The shocking footage of a dumper truck swerving sharply to mow down journalist Sandeep Sharma in Madhya Pradesh went viral and the protests that followed forced the state’s Chief Minister to announce a CBI inquiry. But barely seven months later, Sharma’s death is a mere statistic in the record of road accidents, not a murder, not by a ruthless sand mafia and definitely not by the police officer who had allegedly threatened him and against whom Sharma had complained .
Name: Sandeep Sharma
Date of death: March 26, 2018
Brief synopsis: Sandeep Sharma, 35, was run over by a dumper truck in Bhind in Madhya Pradesh when he was riding his bike. He died on the spot. The dumper truck driver fled from the spot.
Sharma was employed with News World channel and had done a report on the nexus between the police and the sand mining mafia in Chambal region, Madhya Pradesh, in October 2017. He and his colleague, Vikas Purohit, had received several threats to their lives. They had even written to then Bhind superintendent of police Prashant Khare on Nov 3, 2017, citing threats from a sub-divisional police officer, Indra Veer Singh Bhadouria, and the sand mining mafia in the area.
Police Investigation: A Special Investigative Team (SIT) was formed immediately after his death. Preliminary reports said that police were checking the CCTV footage and recording statements of eyewitnesses to determine whether the death was accidental or a suspected murder. The CCTV footage accessed by police clearly showed the dumper following the Sharma for a distance before hitting him and running over him.
Police arrested the dumper truck driver Ranbir Yadav the same day and the truck owner, Bhaskar Sharma, the next day. Both are out on bail. The case is being heard in the Motor Accidents Tribunal in Bhind.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Shivraj Singh had ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigation on March 27, 2018. However, the CBI said that since the SIT had investigated the case and maintained that it was an accident, there was nothing more to investigate.
Purohit, Sharma’s colleague and eye-witness to his death, was following on his own bike just behind Sharma and saw the dumper truck deliberately swerve into him. He gave his statement to the police but they still maintain it was an accident. He expressed helplessness at the situation and said he had to leave Bhind and has sought work in a news channel in Bhopal.
The officer, Indra Veer Singh Bhadouria, remained in his post and no action was taken against him. However, three months after Sharma’s death, he was transferred to Bhopal on a complaint of corruption, filed by a local congress politician.
Meanwhile, Sharma’s aged parents, his wife and two children, rattled by the killing, shifted to Bhopal. In 2004, they had already lost their first son, a solider, in Jammu. Now, they survive on the produce of the agricultural land they have in Bhind.
Purohit felt that the administration should have taken more stringent steps to follow up on the complaint both of them had filed on Nov 3, 2017. “Both of us worked together. We have been following up on the sand mining for so many months and were filing many stories. This is a huge robbery. At least six police officers have died, aside from a number of citizens. But the local administration and the higher-ups in the police force do nothing. The [illegal] sand mining is continuing and destroying the Chambal river,” he said.
Status of case: Hearings are currently on in the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal regarding the ‘accident’ and compensation to be awarded to the survivors. The family did get a one-time compensation of Rs 500,000 from the state government but have not accepted it on principle.