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Eleventh RTI activist hacked to death in Gujarat, as NHRC "waits" to send directions to state govt to provide security

By Our Representative
With the gruesome murder  of yet another Right to Information ((RTI) activist, Nanjibhai Sondarva (35), on March 9, 2018, a resident of Manekwada village in Kotada Sangani taluka of Rajkot district, the number of citizens and activists hacked to death for using RTI in Gujarat has risen to 11.
Bringing this to light, well-known RTI activist of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Venkatesh Nayak, has said, this is over and above at least 16 cases of assault on other RTI activists in Gujarat reported by various media sources since October 2005 when the RTI Act was operationalised.
Clubbed to death by six persons, Sondarva's father has claimed that the attack occurred soon after Nanjibhai filed an RTI application demanding transparency about funds spent on the construction of a road in his village.
According to Nayak, this was not the first time Nanjibhai had been attacked. He and other members of his family were assaulted one and a half years ago, by the village Sarpanch who was said to be furious at Nanjibhai for using RTI to expose financial irregularities in the developmental works undertaken in the village.
Meghabhai, Nanjibhai's father, has named the Sarpanch in the complaint submitted to the local police regarding the latest incident, says Nayak, adding, with this latest incident, the total number of victims, allegedly murdered for seeking information under RTI, across the country has gone up to 67.
Significantly, Nayak notes, the attack occurred three months after the National Human Human Rights Commsiion (NHRC) directive to the Gujarat Government to protect RTI activists.
Nanjibhai Sondarva
Calling the latest attack a reflection of the Gujarat model, he adds, in October, 2015, a day before the Central Information Commission organised a National Convention to celebrate 10 years of the RTI Act and which was inaugurated by the Prime Minister, another 30-year old RTI activist- Ratansinh Chaudhary was murdered for exposing financial irregularities through RTI in Banaskantha.
Pointing out that this prompting him to file a complaint with the NHRC, which took cognizance of it and followed up on this case for two years, Nayak said, in December 2017, while closing the case upon being satisfied that the police had acted in accordance with the law by sending the murder case up for trial, NHRC issued a directive to the Government of Gujarat.
The directive was, (1) that the family of the Late Ratansinh Chaudhary be provided security; and (2) the Government must ensure freedom of expression of RTI activists and HRDs (human rights defenders) and give them necessary protection as per law.
As the letter was addressed only to the District Superintendent of Police, Banaskantha, Nayak said, he alerted the NHRC's Focal Point for HRDs about the urgent necessity of sending a similar letter to the State Government, as the DSP, Banaskantha, would not be able to do much about ensuring security for RTI activists outside his jurisdiction.
While the HRD Focal Point promised to look into this discrepancy in the final action of the NHRC, the letter has still not reached the state, and another murderous attack has occurred in Gujarat.

Comments

Robin Shukla said…
Murders and encounters are terrible legacies of the state of Gujarat.

The Supreme Court of India itself has, in the past, expressed its doubts over local judiciary and administration when Modi was CM and Amit Shah his ever present companion and sidekick.
It is shameful that nothing has changed.

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