Mumbai : Maharashtra, which has the dubious distinction of having the highest number of slain RTI activists, took a small step in reversing the trend when it put the query of a slain RTI activist on the government website.
Abrar Shaikh, an RTI activist of Bhiwandi, was killed on Tuesday by four persons, including a corporator. He had sought a document on an illegal structure in Bhiwandi, which earned him the wrath of vested interests.
Shaikh’s query was put up on the Bhiwandi-Nizampur Municipal Corporation’s website on the orders of Chief Information Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad. This is the first such order in India.
RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi had earlier urged Gaikwad to make Abrar’s RTI query public. When Gandhi was the central information commissioner in Delhi, he had suggested that the query of any RTI activist, who has been murdered, should be put in public domain by the government.
However, the central government is yet to accept this proposal. On Monday the BNMC even began demolishing the illegal structure about which Abrar had sought details.
“Citizens must demand strict action to stop attacks on those who are trying to get laws enforced. Abrar was moved by the plight of those who died in illegal building crashes and hence tried to curb illegal construction,” said Gandhi.
“It would be a good idea to disclose all information sought by a RTI user who is attacked on websites. This would make it unproductive for anyone to attack a RTI user,” added Gandhi.
On December 20, Gaikwad had slammed the BNMC officials, asking them to give wide publicity to the RTI documents procured by Shaikh, which was allegedly the reason behind his murder.
The letter written by Gaikwad to BNMC’s commissioner says, “It is distressing to know that an RTI activist was murdered for accessing information on illegal construction in Bhiwandi”. The letter further states that the RTI Act mandates that the authorities must take suo motu action and post such relevant information in public domain.
The letter had the desired impact: On Monday, Jeevan Sonawane, municipal commissioner of BNMP, ordered demolition of the illegal structure located in Gulzar Nagar, Naigaon area, in Bhiwandi.
Waqar, elder brother of the victim, said that they will follow the path shown by Abrar and check the menace of illegal construction in Bhiwandi.
Three persons have been arrested for the murder of Abrar but the Samajwadi corporator, Hasib Khan, whose name also figures in the FIR, is allegedly on the run.
According to family members, Abrar was extremely agitated after the recent building collapse in Mumbra. He had a good reason to be agitated: Like Mumbra Bhiwandi, too, has more than 300 illegal structures.