He was brutally attacked recently for seeking information under the RTI Act

Dalit activist Mangala Ram from Bamanor village in Barmer district — who was brutally attacked recently for seeking information under the Right to Information Act — left Sawai Man Singh Hospital here on Tuesday, a day after being brought from Deesa in Gujarat and admitted to the poly-trauma ward for treatment at the State Government's expenses.

Mangala Ram, 33, was severely beaten up at the village panchayat's social audit meeting on March 3 allegedly by Sarpanch Ghulam Shah and his accomplices, who took exception to his applications under the RTI Act seeking details of all public works sanctioned and carried out between 2001 and 2008. He sustained injuries in head and arms, and his legs were broken in the attack.

Following protests by civil rights groups, the police have registered a first information report against Mr. Shah, while Barmer Collector Gaurav Goyal has provided financial assistance worth Rs. 25,000 to Mr. Ram. On the instructions of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, the victim was brought from a private hospital in Deesa and admitted to SMS Hospital here on Monday.

No arrests yet

Mr. Shah and other accused named in the FIR are yet to be arrested. Dalit groups here point out that the Sarpanch enjoys considerable clout in the region and has been occupying the office for 22 years. He had allegedly threatened Mr. Ram several times when he raised the issue of incomplete information and demanded follow-up on his applications.

Mr. Ram left the hospital on his own on Tuesday while alleging that doctors in the poly-trauma ward were not attending to him properly. His fractured legs were bandaged with a heavy dressing and the hospital's orthopaedic surgeons were yet to take a final decision on his surgery.

“Doctors told me yesterday that surgery would be needed for [treatment of] serious fractures. But they started saying this morning that a plaster would set my legs right,” Mr. Ram told The Hindu lying in an ambulance after leaving the hospital. He left for Palanpur in Gujarat, where he said the surgery of his legs would be performed shortly.

The Dalit activist, who rested briefly at the house of an acquaintance in the city, said he suspected that the doctors were neglecting him “on the instructions of the political set-up” because he had contested the panchayat election last year as a rival candidate against Mr. Shah. “Everyone in our village knows that the Sarpanch has [high] political connections. He can easily influence the hospital machinery here.”

SMS Hospital Medical Superintendent L.C. Sharma, when contacted, said since there was a difference of opinion in the orthopaedics department about the course of treatment for Mr. Ram, the hospital administration offered to appoint a medical board. “The board would have decided if the plaster would suffice or the surgery on legs was immediately required.”

Dr. Sharma said Mr. Ram and his relatives were insisting that the Deesa hospital's opinion in favour of surgery be accepted here. “Even though we sought some time and facilitated his telephonic talk with [social activist] Ms. Aruna Roy, Mr. Ram was adamant on leaving. He gave us in writing that he is not willing to undergo our treatment.”

The Centre for Dalit Rights, which has taken up Ram's case, was dismayed that he had left Jaipur within a day. Gopal Ram Verma of CDR said the activist's presence in Jaipur would have helped in putting pressure on the State Government for dealing with the threats issued by dominant sections to “ordinary people who dare to question them” through the RTI queries.

“The brutal attack on Mangala Ram depicts a pattern emerging in the rural areas of Rajasthan. Individuals fighting against corruption in public life are routinely threatened and implicated in false cases by those having [vested] interests,” pointed out Bhanwar Meghwanshi of Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan.

In view of the sensitivity of the matter, two teams of the State Human Rights Commission and the Directorate of Social Audits have visited Bamanor village to verify the facts. The State's Dalit activists leaving for Shillong to attend the Third National Convention on RTI beginning on Thursday also plan to raise the matter vigorously at the national level.

Keywords: Mangala RamRTI Act