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RTI activists attacked and murdered

delhi Updated: Aug 17, 2011 15:14 IST
Zehra Kazmi

Empowering millions of citizens through information, the Right to Information Act, introduced in 2005, gave new meaning to the motto "seek and you shall find." But some RTI activists could only find an answer in death.

On Tuesday, Bhopal-based activist Shehla Masood became the latest victim of a rising trend in attacks on such people who have tried to expose wrongdoings through the information disclosure law. In 2010 alone, at least 10 RTI activists were killed, apparently in revenge attacks.

Masood was shot dead in broad daylight by unidentified assailants as she was getting into a car outside her house in Bhopal's Koh-e- Fiza neighbourhood. There were no immediate suspects, but police said her campaign for wildlife and tiger conservation might have hurt some vested interests.

The killing came on a day when tens of thousands of people rallied across the country in support of Anna Hazare and his campaign for a stronger anti-graft law.

Masood was also enlisting support for Hazare in Bhopal. Her death has put the spotlight on the need for a stronger regime to protect whistleblowers and RTI activists.

"After every such incident, there are press reports and promises made by the government but nothing happens. Instead of gun-toting policemen for protection, we need an environment where ordinary citizens can take up issues without the fear of being attacked or killed," said Sumaira Abdulali of MITRA -- a campaign against intimidation and threats to rights activists.

The organisation had sent a letter to the home minister listing such assaults.

Besides physical attacks, RTI activists are routinely harassed and slapped with fraudulent cases to make sure they do not speak up, Abdulai said.

"The only deterrent against such attacks is to quickly make public the information that the activist was trying to get out," said Shekhar Singh, RTI activist and founder member of the National Campaign for people's Right to Information. "When those with vested interests realise that such attacks will only expose them quicker, they will refrain from them."

Here is a list of 10 RTI activists killed in 2010.

Form of attack
Probable Cause
Amit Jethwa
Shot to death
Enquiries about illegal mining that were a danger to the Gir reserve
July 20, 2010
Dattatreya Patil (farmer)
Kohlapur, Maharashtra
Beaten up and slashed with swords

Filed RTI against horse trading in Kohlapur Municipal Election

May 31, 2010
Vitthal Gite
Beed, Maharashtra
Killed by under the members scanner.
Exposed irregularities in a school in his village
April 21, 2010
Arun Sawant
Badlapur, Maharashtra
Shot dead
Feb 26, 2010
Satish Shetty
Assaulted by assailants
Exposed major land scams, near Mumbai-Pune expressway
Jan 13 2010
Vishram Laxman Dodiya
Shot dead
Sought info on illegal electricity connections in the city
Feb 11 2010
Shashidhar Mishra (street vendor)
Begusarai, Bihar
Shot dead
Filed more than a 1000 petitions before his murder
Feb 14 2010
Ramdas Ghadegaokar
Nanded, Maharashtra
Stoned to death
Took on the sand mafia
August 2010
Sola Ranga Rao
Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh
Found murdered
Filed a petition on funding of the village draining system.
April 11 2010
Irfan Yusuf Qazi

Killed when his scooter was hit by a police jeep

Protested against nuclear power plant in Jaitapur
December 18, 2010