The family of whistle-blower Ram Thakur, an advocate who was shot dead in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district on Saturday, has alleged that the police was complicit in his murder. Based on the statements of the complainants, Shafir Alam, Station House Officer (SHO) of the Manihari police station, has been suspended for “negligence.”

The police have registered an FIR against six persons — Raj Kumar Sahni, the mukhiya of Ratnauli village where Thakur was killed, his three sons Parmanand, Brahmanand and Rajesh Kumar, and his two nephews Mahesh and Sukhdeo Sahni. They have been booked for murder and common intention.

“We were on a bicycle when six persons surrounded us,” Sujit Kumar, Mr. Thakur’s nephew, who was with him at the time of the incident and is a complainant in the case, told The Hindu.

“They fired, but I managed to escape. One bullet hit Thakur, but he was still alive. Some people in the village raised a hue and cry and we were rushing him to the hospital in a tempo, but were intercepted by the SHO. He had a Bolero vehicle without a number plate. He told us they would take him to the hospital and did not permit anybody to accompany them. They took around two hours just to cover a distance of five kilometres to reach the hospital and deliberately got stuck in a traffic jam. The SHO did not attend calls and when he did, it was to tell us that Thakur had passed away,” Mr. Kumar said.

“The police clearly colluded with the mukhiya. When we go to report something they never take action. Since when have Bihar police become so active that immediately after the shooting they were ready with a vehicle,” he asked.

According to a fact-finding report complied by a team of activists who visited Ratnauli on Sunday, the police “told the accompanying people to reach Prashant Hospital, but instead took Thakur to the Ma Janaki hospital.”

Asked about the SHO’s alleged role, Senior Superintendent of Police Rajesh Kumar told The Hindu: “Since the people were saying, the SHO was suspended for negligence.” He, however, denied accusations of police complicity.

The SSP, while explaining why no action was reportedly taken even though Mr. Thakur had been attacked previously, said the whole matter was the result of a “personal dispute,” and such incidents were the order of the day in any village. The victim had two cases against him, one accusing him of beating a woman and another one under the Scheduled Castes/ Schedules Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the SSP said.

On the other hand, the investigation so far has not found any previous cases against Sahni. “We are still getting the history. There is local politics at play here. Once, Thakur had slapped the mukhiya. There was personal enmity. This is like all the normal things that happen in a village. Our investigation is on,” an officer said.

The whistle-blower’s brother Janardhan Thakur, however, said thatsince 1991 Sahni had attacked Mr. Thakur on five occasions, including one attempt on his life. “Then no case [was] filed, no action taken in any of them. With each attack, we have appealed to everyone possible from the local police to the IG, DIG, and even the Chief Minister and Prime Minister, but to no avail. And now my brother is murdered,” he told The Hindu.

“Last December, the mukhiya entered Ram Thakur’s house in his absence, ransacking and looting it. Back in 1991, he fired 200 rounds on the house, in which Ram was injured. While we were at the hospital the mukhiya called and threatened us, ” Mr. Janardhan Thakur said.

Thakur's activism

In addition to working to expose the alleged scam in the scheme under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Ram Thakur had filed a number of RTI applications, which reportedly put him in Sahni’s bad books.

“Last year, he filed an RTI query seeking muster rolls, but only half the information was provided to him. He started receiving threats from the mukhiya after that, which increased after he filed a case with the Vigilance Commission. The mukhiya issued open threats of death,” Sanjay, from Bihar MGNREGA Watch, with which Ram Thakur was associated, told The Hindu. Thakur was the main witness in the MGNREGA Vigilance case. He had filed another RTI on the distribution of solar lights, which revealed some discrepancies in the rates of lanterns and their number listed on paper and that which was actually given.

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