Thursday, March 10, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Dalit activist thrashed in Rajasthan for seeking information under RTI Act

Dalit activist thrashed in Rajasthan for seeking information under RTI Act

Special Correspondent

United we stand: Dalit activists staging a demonstration in Jaipur on
Sunday in support of Mangala Ram of Barmer who was attacked for
seeking information under the RTI Act.

JAIPUR: Hot on the heels of the gruesome murder of NREGA activist
Niyamat Ansari in Jharkhand, a Dalit activist was severely beaten at
the panchayat's social audit meeting at Bamanor village in Barmer
district of Rajasthan over the week-end for seeking information about
employment guarantee works under the Right to Information Act.

Sarpanch Ghulam Shah and his accomplices allegedly attacked activist
Mangala Ram with an axe and thrashed him, breaking both his legs, at
the Gram Sabha at panchayat building, where the government-sponsored
social audit of works was in progress, on Thursday. A profusely
bleeding Mangala Ram was rushed to the local Community Health Centre.

Mangala Ram, 33, had sought information a few months ago on the
details of all public works sanctioned and carried out between 2001
and 2008 and the works sanctioned under the Mahatma Gandhi National
Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme since 2006 in Bamanor village. On
being supplied with incomplete information, he questioned the
panchayat functionaries.

According to the State unit of People's Union for Civil Liberties,
Ghulam Shah has been occupying the post of Sarpanch for a long time
and his family has controlled the panchayat office for about 20 years.
He was reportedly annoyed by the repeated questioning of the Dalit

Mangala Ram sent two applications to the Barmer Superintendent of
Police during the past six months alleging that the Sarpanch and his
associates were threatening him ever since he has asked for
information. On February 28 last, he sought police security fearing
that he might be attacked.

The Dalit activist went to attend the social audit meeting, presided
over by headmaster Ghevar Singh Chaudhary – who is also in-charge of
the Gram Sabha – and attended by Ghulam Shah, cluster in-charge Arjun
Singh and other panchayat members on Thursday to seek clarifications
about his queries.

While the audit was in progress, the Sarpanch allegedly abused Mangala
Ram and attacked him with an axe. Three persons who tried to save him
were also injured. He was first taken to the CHC, from where he was
referred to the government hospital at tehsil headquarter Dhorimanna
situated 20 km away and later to a hospital in Jodhpur.

PUCL State general secretary Kavita Srivastava said since Mangala
Ram's condition did not improve, his family preferred to admit him
into a private hospital at Deesa in Gujarat.

Even though a case has been registered in connection with the attack
on Mangala Ram, police have so far not arrested Ghulam Shah. The PUCL,
in a memorandum submitted to Chief Secretary S. Ahmed, has demanded
that Section 307 (attempt to murder) of I.P.C. and relevant provisions
of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, be applied
immediately to the FIR.

Civil rights activists staged a demonstration near Albert Hall in
Ramniwas Garden here on Sunday demanding that Ghulam Shah and other
accused named in the FIR be arrested without delay and the State
Government bear the expenses of medical treatment of the victim,
besides giving him financial assistance of Rs.1 lakh as well as the
government job.

Activists also pointed out that this act of the Sarpanch should be
construed as misconduct in the discharge of his duties. "The incident
took place while the statutory Gram Sabha was taking place. It was
clearly done to silence any questioning related to diversion of funds
which a social audit exposes," pointed out Satish Kumar of the Centre
for Dalit Rights.

The demonstrators said the brutal attack by Ghulam Shah on the
activist amounted to misconduct under Section 38 (1) of the Rajasthan
Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, for which an inquiry should be ordered under
the Act and the accused should be suspended forthwith.

Ms. Srivastava said the two cases of Niyamat Ansari's murder and
attack on Mangala Ram depicted a pattern where individuals fighting
for better implementation of MGNREGA and RTI Act have been brutally
targeted by vested interests. "While this is proof that both the
legislations are instrumental in challenging the existing power
structures, there is [an urgent] need to support and protect citizens
in their anti-corruption efforts."


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