A Right to Information activist was beaten to death, allegedly by a sarpanch and his sons, in a village about 350 km from here, on Monday night.
Shambhu Ram Vishnoi (35) had reportedly exposed several financial irregularities in the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and the public distribution system in Jaisala village. On his complaint, the Anti-Corruption Bureau initiated a preliminary enquiry against Sodha Ram, the village sarpanch.
The Jodhpur police have registered an FIR against Mr. Ram, his brothers Manohar Ram and Jagmal, his two sons Satpal and Ugrasen, and his cousin Radha Kishan.
“The family of the deceased registered an FIR quite late yesterday [Tuesday] and also did not give any statement so no arrests could be made,” Jodhpur (Rural) SP Rahul Prakash told The Hindu.
According to the police, Mr. Vishnoi and Mr. Ram used to be associates butlater fell out. During the last panchayat election, the activist gained access to a lot of information regarding irregularities committed by Mr. Ram in the implementation of the rural job scheme and the PDS. That, along with the suspicion that Mr. Vishnoi supplied the information to his rivals, irked the sarpanch.
On Monday evening, the sarpanch’s aides allegedly cornered the RTI activist outside a Unique Identification Number registration camp, took him to a secluded spot nearby and beat him up.
“He was beaten up with a blunt object. Since no doctors were available in Bhojasar and Aau, his relatives took him to Jodhpur’s MDM hospital where he was declared brought dead,” the SP said.
“One of the sarpanch’s sons and his friend have been traced and will be arrested by late tonight [Wednesday]. The others are absconding, but we have dispatched several teams to look for them and they should be arrested soon too,” he added.
RTI advocacy groups across the State condemned the fatal attack on Mr. Vishnoi and demanded that the accused be arrested immediately.“Sambhu Ram had been filing right to information applications concerning the Public Distribution System for BPL families, water tank construction, MGNREGS and election nomination information of the sarpanch,” said a statement from the Suchna ka Adhikar Manch, Rajasthan.
Jodhpur-based RTI activist Nand Lal Vyas submitted a memorandum to Governor Margaret Alva, demanding security for RTI activists all over Rajasthan.