We condemn in the strongest possible terms the recent murder of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) activist Niyamat Ansari in Kope gram panchayat, Jharkhand, and a similar attempt — on the same day, March 2 — on the life of his associate Bhukhan Singh.
The murder was the culmination of a series of acts of harassment, including at least one earlier attempt on their lives. Ansari and Singh fearlessly continued to fight for the rights of NREGA workers and stood up against the nexus of corruption and crime in the area. Ansari was killed just a few days after he and others exposed a flagrant NREGA scam in Rankikalan gram panchayat.
We are dismayed by the insidious allegations that have been made about Ansari in sections of the mainstream media, attempting to project him as a ‘criminal’ to divert attention from the real issues and culprits. These reports were factually incorrect and the concerned publication carried an apology the following day.
We are disturbed to learn from reliable sources that the murder was executed by a local Maoist squad. In fact, the South Latehar sub-zonal committee of the
CPI(M) itself claimed responsibility for it and attempted to justify the murder by making absurd allegations such as Ansari and Singh being police informers. Are we to understand from this incident that there is truth in the rumour of a nexus between the local Maoist squad of that area and corrupt contractors involved in the loot of NREGA funds?
We demand the immediate arrest of the prime suspects (named in the FIR), compensation for Ansari’s family, protection for Singh, and a CBI inquiry into Ansari’s murder. We also demand an apology and explanation from the central committee of the CPI(M) and a guarantee of safety for Bhukhan Singh who is still ‘wanted’ by the sub-zonal committee. No explanation, however, can justify the brutal murder of a defenceless person, let alone someone who was bravely fighting for people’s rights. This is a wholly reprehensible act and all those responsible for it must be punished.
(Jean Drèze is with Allahabad University, Aruna Roy is with Mazdoor Kisan Shatki Sangathan and Arundhati Roy is a
writer and activist.)
*The views expressed by the authors are personal.