Nepali groups own up to killing Indian-origin media baron

Kathmandu: Less than a month after a controversial media magnate was gunned down in daylight in the best-protected area of the capital, a media tycoon of Indian origin was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Nepal’s restive southern plains adjoining the border with India. Two local rebel groups have claimed responsibility.

Arun Singhania, the 50-year-old publisher of the Nepali daily Janakpur Today, published from southern Nepal, died during the Holi revelry in the Terai Monday evening while on his way home, police said Tuesday.

Singhania was shot thrice from close quarters by assailants who came on two motorcycles, police said.

The attack occurred around 6.30 p.m. Monday when Singhania, who had gone out to take part in the Holi festivities celebrated in the Terai Monday, was returning home.

Singhania, whose media group also ran an FM radio station as well as an Internet portal, had returned to Janakpur, the main town in Dhanusha district, on Sunday after a month-long pilgrimage to India.

Reports said his last port of call was New Delhi where he had gone to see his son Rahul, who is studying MBA in the Indian capital.

Janakpur, southern Nepal’s famous temple town renowned for its Janaki temple, remained paralysed Tuesday after the Janakpur Chamber of Commerce and Industry called a shutdown to protest against the murder.

In Kathmandu, industrialists met Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal to warn him that all industries and businesses in the country would be shut down if the security situation did not improve within a month. They are urging for the formation of the Industrial Security Group. The government had promised to provide security to industries, especially in the Terai, where violence has mushroomed since the fall of King Gyanendra’s army-backed government in 2006.

The Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) also condemned the killing and held a sit-in before Home Minister Bhim Rawal’s office in the capital. The FNJ said it would stage protest rallies nationwide from Wednesday seeking the immediate arrest of the culprits and security for Nepal’s beleaguered media that remains under attack even four years after the end of the Maoist insurgency.

Two armed groups active in the Terai Wednesday claimed responsibility for the murder.

The Terai Janatantrik Mukti Morcha (Rajan Mukti), a band of former Maoists, and the Terai Janatantrik Party-Madhes were said to have called up local reporters to say they had orchestrated the killing since Singhania’s publications were spreading a “distorted image” of the separatist Madhes movement they have been waging.

The media tycoon’s murder occurs after the killing of Kathmandu’s controversial media magnate Jamim Shah, whose execution, police say, was plotted by Indian gangster Babloo Srivastava from within Bareilly jail in India.

Almost a month after the death of Shah – a 42-year-old of Kashmiri origin and alleged by Indian intelligence agencies to have been involved in running a fake Indian currency network – police are yet to arrest his killers.

A year ago, Uma Singh, a woman journalist working for Singhania’s FM station, Radio Today, was hacked to death in her own apartment in Janakpur. The police said that was due to a family dispute.

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