Chandrika Rai had been writing consistently against illegal racket

The brutal murder of a senior journalist and his entire family on Saturday night in Madhya Pradesh's Umaria distict, over 450 km from here, has sent shockwaves across the State with fingers being pointed at the illegal coal mining mafia active in the region.

Journalist Chandrika Rai (42), his wife Durga (40) and their two teenage children — son Jalaj (19) and daughter Nisha (17) — were murdered using a sharp object at their residence, police said. The bodies were found in four separate rooms.

Mr. Rai was a freelance journalist who contributed regularly to the Hindi daily Navbharat and English daily The Hitavada. He had been writing consistently against the illegal coal mining in the region. He had written a series of articles alleging the involvement of a local BJP leader in illegal mining.

The district is known for the Umaria coalfield under the control of the South Eastern Coalfields Ltd. However, illegal coal mining is also rampant in the region.

“The local illegal mining mafia has resorted to this horrific crime to silence the power of his pen,” said Congress MLA and leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly Ajay Singh. “The BJP government gives open protection to the local mining mafia. Recently Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and some of his Ministers were seen sharing the stage with wanted criminals. In such a situation, criminals have no fear of the law and commit such mind-numbing crimes with impunity whenever their interests are harmed.”

The crime came to light when Mr. Rai's brother broke open the door on Saturday evening after he became suspicious on seeing it locked from the outside the entire day.

Linked to abduction?

The Umaria police believe the murders could also be linked to the kidnap of the seven-year-old son of a government official for ransom on Wednesday. He was rescued by the police on Thursday.

“DGP Raut visited the crime scene on Sunday and has ordered an STF probe,” Umaria SP Manohar Singh Jamara told The Hindu. “He also spoke to journalists here and assured them that the criminals would be brought to book as soon as possible. We have constituted a team to look into the crime and assist the STF which will arrive here tomorrow [Monday].”

Land dispute

Another angle the police are investigating relates to a land dispute involving Mr. Rai and another local individual.