, where he was declared dead on arrival. A post-mortem found three bullets inside Ranjan’s body—one was found in his liver, another had pierced his neck, and one had hit him right between his eyebrows.
RANJAN'S MURDER GRABBED national headlines. The next day, most major English dailies, including the Times of India, Hindustan Times, Indian Express and Deccan Chronicle, ran stories on it, and so did the Hindi ones. Some Hindi news channels were quick to pronounce that Ranjan had been murdered for his journalism. His employer, Hindustan, one of the largest-selling dailies in India, released its front page in black and white in protest, and said the killing was a direct attack on freedom of expression and the independence of the media.