Patna: Unidentified criminals shot dead two journalists in eastern India in the past 24 hours, triggering waves of protests in the region. Both the journalists were fired at from point blank range and were killed while they were returning home after work.

The latest incident of murder was reported from Siwan district of Bihar where Rajdeo Ranjan, the local bureau chief of prominent Hindi-language daily ‘Hindustan’, was killed by motorcycle-borne criminals on Friday evening. ‘Hindustan’ is a sister organisation of leading English daily Hindustan Times.

Ranjan, 45, who was associated with the paper for the past over two decades, was returning home after work at around 8pm when motorcycle-borne criminals shot him from point blank range near the Siwan railway station. He was shot five times by what police believe were “professional criminals”.

He was rushed to a local hospital but the doctors pronounced him dead on arrival. Police said he was shot in the head from the front and in his neck.

Meanwhile, police have detained four persons in connection with the murder and interrogations are on.

“We are interrogating the detained persons and hope to crack the case very soon,” the local Siwan district superintendent of police Saurabh Kumar Sah told the media on Saturday.

The killing triggered waves of protests across the state as angry journalists took out protest marches, candlelight processions and wore black badges to denounce the crime.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar expressed shock over the incident and directed the police to take stern action against the criminals. However, the opposition launched scathing attacks on the chief minister for failing to maintain law and order in the state.

“People are being killed at frequent intervals in Bihar but the chief minister is making a tour of the country to project himself as a PM candidate. He should focus on his state first,” senior BJP leader and party spokesperson Shahnawaz Husain said, adding, “Is this the positive change he had promised to bring in the state to the voters?”

Late on Thursday, a television journalist Akhikesh Pratap Singh alias Indradeo Yadav was shot dead in Chatra district of neighbouring Jharkhand. Here too, the victim was returning home on his bike when unknown assailants fired bullets at him, killing him on the spot.

Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das condemned the incident in the strongest possible words and asked police to nab the assailants.

The motive behind the cold-blooded killings are not known although police were investigating the cases.

Bihar is ruled by Grand Alliance (GA) comprising Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad, Janata Dal United (JD-U) of Nitish Kumar and Congress party of Sonia Gandhi while it is Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Jharkhand.

Federal finance minister Arun Jaitely strongly condemned the incidents Saturday. “I strongly condemn the murder of journalists, Rajdeo Ranjan in Siwan and Akhilesh Pratap Singh in Chatra district, independent investigation may be instituted and guilty be punished,” Jaitely tweeted.

Meanwhile, a US-based media watchdog Saturday called for an investigation into the killings of the two journalists. “While police investigations into the murders of journalists are welcome, investigations without arrests or tough prison sentences for the killers send the wrong message,” Committee to Protect Journalist’s Asia program senior research associate Sumit Galhotra said in a statement.