Uttar Pradesh-based television journalist Sulabh Shrivastava died in Pratapgarh on Sunday night, 13 June 2021, in what the police initially called a ‘motorcycle accident.’ Just a day before his death, Shrivastava, who worked for ABP News and its regional arm, ABP Ganga, wrote to senior police officials saying he felt threatened by the liquor mafia in the district following his recent reportage about them.
“Mr Shrivastava was returning on his motorcycle after media coverage, at around 11 pm at night on Sunday. He fell from his motorcycle near a brick kiln. Some laborers lifted him from the road and then used his phone to call his friends, and they called an ambulance too. He was taken to the district hospital where the doctors declared him dead,” said Surendra Dwivedi, a senior police official in Pratapgarh, in a statement.
“Initial investigations have revealed he was alone on his bike and fell after his bike collided with a handpump by the road. We are investigating other angles too,” added Dwivedi in the statement.
A photograph of the body taken at the scene of the ‘accident’ – shows the journalist lying on the ground with what appear to be injuries to his face. His clothes seem to have been removed, his shirt almost entirely, and his trousers unbuttoned and pulled down.
Shrivastava had written to senior UP Police officials the day before his death. His wife Renuka filed a case on Monday against unknown people, alleging that the liquor mafia had her husband murdered. She said that her husband had received threats to his life for three days before his death and that the police had taken no action to protect him despite being informed in writing. She said that on Sunday, the journalist had left to cover the news of an illegal arms factory, and she received a call at 11 pm about the ‘motorcycle accident.”
The letter Shrivastava wrote to the police informing them of the threats to his life has been tweeted by senior journalists of the channel he worked for.
“A report of mine against the liquor mafia in the district had run on the news portal run by my channel on June 9. Since then, there has been a lot of buzz about this report. When I leave my home, I feel as if someone is following me… I have heard through my sources the liquor mafia is unhappy with my reporting and can harm me. My family is also very worried,” Shrivastava wrote in the letter to the UP police.
Prem Prakash, a senior police official from the area, told ABP News that he had been aware of the letter and had instructed local officials to evaluate the threat. Shrivastava’s death has been criticized by the opposition parties blaming the chief minister and his government. The chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, tweeted, “Shocked at the demise of ABP journalist Sulabh Srivastava in Uttar Pradesh. Sad to see that despite ‘democracy & freedom’ being a part of our ethos, we are unable to save lives who are working tirelessly towards unfolding the truth.”