Balaghat: A 40-year-old local journalist was allegedly murdered by three persons involved in illegal mining who kidnapped him and set him ablaze apparently over his refusal to withdraw a court case, police said on Sunday.

The burnt body of Sandeep Kothari, who was abducted from Katangi tehsil in Balaghat district two days back, was found dumped in a farm at Butibori area in Nagpur Saturday night, they said. Police have arrested three persons in connection with Kothari’s murder, sub-divisional officer of police (SDOP) J.S. Markam told PTI in Balaghat on Sunday.

Police suspect the accused, identified as Rakesh Nasvani, Vishal Dandi and Brijesh Duharwal, who hailed from Katangi, had allegedly kidnapped Kothari and set him ablaze, Markam said, adding the trio were engaged in illegal mining and also running chit fund companies.

They were pressurising Kothari, who was working as a tehsil correspondent for some Jabalpur-based Hindi dailies, to withdraw a case of illegal mining he had filed against some persons in a local court.

Police suspect Kothari was kidnapped and murdered because he refused to withdraw the matter. “We are investigating the case from all angles and a police team is camping in Nagpur. It will be premature to conclude the exact reason behind the kidnapping and killing," Markam said.

Kothari was abducted on 19 June night when he was headed towards Umri village with his friend on his bike. His bike was hit by a four-wheeler and its occupants bundled him inside the vehicle and fled before beating up Kothari’s friend Rahandle who was riding pillion, the SDOP said. Police have seized the car used for kidnapping Kothari, he added.