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Saturday, July 24, 2010

HT & The Hindu: Police & Information Commissions endanger RTI Activists

Gujarat, Maharashtra not safe for RTI Activists

Hindustan Times, Mumbai: The murder of Amit jethwa, an RTI activist in Gujarat, has brought into the focus the fact that these crusaders are constantly living under danger or being harmed and killed. Interestingly, Gujarat and Maharashtra lead in terms of number of killings of such activists.

In fact, Maharashtra, which boasts of being a safe state, has had four instances of activists being murdered, the most gruesome being the killing of Satish Shetty in January in Pune. Shetty had been crusading against the local builders. Shetty was hacked to death near his house when he was out for a morning walk.

Apart from Shetty, Arun Sawant was murdered in Badlapur on February 26, Vithal Gite was murdered in Beed on April 21 and Datta Patil, an activist from Kolhapur, was murdered on May 31. Gujarat has seen two such killings, while Bihar and Andhra Pradesh have had one incident of activists being murdered.

G R Vora, a Mumbai-based activist against corruption and encroachment, told Hindustan Times that he faces constant threats from encroachers and builders. “In January, the police commissioner D Shivanandan issued a circular asking every police station to treat complaints made by activists very seriously, but nothing has been done so far,” Vora lamented.

He said that activists face danger as people from Information Commissioners’ office leak their names to people against whom they are fighting.

Additional Director General (Law & Order) K P Raghuvanshi said that state government had given strict instructions for providing security to activists.

Delhi Activists’ rally on Monday

Denouncing the death of Amit Jethwa on July 20, Delhi’s RTI fraternity has decided to hold a protest rally on Monday to call for strict implementation of laws to protect whistleblowers. Jethwa, who exposed the mining mafia via the RTI, was shot in Ahmedabad on July 20 near the Gujarat High Court.

In March, activist Mohit Sharma, a Dilshad Garden resident, had alleged that two MCD officers had threatened to murder him for having sought information under the RTI Act in connection with certain illegal construction in Shahdara (North) Zone.

Initially, the police had refused to lodge an FIR, but media pressure ensured that an FIR was lodged and the officials concerned were punished.

The Hindu: 8 RTI activists killed in 7 months

With the cold-blooded murder of Right to Information (RTI) activist Amit Jethwa near the Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad this past Tuesday, the number of such killings of whistleblowers has gone up to eight just this year alone. The Congress-ruled Maharashtra tops the list with four killings, followed by the BJP-ruled Gujarat with two.

The murdered RTI activists were: Datta Patil of Kolhapur (Maharashtra), killed on May 31; Vitthal Gite of Beed district, Maharashtra, on April 21; Sola Ranga Rao of Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh, on April 11; Arun Sawant of Badlapur, Maharashtra, on February 26; Shashidhar Mishra of Begusarai, Bihar, on February 14; Vishram Laxman Dodiya of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, on February 11; and Satish Shetty of Pune, Maharashtra, killed on January 13.

RTI activist Krishnaraj Rao points out that after every murder the respective State Government gave a standard reply: “Matter is under investigation. We will find the culprits.” He alleges that this is nothing but eyewash. In most cases, the top brass knew exactly what was going on. “By not penalising slippery public information officers and not compelling evasive public authorities to provide information, the State Information Commissioners too blunt the RTI activist's sword and prolong his battle for years, until somebody gets him in the end,” he complains.

Meanwhile, various NGOs and human rights organisations are planning to undertake a rally from ITO in New Delhi this coming Monday at 6 p.m. to condemn the brutal killing of Amit Jethwa.

Warm Regards,
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