Social media journalist Jagendra Singh – who worked as a journalist via social media, posting reports to a Facebook page, Shahjahanpur Samachar, which had nearly 5,000 followers and which local news organisations would use to find stories – died on June 8, 2015 after being hospitalised for severe burns he suffered during a June 1 police raid on his home. His family said the raid was ordered by a local dairy development minister in retaliation for Singh’s reporting. Police implicated in Singh’s death have reportedly maintained that it was a suicide.
In the months preceding the attack, Singh posted that Uttar Pradesh Minister for Dairy Development Ram Murti Verma had connections to illegal mining projects, corruption and other illicit activities. The journalist, after being hospitalised for his burns, said that Verma’s men had previously attacked him near his house on April 28. He also, in a video statement recorded shortly before he died, accused Verma of sending the police to burn him.
A forensic report released by local police concluded that Singh self-immolated, but Singh’s family called for an independent investigation into the incident by India’s independent Criminal Bureau of Investigation. They later withdrew that demand after receiving financial compensation for his death, and one of Singh’s sons said that his father had accidentally set himself on fire. Local journalists, however, said that the son privately acknowledged that he had withdrawn the complaint in the face of pressure from local officials. Critics also maintained that a woman who accused Verma of involvement in a gang rape she allegedly suffered – a claim that Singh had reported – withdrew her allegation under similar pressure.