In an encouraging move, the government has decided to collect data on attacks on mediapersons, Right to Information (RTI) activists and whistleblowers.
The decision taken on the 10th anniversary of the transparency law comes after a series of attacks on journalists, whistleblowers and RTI activists in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. Many accused, as well as whistleblowers in the Vyapam scam, had alleged threat to life.
Guru Prasad Shukla was the 39th RTI activist to fall victim to assault on information seekers exposing corruption.
He was allegedly beaten to death by fellow villagers who feared his RTI would leave them exposed.
As per data maintained by Aruna Roy’s National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, in the past decade, another 275 people have reportedly been assaulted or harassed for invoking the law to raise uncomfortable questions with the power bearers.
But the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) that maintains records of all crimes committed in the country under different sections did not seek information on assault on transparency seekers.
However, that is going to change now. The NCRB has asked for information of crime committed under three new categories — attack on mediapersons, attack on whistleblowers and attack on RTI activists – from various states this year.
Venkatesh Nayak of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) said the decision shows that the government has woken up to the cruel reality of attacks on citizens who speak the truth and demand their right to know the truth about public affairs. “Until now, the only source where information about attacks on RTI activists was available was Wikipedia,” he said.