In 2005 India got a powerful act in form of Right to Information (RTI) which empowered people to seek various information from the government. Since 2005 more than 65 RTI activists have been killed and more than 400 has been harassed or intimidated. Violence against RTI activists is a menace that continuing. “News-at-O” wants to salute these unsung heroes of our country who lost their life fighting for the people’s cause.
Govind Pansare, Maharashtra
Veteran communist leader and anti-toll tax campaigner Govind Pansare was shot multiple times in February 2015. He lead the state’s anti-road toll agitation.
Nadeem Saiyed, Gujarat
On 5 November 2011, Nadeem Saiyed of Ahmedabad was brutally killed by being hacked to death and stabbed twenty five times. He filed about 40 RTIs with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) between 2006 and 2009, asking questions on illegal cow slaughter and beef trade in the state. They related to “rules and regulations about slaughter houses and the various actions it had taken to enforce these” or water supply and sanitation in Juhapura. He was also a key witness to the Naroda Patiya massacre during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The sessions court had acquitted 10 persons in case regarding murder of RTI activist Nadeem Saiyed in 2016 after all 67 witnesses turned hostile. Its an irony that so many people died and no one gets caught.
Shehla Masood, Madhya Pradesh
On 16 August 2011, Shehla Masood of Bhopal was shot at point blank range in broad daylight as she was getting into her car. She raised issues related to wildlife and forest conservation, against collusion between officials on trading of animal skins and had filed RTIs asking details about Narmada Samagraha, an NGO backed by a BJP Rajya Sabha MP. Known as a hardworking lady, she has been part of several movements and was a well-known activist.
Niyamat Ansari, Jharkhand
On 2 March 2011, Niyamat Ansari, a NREGA activist, was beaten to death by unidentified persons after he was dragged out of his house at Jerua village in Latehar district of Jharkhand. Mr Ansari had exposed corruption in the NREGA by contractors through the RTI Act and based on his complaints three persons, including Block Development Officer Kailash Sahu were arrested for defalcation of funds.
Ramdas Ghadegavka, Maharashtra
27 August 2010, RTI activist Ramdas Ghadegavkar (43 years) was stoned to death allegedly for exposing corruption in public distribution system (PDS) and sand mafia in Nanded, Maharashtra.
Babbu Singh, Uttar Pradesh
On 25 July 2010, a Uttar Pradesh police home guard identified as Babbu Singh was killed allegedly for seeking information about government funds and work done by his village pradhan (chief) at Katghar village in Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh.
Amit Jethwa, Gujarat
On 20 July 2010, two unidentified assailants shot dead Amit Jethwa, RTI and environment activist, near the Gujarat High Court. Mr Jethwa, who was the president of Gir Nature Youth Club, had filed several petitions against the Forest Department and also filed a public interest litigation (PIL) on illegal mining in the Gir forests of Junagadh district.
Dattatray Patil, Maharashtra
On 22 May 2010, Dattatray Patil was killed allegedly for exposing various malpractices and siphoning off public funds at Ichalkaranji in Kolhapur district, Maharashtra. He was slashed with swords.
Vitthal Gite, Maharashtra
On 20 April 2010, RTI activist Vitthal Gite (39 years) was killed allegedly for exposing irregularities in a school at Waghbet village in Beed district of Maharashtra.
Sola Ranga Rao, Andhra Pradesh
On 11 April 2010, Sola Ranga Rao was killed allegedly for seeking information about fund meant for a pipeline at Sitarampuram village in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh.
Arun Sawant, Maharashtra
On 26 February 2010, RTI activist Arun Sawant was killed allegedly for fighting administrative corruption in Thane in Maharashtra.
Vishram Laxman Dodiya, Gujarat
On 11 February 2010, Vishram Laxman Dodiya of Ahmedabad in Gujarat was found murdered shortly after meeting officials of Torrent Power Company. The deceased had filed an application under RTI Act to get details about the illegal electricity connection obtained by the company.
Satish Shetty, Maharashtra
On 13 January 2010, RTI activist Satish Shetty (38 years) who exposed many land scams at Talegaon Dabhade was killed near Pune, Maharashtra.
Shetty had used the RTI Act to expose large scale land scams involving the leading real estate firm IRB Infrastructure and its subsidiary Aryan. In 2009, he filed a complaint that forged documents had been used by these firms to acquire large swathes of land in the Taje and Pimploli villages off the Pune-Mumbai highway. After investigations, 90 sale deeds were cancelled, and sub-registrar Ashwini Kshirsagar was suspended. The company blamed land brokers for the irregularities, and the planned IRB township project was eventually scrapped.
After this episode, Shetty started getting threat calls. In November 2009, he filed a request with the Pune rural police seeking protection. In the request, he said that he had been receiving threats allegedly originating with Virendra Mhaiskar, chairman of IRB Infrastructure. Protection was not granted. In January 2010, Shetty was knifed by several people while he was at a kiosk reading a paper after his morning walk.
Shashidhar Mishra, Bihar
Shashidhar Mishra (1975–2010) was an RTI activist who was shot dead by unknown assailants near his house in Phulwaria Village, located near the Begusarai town of Bihar, on the night on 14 February 2010. By profession, he was street vendor who sold pens, sweets and snacks in Barauni market. He lived in a mud house in his village and used a bicycle for transport. He is survived by a wife and four children. He earned the nickname of “Khabri Lal” (the news man) and worked tirelessly to expose corruption at panchayat and block levels. He filed his first RTI application in 2008 and by the time he died he had filed more than 1,000 RTI applications, mostly concerning issues troubling his village. The National RTI Forum has honored him by naming an award after him, the Shashidhar Mishra RTI Gallantry award.
Lalit Mehta, Jharkhand
Lalit Mehta (1972–2008) was an RTI activist, who was killed brutally near Palamau on May 14, 2008. He was a prominent member of The Right to Food Campaign, working in the Vikas Sahyog Kendra in Palamau District and was using his Right to information to expose scams in National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). The Jharkhand government looking into strong protests and public rally held in Ranchi later ordered a CBI probe into murder.
After his murder, the naxals belonging Communist Party of India (Maoist) distributed a leaflet claiming that they know the killers of Lalit Mehta and they will be brought to justice saying that we will make the perpetrators of heinous crimes such as murder pay with their lives, which created a flutter among rank and file of police and government. Later in January 2009, Ranchi Police recovered body of one Raju Singh, who was prime accused in murder of Lalit Mehta, claiming that he was killed by naxals. Lalit Mehta is survived by a wife and two sons. National RTI Forum has honored his martyrdom by naming an award after him as Lalit Mehta RTI Gallantry award.
Abrar Shaikh, Maharashtra
Abrar Shaikh was killed in 2013 allegedly by four persons, including a Samajwadi Party corporator, for complaining about an illegal structure.
Bhupendra Vira, Maharashtra
Bhupendra was leading a simple life in Mumbai until his landlord allegedly grabbed his factory from him. In an attempt to expose his landlord’s illegal land dealings, Bhupendra filed a series of close to 3,000 RTIs. The documents proved that the landlord had seized not just Bhupendra’s land but other properties in the area too. Bhupendra was shot dead in his house in the year 2010.