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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ab Tak 20: Attacks on RTI Activists Continue

1. 20th July: Amit Jethwa murdered
Right to Information (RTI) activist Amit Jethwa was killed on Tuesday evening near the Gujarat High Court by unidentified men. Ahmedabad police official said that some unidentified men on a motorcycle fired at Jethwa killing him.

Jethwa was reportedly coming out of a building after meeting his lawyer and about to enter his vehicle when he was fired upon. Even though he was hit in the abdomen by the bullets, he tried to grapple with his assailants, who fled from after leaving behind their motorcycle. Police inspector HM Kundaliya said Jethwa died on the spot after he was shot. "His body was being sent for postmortem and search for the assailants was on," Kundaliya said.

He had filed several petitions in the Gujarat High Court against the forest department and had also filed a a public interest litigation (PIL) on the illegal mining in the Gir forests of Junagadh district which is considered the last abode of Asiatic lions in the world.

Jethwa was also the president of Gir Nature Youth Club.

Other isues taken up by Jethwa: A Director (Class-I), Forest and Environment Department [equivalent to rank of Additional Secretary of Govt. of Gujarat] was promoted through blatant violation of rules of promotion in the year 2003 on adhoc basis. He continued on this sensitive post, until he was removed on 15-06-2010.

Amit B. Jethwa of Khambha village and president of Gir Nature Youth Club [environment NGO] believed that this officer was not eligible for such an important post relating to environment protection, should continue to it. He filed RTI applications with Govt. of Gujarat and Gujarat Public Service Commission and collected all papers and information relating to his promotion. Based on this, he tried to persuade State Govt. to post an eligible and competent person for protection of environment. He knew that entire belt consisting of Baroda, Ankaleshwar, Vapi is engulfed with dangerous chemical pollution and its disaster would be 100 times worse than that of Bhopal.

Jethwa filed petition No. SCA No. 3949 of 2009 under article 226 for quo-warranto writ, in Hon'ble High Court of Gujarat in June 2009. On 15-06-2010 Hon'ble Court issued writ and ordered State Govt. to remove that officer from the post as his promotion was illegal and against rules. Application by concerned officer to stay operation of this order to enable him to appeal in higher court was also declined by the Hon'ble Court.

Through his writ petitions, Jethwa was also instrumental in:

a) Getting two additional Information Commissioners posted in Mar 2010 at Gujarat Information Commission.

b) Compelling State Govt. to include postal order as mode of payment for RTI fees/charges in March 2010 through a writ.

c) Filling up the post of Lokayukta in Gujarat, which had been vacant since 2003.


2. April 1, 2010 -- Advocate Abhay Patil’s home attacked:

Abhay patil from Pachora Taluka, Jalgaon district, Maharashtra is the former taluka president of youth congress and a social and RTI activist. His wife Varsha is a woman police constable in Pachora. On 1/4/2010, about 10.30 pnm, a mob of 15-20 persons came their house house and attacked their door, calling Abhay to come out. When Varsha phoned the police station, they asked her to come to police station and lodge a complaint. The mob was demanding that Abhay should withdraw all complaints of corruption against Dilip Wagh, MLA (Rashtrawadi) about muncipal council and educational trust.

After half an hour, the mob went away, and then the police came, and the terrorized couple moved to a friend’s house for the night. Varsha’s contention is that although she complainted the next day, home minister RR Patil used his powers to “interfere” in her complaint. Later on, a false complaint was lodged against her, and with the intervention of R R Patil, orders were given for her suspension. On a later date, Abhay’s father’s car was also attacked at midnight.

Read Abhay’s RTI application and appeals here: http://www.box.net/shared/q9b809e6lf

Adv. Abhay Patil, 9423161993



3. May 31: Datta Patil killed:
Datta Patil of Ichalkaranji, Kolhapur district, Maharashtra was found dead on 22 may. The motive behind Patil’s murder could not be anything other than being exposed of the corruption by the government employees through RTI.

4. April (date uncertain): RTI activist Vitthal Gite killed

An RTI activist who had exposed irregularities in a Maharashtra village school has been killed in a clash between two groups. The activist was seriously injured when the rival group, led by the son of the educational society that runs Sainath Vidyalaya at Waghbet villager in Beed, attacked him on Sunday. RTI activist Vitthal Gite (39) was a farmer and a flour-mill owner. Gite, along with another activist, Brijmohan Mishra, had sought information under RTI Act and exposed irregularities in the functioning of a few other schools in the village as well.

The rival group, which inflicted serious injuries on the activist, was led by the son of the president of the educational society that runs the school, Sainath Vidyalaya. The alleged irregularities in Sainath Vidyalaya were published in a local newspaper, which led to the clash between the two groups in which Gite was killed. The police, however, said ‘‘old enmity’’ between the two groups had triggered the clash.


5. July 16, Mumbai: RTI activist Ashok Kumar Shinde beaten up.
Ashok Kumar Shinde was beaten up by some unknown people for his RTI followed by a PIL against Public Works Department officials making money on the pretext of repairs in Bombay High Court premises. Shinde was attacked right outside the Public Works Department building in Mumbai on Wednesday. Shinde had earlier taken on the PWD with a string of RTIs and a PIL and alleged that PWD officials had illegally made around Rs 24 crore, in the name of repairs at the Bombay High Court premises. "They have indulged in corrupt practice and made money in the High Court project. I found this out by using RTI," says Shinde.
Shinde alleges that the attackers threatened to kill him.
"I was threatened that if i did not drop the cases against the High Court and the PWD, they would kill me," he claims.
The attack on Shinde is the latest among the increasing number of attacks on activists in the state. Mumbai Police registered an FIR.
6. Murderous attack on Environmentalists Sumaira Abdulali & Naseer Jalal, and TOI Journalists. Maharashtra, March 16.

On March 16, the sand-mining mafia which is choking Bankot Creek – a rich mangrove habitat for migratory birds, crocodiles and marine life in Maharashtra’s Raigad district -- attacked environmental activists Sumaira Abdulali and Naseer Jalal, and a team of journalists from The Times of India, when they visited the creek on Tuesday afternoon to report on the rampant illegal activities.

After a 10 km high-speed chase on a twisting ghat road, Sumaira’s vehicle was rammed by an LCV as it entered the highway, and immediately surrounded by three other vehicles. In the presence of a traffic cop, 15 to 20 people smashed the vehicle’s rear window, the side mirror and side window. They then tried to snatch the camera from the TOI photographer but failed. The mob threatened to kill local activist Jalal who was in the vehicle and asked Abdulali not to visit the area again… or else.

Cops reached the spot after being phoned by the TOI office, but the attackers continued to threaten and abuse the team of journalists and environmentalists; they had spent Rs 28 crore “buying the creek’’ and nobody could stop sand-dredging there, the mob said.

Cops then escorted the team to the Mahad police station, four kilometres away, where police officials filed an FIR and booked the accused for attempt to murder, criminal intimidation and rioting. The Mahad police registered a case of attempt to murder, criminal intimidation and rioting. Shockingly, they did not arrest the accused who were present at the police station from 3 pm to 9 pm. One of the accused, present in the mob, was the local MLA’s son. At 9 pm, Sumaira and her colleagues were hurriedly ushered out of the police station as the MLA came in. The accused are now said to be “absconding”.



7. Police raid on the house of Journalist Dandapani Mohapatra. Orissa, March 11.

On 11th March, while Mr Mohapatra was away in some meeting, violating all procedures, the police raided his house for nearly six hours ransacking all his belongings and not even allowing his ailing wife and children to take their food. The police had not given a copy of any search warrant to his family members, nor stated any reason for the raid. As per Mr Mohapatra the police took away a number of old journals such as Ghadaghadi, Inquilab and Marga O Chinta – none of which is proscribed by the government – without giving a seizure list, which is mandatory. Strangely, the police took the signatures of Mr Mohaptra’s son and that of the local Sarpanch on a number of plain sheets of paper. After raiding the house, the SDPO Chhatrapur threatened him on the same day in the evening asking him to come to the Police station by 15th of March or face the dire consequences. No criminal case is said to be pending against him under any allegation.

It is believed that the intention of the police in raiding the house of Mr Mohapatra was to terrorize him and suppress his dissent, which he has been expressing through his writings continuously for many years. He is the General Secretary of Dakhshina Odisha Sahitya Sammelani, a literary organization. He was publishing a satirical magazine called Ghadaghadi between 1984 to 1990. Currently, he has been writing for a weekly tabloid called ‘Sahanamela’.

The police seem to have told the media that the raid was undertaken due to suspected Maoist links.

8. FIR on Journalist Dr E Rati Rao. Karnataka, March 5.

Dr E Rati Rao, Vice-President of PUCL-Karnataka and Vice President of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), a senior scientist and activist with many decades of standing in the women's movement, the civil liberties movement, and campaigns against communal violence and caste atrocities, has been charged with sedition by the Karnataka police. The FIR against her implies that in Karnataka, defending secularism, opposing atrocities against dalits and minorities or fake encounters, and organising marginalised communities for struggle amounts to 'sedition.'

Dr. Rati Rao was Editor of an in-house PUCL-Karnataka Kannada language bulletin (called PUCL Varthapatra)– and it is this bulletin (last published in 2007) that is the supposed basis for the charges of ‘sedition’. The FIR against Dr. Rati Rao accuses her of publishing the PUCL bulletin that is “favoring naxals and Muslims and is propagating that the police are killing innocent people in the name of encounter”; that “calls upon dalits, women, minorities, farmers and adivasis to build organizations in order to fight for their rights”; that “accuses the Sangh Parivar in Karavali (coastal Karnataka) of indulging in false propaganda and fueling communal disharmony” and “calls upon the secular forces to raise their voice against such spread of communal hate”; and “by raising such issues incite and spread intolerance, disbelief, discontent amongst the public”; that “in the name of doing good to the dalits, women, minorities, & adivasis the said bulletin is spreading false information against the casteist & communal Government…It is propagating intolerance, disbelief, and discontent amongst the Government officials.” The sections under which Dr. Rati Rao has been booked are Section 124 A (Sedition), Section 505 (False statement, rumour, etc., circulated with intent to cause mutiny or cause communal discord) and sections of the Press Act that relate to knowingly spreading false information.

The PUCL Bulletin in question had discussed the attacks on the Christian community in Karnataka and had indicted the Government for failing to do enough to protect the minority community.

9. Murderous mob attack on Muzaffar Bhat & eight others, followed by FIR & arrest. Jammu & Kashmir, February 27

Dr Muzaffar Bhat, Convener of J&K Right to Information Movement and 8 other colleagues who had organized an RTI awareness programme in Branwar had all the tyres of their vehicle punctured during their overnight stay in that town. After they had their tyres repaired in nearby Chadoora market, they were murderously assaulted by a mob of 20 persons, and rescued in the nick of time by CRP and police personnel.

However, when the activists complained to the police, the police booked them instead, based on motivated charges leveled by Rashida Begum w/o Chaudhury Saifuddin of Branwar, who is also Halqa President and affiliated with the National Conference in the area. The activists were booked for rioting and house trespass, assault and theft (stealing gold ornaments) in FIR No. 42 of 2010 registered at Chadoora Police Station. Five activists were arrested and detained in custody over the weekend, namely Mushtaque Ahmed Mir, Abdul Rehman Bhat, Bashir Ahmed Lone, Nazir Ahmed Ganai and Mohammed Sadiq. Muzaffar, Dr. Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, Latif Ahmed and Ashik Ahmed applied for anticipatory bail. Thus, victims of the attack are being further victimized by the police, while those guilty of the attack are at large.

Detailed story: http://blog.jkrtimovement.org/?p=1732

Contact: muzaffar@jkrtimovement.org , 94195.62190



10. Murder of Shashidhar Mishra. Bihar, February 14

On Feb. 14 in Bihar, well-known RTI activist Shashidhar Mishra was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on motorcycles at the entrance of his home. He had been working to expose local welfare schemes.

11. Murder of Vishram Laxman Dodiya. Gujarat, February 11.

Vishram Laxman Dodiya of Ahmedabad had filed an application under RTI to get details about the illegal electricity connection by Torrent Power. He could not get any information. On February 11, 2010 he was found murdered, shortly after meeting with the company officials. Three people were arrested in the case. His son is yet to receive the information under RTI.

Contact: Harinesh Pandya, Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) magpgujarat@gmail.com 079-26821553/0719



12. Murderous assault on Ajay Kumar & colleague, followed by false FIR. New Delhi, January 12.

When Ajay Kumar asked New Delhi authorities later in 2009 why Municipal councillor Satbir Sharma had authorized the construction of private houses and shops on public land, he didn't imagine the question would land him in the hospital with a fractured nose.

Mr Kumar was stonewalled by the public information officer at the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, so he appealed to the Central Information Commission, which directed the MCD together with the police to jointly inspect the property. However, only two persons were allowed to come and inspect. Accordingly, Mr Kumar, who is General Secretary of an NGO, Public Grievance and Welfare Society, Kishan Ganj, went with his colleague Manmohan Gupta on January 12… only to find themselves surrounded by a mob.

"Neither the police nor the MCD officials helped us," says Mr Kumar, who was beaten in the head repeatedly by an iron rod, leaving him unconscious and bleeding profusely. Society president Surinder Puri said, “The police registered an FIR on January 18, after we took up the matter with the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate. But to our horror, we found that on January 12, they had filed a false FIR against us in connection with a weapon – a loaded katta (countrymade gun) supposedly found in our car.”



13. Priyanka Borpujari & other Mumbai journalists assaulted, followed by FIR. Chhatisgarh, January 6

Priyanka Borpujari, a journalist from Mumbai, and her colleagues, were physically assaulted by locals and by police in Dantewada, Chattisgarh. Her camera was forcibly snatched away, they were detained overnight and a motivated FIR was lodged against them with charges of dacoity etc. More details at http://priyanka-borpujari.blogspot.com/2010/01/from-detention-drama-to-dacoit.html

For details, contact: Priyanka Borpujari aa.priyanka@gmail.com 9820741992

14. Murder of Satish Shetty. Maharashtra, January 13

Social activist Satish Shetty (39), who had blown the whistle on a series of land scams in and around Talegaon, Lonavala and Pimpri-Chinchwad near here, was brutally murdered near his residence at Talegaon-Dabhade. Shetty was on his morning walk around 7am when he was attacked with swords and sharp weapons. An anti-corruption crusader for the last 15 years, Shetty had used the RTI Act to expose the irregularities in government offices. He had exposed many land scams in and around Talegaon, besides the setting up of restaurants and marriage halls in residential zones, selling in the black market of kerosene meant for distribution through ration shops, etc. Shetty’s murder is a major embarrassment for the police as he had demanded police protection after having received threats to his life.
For details, contact: Sandeep Shetty 99603 86681 or Vijay Kumbhar 99232 99199

15. Firing outside Nayana Kathpalia’s house. Mumbai, January 8.

Two assailants barged into the Swastik building opposite Oval Maidan in Churchgate at 6.45am and fired a round with a country-made revolver outside Nayana Kathpalia’s first-floor residence. The 65-year-old co-convenor of the NGO Citispace, who has been fighting for open spaces in the city, escaped unhurt. “The two men entered the building to kill Kathpalia. In the absence of a watchman, one stood near the gate while the other went to her house and opened fire after Kathpalia’s domestic help Soma China, 28, opened the grilled security door. The panicked assailant fled immediately,” said an officer from the Marine Drive police station. “While an additional bullet was found outside the house, the gun lay abandoned under a tree outside the building. The police have registered a case under section 307 of the IPC and under various sections of the Indian Arms Act.”

The officer said that the dog squad, deployed after the incident, led the police to a restaurant next to the sessions court opposite the Maidan.

The NGO has been targeted for its relentless protests against Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) scheme being implemented on open spaces and their opposition to hawkers.

Five other incidents of attacks whose dates need to be researched:

16. Attacks on Kheema Ram

17. There have been many attacks on Kheema Ram, a member of India's Dalit or "untouchable" communities, who has filed over 400 RTI applications. The 35-year-old father of three, who lives in rural Rajasthan want to use the law to fight this discrimination. Using RTI, Kheema has outed the manager of a cooperative bank who embezzled funds and fought for equal pay of male and female manual laborers. But it hasn't been without risk. Kheema Ram has been attacked over two dozen times.

17. Mohit Sharma threatened

In New Delhi, two MCD engineers assistant engineer Umesh Singh and executive engineer B M N Rao were arrested in northeast district after they allegedly threatened an activist who had filed an RTI application seeking details of illegal construction in Shahdara (North). The two had gone to the house of the complainant Mohit Sharma in Dilshad Garden and threatened him.

18. Sola Ranga Rao murdered

30-year-old Sola Ranga Rao of Andhra Pradesh, an RTI activist in Krishna district, was found murdered near his house because of the RTI application he had filed with a district office regarding funding of the village's drainage system. Even the information commission suspected the involvement of the public information officer (PIO) of MPDO in Ranga Rao's alleged murder.

19. Arun Sawant shot dead

Two men shot and critically injured RTI activist Arun Sawant at Badlapur, Thane. Sawant had gone to the Badlapur Municipal Council (BMC) to file an RTI application. The shooting happened on his way back, at around 1.30 pm, on Katrap Road, which was 100 meters from the Council office.

20. Venkatesh of Eranapalyta

RTI activist Venkatesh of Eranapalyta was supari-killed by Lohit Raja alias T C raja . Police first thought Venkatesh was killed in an accident but the post mortem report revealed it was murder. Venkatesh had sought information under the RTI Act regarding encroachment of government land in Jnanabharathi. This angered some people involved in land grabbing there and to eliminate him, they paid Lohit Raja. Police said Raja and his associates murdered Venkatesh and made it look like an accieent. But when the post mortem revealed it was murder, the case was handed over to the CCB which arrested Raja later on.



Older Incidents

21. 19th May 2009: False charges were slapped upon 10 RTI activists by Maharashtra’s Chief SIC Dr Suresh Joshi (and also Marine Drive Police Station), when they visited his office to request him to implement the Act in proper manner, give reasoned orders, penalize PIOs etc. They were imprisoned for 48 hours at Azad Maidan Police lock-up and in the dreaded Arthur Road Jail. They were charged with trespass, intention to hurt, rioting and preventing a public servant from doing his duty (IPC Sections 143, 145, 146, 448, 452 & 353), when in fact they only had sung the National Anthem in the course of a 5-minute meeting that the Commissioner granted them at the end of the day. Read detailed account: http://www.box.net/shared/fgmlpfn0pe

22. 18th December 2007: Thirteen RTI activists were arrested in Palakkad when Kerala’s Chief State Information Commissioner Palat Mohandas was visiting there. The RTI activists were distributing leaflets on how improperly the RTI Act was implemented in the state. They were imprisoned by DSP Viswanathan and charged (C.R. No. 389 / 07) at Town South Police Station under IPC Sec. 143, 188 and 149. (i.e. unlawful assembly and disobedience of an order given by a public servant etc.) These activists are now being repeatedly dragged to court.
Read detailed account: http://www.box.net/shared/dlii0yynak



THE NUMBERS CONTINUE TO MOUNT. WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS? Are we going to be content with signing online petitions? Or are we capable of ramping up our actions? Please remember, by doing so, we will not be acting altruistically, we will be acting in enlightened self-interest.

Let us go beyond just signing online petitions, sending letters of support and holding meetings. Let us organize at least a one-day protest this Sunday in support of all such people, who have been under attack from both anti-social elements and the police / administration.

What kind of protest? Let us think hatke. Also, think nationwide.

Here is one idea: On Sunday, for 24 hours (say 8 am to 8 am), we walk up and down the streets of our own cities wearing black clothes, handcuffs and mouth-coverings of the sort that Jain monks wear. We carry placards that says, "Citizens who seek Truth are under attack by goons and police in all states of India."

Wherever we feel tired, we sit down and rest -- even if it is on a footpath. If the police asks us to move, we move. In the evening, we ask aam janta / supporters to give us candles, which we light at various places -- walls, street corners, gates etc. and we go around all night till 8 am.

And we distribute pamphlets, give people copies of letters to the Chief Ministers of these states, along with postage stamps and envelopes (for which we charge money to meet costs). we ask people to sign, seal and post these letters. Alternatively, we can post them. Hopefully, we can get such letters signed and sent in the hundreds.

Can we all do this in various cities, this Sunday, next Sunday... and maybe the next? In this way, we can try to build public opinion and media glare on the entire issue of oppression of RTI activists.

Warm Regards,

Krish

1 comment:

rakesh said...

Budhai Kumar mob 09935630979 , RTI applicant who sought details of construction material used in the shops constructed by the Nagar Panchayat in Sitapur n was attacked a few days back by the goons of the chairman of district’s Sidhauli Nagar Panchayat.Kumar was warned to stay out of this by the public information officer of the office of the District Magistrate. Kumar’s efforts to approach the state information commission and the state Lokayukta has fetched no results .


On 09-08-10 Kumar and his Wife Shanti were beaten n both of them sustained head injuries. As per kumar’s statement the attackers included the bother and brother-in- law of Uma Shankar Mishra, chairman of the Nagar Panchayat.



Kumar’s moving to the nearest police station and sending a letter to the Superintendent of Police Jyoti Narayan has fetched no results at all.



The most tragic part is that kumar’s 5
year old daughter, the only child was murdered on 15-5-2010 by the same Uma shanker as per Budhai n no fir has been filed in this matter also.



As usual the SP Jyoti Narain is busy transforming the matter the other way so that the issue of RTI and Corruption is not raised anymore.



Contact nos.

SP – 09454400309

Budhai kumar 09935630979



For fear of life of his family , kumar is leading an exiled life today . As per kumar , the day he moves Sitapur , he shall be murdered.


I am forwarding kumar’s case to State authorities n to NHRC as well n request u all to co-operate n do the needful .



pls go thru given link also n cooperate by signing n circulating it

Sidhauli