Published in http://humanrightsfrontindia.blogspot.com/ on Feb. 01 ::
Right to Information Act (RTI) activists are vulnerable Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in India. Unlike other HRDs, a majority of the RTI activists are not part of an organisation; they often act alone, moved by anger at corruption and other illegal activities. The Right to Information Act, 2005 provides inadequate protection to whistleblowers. Many RTI Activists, been harassed and even murdered for seeking information to “promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority” in India. Many face assaults on a regular basis. People seeking information from their Gram Panchayat and the local administration also face social ostracism. A few activists who sought information under RTI related to MGNREGA scams, were killed. Many threats and attacks (including murder) go unreported by the media some times.
On 1.2.15, Sambad, a leading Odia daily news paper made news coverage about murder of an RTI Activist Sri Krupasindhu Sahu, aged 40 of Nachhinga village under Krushnaprasad Panchayat of Niali Block of Cuttack district. Being perturbed and disturbed over the news, it was thought of to visit the area immediately to ascertain the fact and the circumstances led to murder of an RTI user, role of the police administration etc. It needs to be mentioned here that last month on 28.12.14, Sri Ganesh Chandra Panda, RTI Activist of Berhampur was murdered by unidentified hooligans in the early morning when he was on morning walk. Accordingly a four-member team of Human Rights Activists, Sri Pradip Pradhan, State Convener, Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhijan, Sri Manoj Jena, chairperson, Human Rights Front, Bijayalaxmi Routray, Member, Society for Fast Justice, Bhubaneswar and Sri Srikant Pakal, District Human Rights Defender, Human Rights Front,Cuttack visited the spot, enquired into the incident and held discussion with the bereaved family members of deceased Krupasidhu Sahu , Police, Villagers, political people etc.
Prelude to martyrdom- a nexus of Criminals, Police and people of Ruling political party
Sri Krupasindhu Sahoo, aged 40 is a farmer and earns his livelihood by cultivating his 5 acres of land. He was survived by his mother, wife and two children. At first, the Team members visited his house and interacted with his wife Smt. Gitanjali Sahu about the incident. His niece Gitanjali Sahoo also elaborated chronologically the event led to murder of Sri Sahoo. The excerpts of the discussion are as follows.
On 26.1.15, Sri Sahoo had gone to village market in the evening and did not return back. His wife got disturbed finding his delay to return to home and made repeated calls to his mobile which was found switched off. On 27. 1.15, the family members made fervent attempts to locate him and seared many places, but it went in vain. But his vehicle was found deserted near Mahaveer temple of the village. Finding the vehicle, the family members suspected that some unusual incident might have taken place. So, on 28.1.15, Smt. Gitanjali Sahu received two mobile calls in different times ( at 8 AM and 7 PM) from an unknown person ( M- 95839-83871) who demanded 30 lakh rupees and 3 kg gold to get released of his husband who has been kidnapped and kept in some unidentified place. She expressed her helplessness and requested to leave her husband. Then, she filed an FIR in Niali Police station at 3 PM to find out the whereabouts of her husband. On 31st Feb. the Police located the spot i.e., river bed of Tanla river where his dead body was found buried. The police team recovered the body and sent to S.C.B. Medical for Post Mortem. The Police also arrested Pratap Jena, nephew, sister and mother of the accused Kartik Pani, prime accused of same village who had returned from jail after 7 years rigorous imprisonment on a murder cases. He was found absconding.
Smt. Gitanjali Sahu also shared with the team that 3 months back, her husband had submitted RTI Application to the office of District Agriculture officer, Cuttack seeking information about details of fund spent for SRI cultivation under BGREI and beneficiary list of Block Demonstration of HYV paddy in Krushnaprasad Gram Panhayat of Niali Block. This information supplied by the PIO exposed huge corruption and misappropriation of fund by the beneficiaries who have taken lakhs of rupees by making false bill in connivance with Agriculture officials and The SANSKAR, an NGO which has been given the project to monitor the same. Armed with the information, Krupasindhu lodged complaint to the authority seeking an enquiry into corruption and recovery of fund. This enraged the beneficiaries of the misappropriation of fund who took several attempts to attack him and threatened him to murder. But he remained undeterred in his mission. His wife in her FIR filed in the police station has mentioned the name of these people who have threatened him of dire consequence several times. These people are Trilochan Pani, Sanjay Bhoi, Ajay Sethi, Rupan Behera who are the political cadres of Biju Janata Dal, ruling political party in the state. During interaction, Gitanjali Sahu said that it was pre-planned political murder with the support of Sri Satyabrata Lenka, Inspector-In-Charge of Niali Police station. She also said that the culprits should be arrested immediately and serious punishment should be given to the people involved and conspired to murder her husband. She also requested the team to arrange support for the higher study of her sons.
The Team also visited the spot i.e., the house of prime accused where Krupasindhu was allegedly murdered. This house was found deserted. The villagers said that when the prime accused Kartik Pani was jailed on murder case seven years back, his mother and sister left the place and stayed in other places. The villagers also said that the prime accused who is still absconding was found accompanying Sri Krupasindhu in the market in the evening on 26.1.15. He might have murdered him on same day. As he is hard-core criminal, he might have been given supari by the powerful people to kill Krupasindhu which needs to be enquired by the investigating agency.
The Team visited the Niali Police station and enquired to meet Sri Satyabrata Lenka, Inspector-In-Charge. But Sri Nrusingha Charan Swain, SDPO who has been responsibility to investigate into the matter said that the IIC had been asked by SP, Cuttack to go on leave. He had just joined on 31.1.115 in his place. During interaction about the murder case of Krupasindhu Bhoi . Sri Swain apprised the team that his wife had filed an FIR and following it the police has registered the case under IPC 364 on 28.1.15 and started investigation. The Police have identified Sri Kartik Pani as main accused who is absconding and arrested his nephew Pratap Jena, mother and sister after mobile phone tracking. The police team has recovered the decomposed body with help of Pratap Jena who had helped carrying dead body to river bed and sent for Post Mortem. The SDPO also said to start full-fledged investigation from 2ndFeb. He also said that this is no doubt a pre-planned murder. On query about whether any powerful people are involved in this murder, he said that it could not be ruled out.
On the way back to Bhubaneswar, the team came across the dead body in a decorated vehicle with flower along the roadside of Niali market and gathering of hundreds of people. The Team halted and met Sri Rabi Mallik, ex-MLA of this area and discussed about the murder. He said his use of RTI has exposed misappropriation of BGREI fund by the powerful people who have conspired to murder him in connivance of the police of Niali Police station. Sri Satyabrata Lenka, IIC is also involved in this murder.
Findings of the Team
- The Team is of the view that RTI stands as a factor behind this pre-planned cold-blooded murder of Sri Krupasindhu sahu. His use of RTI has brought to lime light the huge corruption and irregularities in BGREI fund sanctioned for development of agriculture in this Block by the influential and powerful political people. This expose enraged these people and created enmity with Krupasindhu. Apprehending enquiry into this scam and recovery of fund from them, they got psychologically disturbed to save their image. They also threatened him to attack and murder him several times as reported by Gitanjali Sahu. It is presumed that these people whose name has been figured in FIR might have engaged Kartik Pani by paying Supari to murder Krupasindhu. The police has neither interrogated these people nor arrested him till yet. The Team is of the view that as these people are members of Biju Janata Dal, Ruling political party of the state, the police has not dared to take any action against them.
- Though FIR was filed on 28.1.15, the Inspector-In-Charge did not take the case seriously. It may be the police have acted at the behest of the politically powerful people of this area. It is also presumed that this is deep-rooted conspiracy hatched between the people involved in misappropriation of BGREI fund and the police which led to the murder of Krupasindhu by a dreaded criminal. The pre-planned strategy in connivance with the police provided golden opportunity to the criminals to murder him. The high-level enquiry can unearth the truth. In the absence of proper investigation, the criminals also dared to murder him without any fear and absconded. Many information can be obtained, if the all records of mobile no. ( M-9437005800, 9438547901, 9178620095) of Inspector-In-charge can be investigated.
- After spot verification, the Team has reached at conclusion that as it was planned murder, it had taken place on 26th Jan, day of his missing.
- In fact, his family has been ruined, as he was the only earning member of the family. The family requires financial support for their survival and higher education of his sons.
- The whole episode revolves around expose of misappropriation of BGREI fund through RTI by Krupasindhu. The role of the agriculture officials and NGO the SANSKAR behind murder cannot be ruled out. Apprehending arrest and recovery of fund which has been misappropriated by the beneficiaries in collusion with Agriculture officials, they might have joined and party to this conspiracy to murder conspiracy. There must be a high-level enquiry into misappropriation of BGREI fund in this Block.
Concerns to be addressed
- The Police should arrest immediately already-prime accused Kartik Pani and other conspirators behind the murder of Krupasindhu Sahu as per FIR of Gitanjali Sahu and take exemplary action against them, so that they will be discouraged from taking any vindictive action against the family members of deceased in future.
- The State Govt. should order for high-level independent inquiry into the circumstances leading to murder of RTI Activist Sri Krupasindhu Sahuu and role of Sri Satyabrata Lenka, IIC and party members of Biju Janata Dal as per FIR of Gitanjali Sahu and produce the report within 15 days.
- The State Govt. should entrust State Vigilance to enquire into huge corruption and irregularities in BGREI fund in Niali Block. The legal action should be taken against officials of Agricultural Dept., NGO the SANSKAR and the influential beneficiaries who have misappropriated fund by filling false bill.
- This is the second case of murder of RTI Activist in Odisha. From these cases, it has been found that due to police inaction or connivance of local police with criminal has led to the murder of RTI Activists. The local police has neither investigated into the allegation nor provided security to RTI Activists. That’s why the life of RTI Activists is found very vulnerable. So the State Govt. should open a Desk in the office of Director General of Police as well as all police stations of the State especially for RTI and Human Rights Activists to receive the complaints of attacks and threats against them and to take prompt action against the accused.
- The State Govt. should provide adequate financial support for survival of the family members and education of children of Krupasindhu Sahu , who attained martyrdom in course of his crusade against corruption through the use of RTI.