Skip to main content

Murder of RTI activist in Gujarat, tom-tommed for great governance

Villagers wait for body of slain RTI activist
By Venkatesh Nayak*
The print and electronic media have reported the recent murder of right to information (RTI) activist Ratansinh Chaudhary, aged 30, in Garamdi village in Suigam taluka of Banaskantha district, Gujarat, on October 17, 2015. This is the eighth instance of murder of an RTI activist in Gujarat, second only to Maharashtra in this dubious distinction. Four residents of the village are said to have accosted him and his son while he was walking in his farm and hit him on the head repeatedly, with stout sticks, resulting in his death. Registering an FIR on the basis of the complaint the deceased’s father, the police has identified all four perpetrators and is investigating the circumstances in which the murder occurred.
According to media reports, Ratansinh had demanded information from the District Collector and the District Development Officer (DDO) about the manner of distribution of flood relief package in his area recently. Suspicion of irregularities in relief distribution due to the alleged nexus between local politicians and bureaucrats is said to have triggered the RTI intervention. The murder is said to have occurred even before the information was supplied to the the Late Ratansinh.
Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP) team has proceeded to the village to ascertain details of the case, in particular the RTI interventions attempted by late Ratansinh Chaudhary in a bid to demand proactive disclosure and widespread dissemination of all information sought by the deceased.
Ironically, less than 24 hours before the ghastly incident took place, Prime Minister of India declared that citizens should not only have the right to get access to information from public authorities, but also have the right to question the administration. He was speaking at the inaugural session of the Annual Convention of the Central Information Commission organised in New Delhi (October 16-17, 2015) to commemorate the completion of 10 years of implementation of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act). Little did he, or his audience, or the numerous viewers who watched the live telecast of the inaugural session, expect a citizen to pay the price of his life for daring to question the Government in the very first week of the 2nd decade of the RTI Act.
Demanding the truth, let alone questioning government action, is increasingly becoming injurious to citizens’ health across India. In a cricket crazed country, Ratansinh’s alleged murder takes the total to the ‘diabolical’ figure of 50 since the implementation of the RTI Act. The Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2014 is stillborn with no plan for its effective implementation at either the Central or the State level. Instead the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Government has piloted regressive amendments to this unimplemented law which will discourage many a potential whistleblower from coming forward to expose corruption and wrongdoing in Government. The Lok Sabha has already approved these amendments and they are pending consideration of the Rajya Sabha.
The NDA Government’s rationale for the regressive amendments contained in the Cabinet Note attached to the amendment proposals, revealed under RTI, is that citizens cannot have an absolute right to blow the whistle on corruption and wrongdoing. Meanwhile the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 intended to create apex anti-corruption institutions at the Central and State level has also remained a dead letter with both the United Progressive Alliance and the NDA Governments successively dragging their feet over its implementation.
Furthermore, the assets disclosure provisions for public servants and their families contained in the Lokpal Act have been challenged before the High Courts by the spouses of bureaucrats claiming privacy. Now that the Supreme Court has agreed that it is doubtful whether there is a fundamental right to privacy guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution and has moved to form a Constitution Bench to decide the matter conclusively, what will happen to these cases, and consequently The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act is anybody’s guess.
That the latest instance of murder has occurred in a state that is most tom-tommed about for its ‘great governance and development record’ comes as no surprise given the controversial nature of these claims. The electoral promise of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the largest partner of the NDA Government and which is also in power currently in Gujarat – “sabka saath – sabka vikas” (with all, for the development of all) seems to be leaving out from its scope whistleblowers, RTI activists and anti-corruption crusaders who only demand the practical realisation of India’s national motto- “satyameva jayate” (truth alone shall triumph).
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) demands an impartial investigation into the alleged murder of Ratansinh Chaudhary under the supervision of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), as the deceased was a human rights defender. NHRC-monitored investigations of such instances in the past have revealed the identity of conspirators behind such murders in addition to the role of the perpetrators.
CHRI also demands that the Gujarat Information Commission immediately seek details of all pending and disposed RTI applications filed by the deceased with the district administration in Banaskantha and ensure that all the information that he sought is disclosed under the provisions of the RTI Act immediately on the websites of the respective departments and on notice boards of the village, taluka and district administration. This action will frustrate the motives of the perpetrators of the crime as their efforts to keep the information under wraps would have gone in vain.

*Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi

Comments

TRENDING

Sorry state of Indian academics: why was I thrown out of Delhi varsity interview room?

By Dr. Abhay Kumar*  The interview for the post of political science (Guest) was scheduled on Saturday afternoon, September 10, 2022. Given my previous experience, I was not willing to appear for it. But friends persuaded me to go and fight for our rights. I reached the college well before the time. When my turn came and I entered the room. The first question was asked about my experience. I said that I had taught for four semesters at NCWEB. I mentioned that I had taught ”Comparative politics”, “International Relations”, “Comparative Political Thoughts” and “Indian Government and Politics”. I said that as a teacher I had taught all the articles listed in the syllabus of the same Delhi University and the expert could ask anything about any reading or ideas. Friends, the first question asked by a female member, perhaps she is the principal of the college if I am not wrong, to give the full form of NCWEB! The second question asked by a male expert, perhaps he is the political science dep

Musician and follower of Dr Ambedkar? A top voilinist has this rare combination!

Some time back, a human rights defender, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, who frequently writes for Counterview, forwarded to me a video interview with Guru Prabhakar Dhakade, calling him one of India's well known violinists.  Dhakade is based in Nagpur and has devoted his life for the Hindustani classical music. A number of his disciples have now been part of Hindi cinema world in Mumbai, says Rawat. He has performed live in various parts of the country as well as abroad. What however attracted me was Dhakade's assertions in video about Dr BR Ambedkar, India's undisputed Dalit icon. Recorded several years back at his residence and music school in Nagpur, Dhakade not only speaks candidly about issues he faced, but that he is a believer in Dr Ambedkar's philosophy. It is in this context that Dhakade narrates his problems, even as stating that he is determined to achieve his goal. A violinist and a follower of Ambedkar? This was new to me. Rarely do musicians are found to take a

Tokens, symbols or incipient feminists? : First generation women sociologists in India

By IMPRI Team  The online event on the theme ‘Tokens, Symbols or Incipient Feminists? : The first Generation of Women Sociologists in India’ was held as an initiative of Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi under the #WebPolicyTalk series of The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. Inaugurating the session, Zubiya Moin welcomed the speaker and participants to the program, followed by an introduction to the eminent panelists. Commencing the program, Prof Vibhuti Patel made her opening remarks welcoming Prof Kamla Ganesh, Feminist Sociologists and then greeted Prof Ratna Naidu and the editors of book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’, Dr Gita Chadha and Dr. Joseph M.T. along with Prof Arvinder Ansari and also welcomed all participants. She set up the stage by making us familiar with women sociologists and their works. Dr Gita Chadha, Editor of the book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’ After th

Omission of duty by BSF and police: Hindu forcefully kidnapped, taken to Bangladesh

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), & National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI) writes to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission: *** I am writing this to focus on the life and situation of the poor and marginalized villagers living alongside the Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal. Through the several complaints we made throughout the years to your good office, it is now evident that the people of this border are living in an acute crisis, not only from a financial perspective but also in terrible distress. The people of the border are devoid of their basic rights and are subjected to immense torture, harassment and restrictions mostly enacted by the Border Security Force personnel, who are supposed to be posted at the international borders with intentions to protect the Indian citizenry. However, on the contrary, incidents of victimizing Indian citizens are being witnessed at large by the BSF. 130 Bhot

Tamil Nadu govt claiming to reform Hindu religion, temples. People deserve better

By NS Venkataraman  For the last several decades, there have been hate campaign against Hinduism in Tamil Nadu in a subtle or not so subtle manner. Initially, it was a hate campaign against brahmins and the brahmins were abused, insulted and physically attacked. Fearing such conditions, many brahmin families left Tamil Nadu to settle down in other states in India or have gone abroad. Now, the brahmin population in Tamil Nadu is at microscopic level, for which these hate campaigners against brahmins were responsible. Later on, emboldened by the scenario of scared brahmin families not resisting and running away, the hate campaigners started focusing on Hindus. For some years, when M.G.Ramachandran and Jayalalitha were the chief ministers of the state, the hate Hindu campaigners were not much heard, as both these chief ministers were staunch believers in Hindu philosophy and have been offering prayers in temples in full public view. However, in the last eighteen months in

Emerging dimensions of India’s foreign policy in the context of global politics

By IMPRI Team  The three-day course took place recently, providing participants with an understanding of the development of Indian foreign policy, the complexity of geopolitics, and its flexibility to adjust to and even shape global outcomes. Many distinguished academics, senior scholars, former Indian diplomats, and journalists who are skilled observers and commentators of India’s foreign policy will serve as instructors for this course. Day 1 The three-day immersive online certificate training on “Emerging Dimensions of India’s Foreign Policy and Global Politics”, an initiative by the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), began on July 14th, 2022 at 5:00 PM (IST) on Zoom platform. Dr Souravie Ghimiray served as the emcee throughout the 3 days of the event and welcomed the distinguished speakers of Day 1. The esteemed panel on Day 1 consisted of, Dr Soumita Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Intern

Demographic parameters of India@75: resource allocation, political representation

By IMPRI Team  As per UN Population Prospects 2022, India is going to be the most populous country in the world. In this regard, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi with #IMPRI Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD) , organized a panel discussion, #WebPolicyTalk, as part of the series The State of Population Development- #PopulationAnd Development on India@75: Most Populous Country? The moderator of the event was Mr Devender Singh, Global Studies Programme, University of Freiburg and a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI. The panellists for the event were Prof P.M Kulkarni, Demographer, Retired Professor of Population Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) , New Delhi; Dr U.V Somayajulu, Co-Founder, CEO and Executive Director, Sigma Research and Consulting ; Dr Sonia George, General Secretary, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Kerala; Prof K.S James, Director and Senior Professor, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai. Th

Bhagawat Gita shows the way for the attitude to life and desirable goal of life

By NS Venkataraman*  When a mother delivers a human body, this body has no identity. Then, parents, relatives, friends consult each other and discuss the alternate appropriate names and arrive at a suitable name for this human body and this body is known and identified by this name. This human body, which steadily grow just like animals, plants and others and after experiencing the pleasures and pains of worldly life alternately for several years, perish one day, for the body to be burnt or buried. This body, bearing a name as it’s identity, comes in to the world and goes away from the world and the name that is the identity for the body also goes away along with the body. This is the scenario for several thousands of years that have gone by. The question: One question that does not seem to be still “convincingly explained” in a way that will appeal to the brain in the human body, is as to whether this human body only consists of flesh, bone and blood with well

Implementing misleading govt order to pollute Hyderabad's 100 year old reservoirs

Senior activists* represent to the Telangana Governor on GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD), Government of Telangana: ‘...restrictions imposed under para 3 of said GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996 are removed...’: *** Ref: GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996: ‘To prohibit polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution in the catchment of the lakes upto 10kms from full tank level as per list in Annexure-I...’ We come to your office with grievance that GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by Government of Telangana not only contains false information issued ‘By Order and in the name of the Governor of Telangana’ , without any scientific or expert reports, but also that implementation of the said GO is detrimental and can be catastrophic to the Hyderabad city as two 100 year old reservoirs Osman Sagar and Himayath Sagar were constructed as dams on river Moosa and river Esa, with the first and

Tattoos and intimidating gestures can't always win cricket matches for India

By Sudhansu R Das  Team India waited with baited breath for the outcome of the Pakistan vs Afghanistan match. Speculation was on about India’s return to the game if Pakistan loses to Afghanistan until Pakistan’s tailender, Naseem hit two massive sixes to win the match for Pakistan. Unfortunately, Afghanistan lost the match after being in a strong position till the last over of the game; two full touch balls in the final over turned the match into Pakistan side. The Afghanistan team would never forget this blunder and shock for a long time. India’s team management should introspect and take tough decision keeping in view of the tough match situation in the world cup matches. India lost two crucial matches in the Asia Cup. It could not defend a big total of 176 against Pakistan due to mediocre bowling attack, sloppy fielding and unimaginative captainship. It failed against Sri Lanka in similar fashion; it could not defend another respectable T 20 total of 171 runs. It was a pat