Note on Recent Trend of Attack on RTI Activists in Odisha and failure of police to arrest the culprits
Human Rights Activists and RTI Activists are seen quite vulnerable in Odisha. The trend of brutal attack on RTI Activists, Human Rights Activists and their family members is rising day by day. RTI Activists are always seen at loggerheads with the State administration; corrupt Govt. officials, land mafia, contractors while exposing about corruption, irregularities in Govt. programme, maladministration, favouritism and manipulation in Govt. appointment, malpractice in procurement etc. Irregularities and illegalities in allotment of land /plot to politicians, bureaucrats, private educational institutions like KIIT, Jagatguru Krupalu Yoga Trust, Sri Sri Rabi Shankar University, Ma Ambruta Mayee Devi Trust by General Administration Department, BDA, CDA, Odisha State Housing Board, IDCO, Illegalities in allotment of mining operation to the companies, pendency of crores of rupees of water tax and electricity tax against companies, illegal closure of SIET and OKCL ghotala, illegal occupation of Govt. quarters by former MLAs and Ministers and ex-Govt. employees for years together, black-marketing and adulteration of food items allotted under ICDS, MDM, NREGA Scam, irregularities and corruption in distribution of PDS items and many other scam has been exposed by RTI Activists in the state within period of ten years. This expose has not only put the Govt. in trouble but has brought to limelight the true character of so-called eminent people of society and their crime. Armed with information obtained through RTI, Human Rights Activists have taken up various issues by approaching High Courts, Human Rights Commissions, Central Vigilance Commission, CBI and Tribunals like National Green Tribunal seeking justice. The recent order of National Green Tribunal to Govt. of Odisha to get returned back of 18 acres of forest land illegally acquired by KIIT is one of the best success stories of intervention of Human Rights Activists.
The continuous and constant endeavour of Human Rights Activists and RTI Activists to fight out corruption and maladministration has endangered their life in face of systematic and organised attack of coterie of powerful politicians, bureaucrats and mafias. Within last ten years, Odisha has witnessed brutal attack on 50 Activists and murder of two RTI Activists and many more beaten up severely, harassed, tortured which has gone unnoticed. In the absence of effective legal mechanism to take prompt action against the culprits and criminal, the RTI Activists and their families remained quite vulnerable in the state. The policy investigations into any allegation of violation of Human Rights Activists are seen far from satisfaction.
Few recent case studies about Attack on RTI Activists and helplessness of police to arrest the culprit is as follows.
1. On 24.4.17, Sri Subas Mohapara, RTI Activist who was returning to his home in the evening was stopped by a gang of byke-borne miscreants at Khandagiri square and threatened to be murdered AT GUNPOINT, if he pursues case against Achyut Samant of KIIT, Patia, Bhubaneswar. He filed the FIR same day in Khandagiri police station accusing Achyut Samant behind this threats . No investigation against Achyut Samant is yet done by the police.
2. On 3.5.17 at around 8.45 pm, a miscreant threw petrol on sister of Pradip Pradhan, State Convener of Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhijan in front of his residence, Maitree Vihar, Bhubaneswar and ran away. Immediately, Sri Pradhan lodged complaint in Maitree Vihar Police post which is 50 meters away from his residence coming under jurisdiction of Chadrasekhar Pur police station. The police received the complaint, registered the case as PS Case No.161 dt. 3.5.2017 U/s 448/326/506 IPC and started investigation on same day. Though twelve days passed, the Police has not yet been able to arrest the culprit. However, the police has provided police protection to FAMILY of Pradip Pradhan.
3. Mr. Sankar Panigrahi, permanent resident of Radharani Pada At-Hospital road, near mausi mandir,Po/Dist-Balangir is engaged in motivating youth in his district to undertake developmental work and also encourages and teaches them to use Right to Information Act to seek information regarding the ongoing developmental work.He is an active member of an unregistered RTI network, namely Odisha Soochana Adikar Abhiyan (OSAA) involved in exposing cases of corruption in government funds earmarked for the implementation of social welfare schemes in Odisha. Mr. Sankar Panigrahi, had posted in social media (facebook) on date May 9, 2017, “GO BACK NARYAN NAIK”. On May 10, 2017, at about 8.02 PM he received a call from a mobile number +91-7682955014. Without saying anything, the caller started abusing him in filthy language and threatened to kill him in an encounter and rape his wife. Mr. Panigrahi had recorded this conversation. On 12.5.17, Sankar filed FIR in Bolangir police station seeking investigation into the matter. The Bolagir Sadar police station registered FIR no. 0155(IPC-506,507) dt. 15.5.17 and the investigation is going on.
4. 12.5.17, Sri Keshab Mahakud, physically challenged and RTI Activist of Nayagarh district had come to Bhubaneswar to file complaint to Sri Bijayshree Routray, Minister for Forest and Environment, Govt. of Odisha about huge corruption in Forest Dept. under DFO, Nayagarh. He met Minister in his residence in the evening and appraised him about corruption. While he was on his way to Baramunda by autorickshaw, he was intercepted by a gang of hooligans at Vanivihar square. He was mercilessly beaten up by them. Then he went to Saheed Nagar police station at around 9 pm and lodged complaint. The concerned police asked him to come to police station in the next day. On 13.5.17, the police registered his case and started investigation. Nothing has happened till yet. He had filed RTI to office of DFO, Nayagarh to expose corruption worth crore of rupees by forest officials in collusion with local BJD leaders. He was threatened to be murdered by DFO, Nayagarh few days back. The case has been filed in National Human Rights Commission with case no. 2552/18/28/2017. It deserves to be mentioned here that last year, Sri Mahakud, a Disable person was seriously beaten up and hospitalised for a month in S.C.B.Medical, Cuttack for treatment.
5. On 16.6.16, at 11.45 am, Sri Priyabrata Gadnaik, RTI Activist was attacked a gang of 6 hooligans on Kaunriapala river bridge of National Highway 55 of Dhenkanal district . he was forced to jump to river bed and his leg and hand got featured. He was rescued by Ambulance. Though FIR was lodged in Dhenkanal Sadar police station registered case no. 251/2016, the police has not yet been able to arrest the culprits. Rather the police helped them to get bail. On day of attack, Sri Priyabrata was returning from Odapada Tahasil after attending hearing of his first appeal petition filed before Tahasildar on denial of information about the PIO. The information sought for was about details of stone query leased out to the contractors, revenue collected , illegal stone query operated and action taken. Sri Priyabrata is still fighting for justice.
Note prepared by