Kerala media houses —online, print, digital, and social pages — woke into a sense of fraternity following the death of journalist SV Pradeep yesterday afternoon. He had met with an accident as a speeding lorry hit him at the National Highway at Karakkamandapam, Thiruvananthapuram on Monday.
The event gave way to theories with the most popular being that he was murdered. Pradeep was an investigative journalist who had done several exposes on politicians and other big personalities. He was a part of major media houses including News18, Kairali, Mangalam, before he was the Executive Editor of Bharath Live — a YouTube channel.
The police officers in charge of investigating the death of journalist SV Pradeep have recovered the lorry that hit him yesterday afternoon. The officials found the four-wheeler, that has been used to transport sand, from Eanchakkal, and took into custody Joey, who is the driver of the vehicle.
According to the police, Joey was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident, and the latter has admitted that the owner of the vehicle, Mohanan, was also present at the time. The police plans to question Mohanan as well in regards to the investigation. A special investigation team is probing the matter under the leadership of Fort Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP).
Journalists dying in mysterious circumstances are not new to Kerala, since just last year IAS officers Sriram Venkitaraman had hit KM Basheer, who was the Bureau Chief of Malayalam daily Siraj. The case has been going on for a long time, and Venkitaraman has returned to duty since then but has not been free of controversies. Reportedly, the officer was drunk during the accident, but due to serious lapses in the following protocol, the case against the officer weakened. While a large media build-up was formed around the case initially, it died down months later. Even after the police have submitted the charge sheet, there has been no momentum for the case nor has the media talked about the sluggish pace.
Another incident would be the death of Muvattupuzha RDO PS Santhosh, who was also a journalist, in 1995. The death was originally ruled a suicide by the local police, however, following the persistence of Santhosh’s mother K Leela, CBI stepped in. The Bureau’s investigation went down a different path, trying to probe into whether it was a murder. Reportedly, evidence pointed to murder, but suddenly the authorities had transferred the investigating officer and the new team returned to the old suicide angle. In 2001, Leela had written a letter to AK Antony, who was the then Chief Minister, demanding a reinvestigation into the case. She had reported that she had received threats from unknown numbers who had told her to drop the case immediately. Soon after her death, the case died down and no one dug it up again.
Many feel that this race to solve Pradeep’s death is nothing more than a TRP stunt, only for it to die down a few weeks or months later. Some have argued that journalists die in vain since not many find justice. Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan is in jail because he went to Hathras to report on the rape of a Dalit girl by a few upper caste men. Take for instance Gauri Lankesh, who was shot and killed her at her home, he investigation has been going for a while. Such instances often happen in the country, and it is not uncommon to Kerala.