While the recent brazen murders of businessmen and a bank official in Bihar has caught media attention, the State is equally dangerous for Right to Information (RTI) activists, with five of them been killed in 2018 alone.
The latest victim was Bhola Sah. Mr. Sah, who was supervising the construction of his house in Banarjhop village in Banka district, was asked by some men in an SUV to accompany them to the local police station on Sunday (December 23). The men said he had been summoned by the station in-charge. When he did not return home, his family members inquired from the police official, who denied having called Mr. Sah. His body was later found near an embankment with several injury marks.
“Bhola Sah was an RTI activist of Banka district and he had exposed several financial irregularities in government social welfare schemes,” said Shiv Prakash Rai, a senior RTI activist.
Earlier this year, Rahul Jha of Saharsa, Jayant Kumar of Garaul in Vaishali district, Rajendra Pratap Singh of Sangrampur in Motihari and Balimiki Yadav of Jamui district were murdered.
“Since 2010, as many as 15 RTI activists have been killed in Bihar… and the government keeps repeating that there is rule of law in the State,” Mr. Rai said, speaking to The Hindu over the phone.
In a grim roll call, Mr. Rai said: “RTI activists and my friends Sashidhar Mishra, Ram Vilas Singh, Murlidhar Jaiswal, Ram Kumar Thakur, Rahul Kumar, Rajesh Yadav, Surendra Sharma, Gopal Prasad, Gopal Tiwari and Mrityunjay Singh were murdered in different districts between 2010 to 2017.”
Mr. Rai, himself, was imprisoned for more than a month by a district official in Buxar when he had sought the latter’s response through an RTI query on financial irregularities in social welfare schemes.
“Government officials and scamsters always try to implicate RTI activists in false cases and if they fail to do so, they do not hesitate to get us killed. Nothing happens to them,” Mr. Rai said.
Members of the business community were joined by RJD leaders, including Tejashwi Yadav, at a candlelight protest on Monday following the killing of two prominent businessmen in Hajipur of Vaishali and Darbhanga districts, allegedly by extortionists. A local businessman said as many as 38 businessmen had been killed in the State in 2018 alone.
“The recent spate of killings of businessmen is a throwback to the previous RJD regime… If the present government does not take immediate steps, we will see another flight of businessmen,” said Patna-based businessman Satish Singh.