Mystery shrouds the death of Right to Information activist Chandra Mohan Sharma (38), who was allegedly charred inside his car Friday night. On the complaint of a family member, a case of murder has been lodged against five people at Kasna police station. However, no arrests have been made so far.
If foul play is unearthed, this would be the third episode of an RTI activist being targeted in Greater Noida within the last six months. In December 2013, activist Anoop Singh was abducted from Dankaur town, burnt with cigarettes on his private parts, and beaten with iron rods, before being dumped near a petrol pump in a neighbouring district four days later. In February this year, another activist, Salimuddin Solanki, had alleged that he was receiving threatening calls from a contractor while seeking information about developmental works in the area.
Around midnight, Sharma, an employee of Honda Siel Cars India Ltd in Greater Noida, was driving a Chevrolet Aveo from office to his home in Alpha-2. According to the police, as he reached near Sector Pi, his car caught fire. He couldn’t open the door of the vehicle, as the central locking had failed due to a short circuit.
Fire tenders were rushed to the spot to douse the flames, but Sharma could not be saved.
The victim’s relatives claim he left office at 11.10pm, and also spoke to his children over the phone at 10.30 pm. Close to midnight, the police control room received a call that a car had gone up in flames. Meanwhile, his family was trying to reach him, but his mobile phone was switched off. It was only in the morning that police could identify the body through the registration number of the vehicle.
“He was fighting against encroachers in the area and was warned of dire consequences several times. On April 28, while he was returning home, his car was overtaken and stopped by goons who threatened to kill him. We had asked the police to give him protection, and take action against suspects. But nothing was done. Now they are trying to turn a case of murder into a mishap,” said Savita Sharma, the deceased’s wife and a member of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
She also claimed that the circumstances of her husband’s death indicate he had been murdered.
“Police are saying that the car’s windows were shut, and doors were locked when the fire broke out. But, the fact is that he used to keep the windows open while driving, as the car’s air-conditioning was out of order. There was neither central locking nor a CNG kit in the vehicle. If the car caught fire while driving then it should have happened in the middle of the road, but the vehicle was found standing in a corner,” Savita Sharma said.
“We have registered an FIR under appropriate sections of IPC and are scanning CCTV footage of the area. The viscera have been sent to a forensic lab,” said Brijesh Singh, superintendent of police (rural).
Police also claim that the car had been fitted with a local CNG kit, and since then the engine had been malfunctioning. “We have sent the vehicle for a technical probe to find out how it caught fire,” said Singh.