RTI fraternity stunned at killing of Guj crusader

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - 22:12

Ahmedabad/New Delhi: The killing of a RTI
crusader against mining mafia in Gujarat has stunned the Right
to Information fraternity which saw a "pattern" in yet another
fatal attack in the recent months on persons raising their
voice against corruption and irregularities.

RTI activists while voicing concern today over
yesterday`s attack feared there is a serious threat to their
campaign in unearthing truth in cases of public importance.

Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah felt
there was no cause for alarm but agreed the incident was a
cause for concern.

Habibullah also spoke of the need for the Government to
bring to book the guilty quickly in cases where citizens while
exercising their right to seek information are killed. It
should also consider providing protection to RTI activists, he

Amit Jethwa, who had filed a PIL against illegal mining
in Gir forest region in Gujarat, was shot dead in Ahmedabad by
two unidentified gunmen opposite Gujarat High Court.

"I think this is not just a series of incidents that
have taken place in the last one or two years. It is becoming
a pattern," said Arvind Kejriwal, adding that the attack on
RTI activists can have a "demoralising effect" in the crusade
agaist corruption.

Jethwa was shot from a close range by the assailants
who fled on a motorcycle after the incident, police said.

Jethwa was very active in conservation of wildlife,
especially lions, in Gir area. He has also helped the police
solve some cases relating to lion poaching.

Jethwa had recently filed a public interest litigation
(PIL) in the High Court against illegal mining in the Gir
region of Junagadh district which is considered the last abode
of Asiatic lions in the world.

The concern voiced by RTI activists also came against the
backdrop of reports that former Chief Justice of India R C
Lahoti had written to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to say that
the Central Vigilance Commission’s initiative to protect
whistleblowers, started after the murder of NHAI engineer
Satyendra Dubey, has failed miserably.

Every whistleblower who has risked his life to approach
the CVC has "come to grief", even as the culprits roam free,
Justice Lahoti has said. Lahoti has also reportedly squarely
blamed the "dysfunctional" attitude of senior officers of the
CVC for this situation.

Kejriwal said the system has become so "thoroughly
rotten" that anyone who tries to expose corruption or tries to
raise his voice against irregularities is targeted.

"I think something very seriously and immediately needs
to be done," he said.

Kejriwal also accused the police of ignoring pleas of
RTI activists to provide protection in some cases.

Another RTI activist Amarsinh Chavda said he is going
to write to the Centre and the Guajarat government.

"We are shocked. We are unafe," Chavda, who had raised
questions on Gujarat chief minister`s office receiving
largesse from a state public sector firm, said.

Habibullah does not think there is a regular threat to
RTI activists.

"These cases(attacks) ae not common. They are rare
fortunately," he said.

He however agreed yesterday`s incident could be seen as
an attempt to stifle the right of a citizen to exercise a
fundamental right to seek information.

In the recent months, RTI activists Satish Shetty, who
exposed many land scams and Datta Patil, who exposed
corruption amongst several politicians and bureaucrats have
been killed in Maharashtra.


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First Published: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 - 22:12

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