A voice silenced

thirty-three-year-old Prahlad Goala, a Golaghat-based reporter, was killed on January 6, 2006, at Thuramukh near Nambar reserve forest, around 300 km east of Guwahati.

A car knocked down Prahlad while he was returning home on his motorcycle. A local scribe later spotted his body. The body showed many wounds, probably from stabbing, which suggest the death was not accidental. It is assumed that the miscreants travelling in the car first hit the motorcycle and then repeatedly stabbed him.

Prahlad worked for Asomiya Khabar. He had exposed the illegal activities of some forest officials, who were reportedly hand-in-glove with the timber mafia and making money from schemes meant for poor villagers.

Various journalist organisations, environment groups, civic bodies and media rights organisations have expressed shock and anger at Prahlad's killing and called for a thorough investigation. The Journalists Action Committee, Assam, an umbrella organisation of the journalist unions in the state, organised a protest meeting at the Guwahati Press Club on January 11 and demanded a judicial probe. The protesters condemned the state forest department and the government for "protecting' the culprits. The committee had also sent a memorandum to the Union minister for environment and forests demanding punishment for the culprits.

Meanwhile, following an fir lodged by Prahlad's widow, the Assam police arrested K Zaman Jinnah, a forest range officer of Nambar reserve, on suspicion of hiring a professional killer. Atanu Bhuyan, editor of Asomiya Khabar, confirmed that Prahlad was receiving threat calls from the forest ranger for reporting on illegal logging by a criminal gang, allegedly patronised by Jinnah.

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