‘Crimes go unreported due to fear’

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RTI activists have been under constant attack in Gujarat since the introduction of the Right to Information Act, 2005. The biggest case was reported in 2010 when Amit Jethva, an RTI activist, was murdered right outside Gujarat High Court at the behest of ex BJP MP Dinu Boga Solanki who was recently held guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment after a relentless legal fight by victim’s father, Bhikhabhai.

In 2018, a Dalit RTI activist, Nanjibhai Sondarva, was clubbed to death in a Rajkot village for seeking information through RTI on funds being used in the village for construction works. A year later, his 17-year-old son, Rajesh, was also allegedly murdered by the same culprits.

According to RTI activists in the state, nearly a dozen activists have been murdered in various parts for seeking information. In 2011, Nadeem Syed, who was also a witness in Naroda Patiya massacre case of 2002 riots, was hacked to death close to his house in Juhapura, Ahmedabad. The accused were acquitted after all the witnesses including his family members turned hostile.

In 2015, a farmer and RTI activist, Ratansinh Chaudhary, was killed in Banaskantha district after he sought information about state government’s flood relief work. The information he accessed had revealed that many of the beneficiaries were not affected by the floods. “There are about a dozen murder cases and over two dozen attacks on RTI activists which have been reported. I am sure there are many cases which have not been reported out of fear,” said an RTI activist who has filed over 100 RTI applications on government schemes for Dalits, tribes and for flood-affected regions. “Only 50% of my applications have been answered,” he added.

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