Increased attacks on RTI activists in India

“Hall of Shame: Mapping Attacks on RTI Users” launched on International Human Rights Day by CHRI 

Since October, 2005 when The Right to Information Act became fully operational, at least 51 citizens have allegedly been killed, 127 assaulted, 119 harassed or threatened and 5 driven to commit suicide because they sought information to expose corruption and wrong doing in government.

Yesterday to mark International Human Rights Day (December 10), well-known  civil rights organization, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative(CHRI)  has launched a web platform, http://attacksonrtiusers.org/Home/Index1/, for mapping attacks on Right to information (RTI) users in India. 

To make things worse the state government of  Rajasthan has even removed the chapter on the Right to Information Act from the high school Social Sciences Text book this year.

 “Hall of Shame: Mapping Attack on RTI Users”

Calling web platform “Hall of Shame: Mapping Attack on RTI Users”, CHRI said in their statement,  “All RTI users who are attacked for seeking information in the public interest are in fact human rights defenders. We wish to encourage civil society  and policymakers to work together to put in place mechanisms to prevent such future attacks.”

Cases plotted  geographically using the Google Map

CHRI has developed the Hall of Shame to plot these cases geographically using the Google Map. Readers can access more than 300 media reports of such attacks on RTI users at the click of a button.

CHRI has also created a facility on this web platform for readers and activists to report instances of attacks on RTI users that may have missed because they are published in the regional languages. Readers can access practical tips for preventing attacks in future. The web platform also contains guidance about how to approach the police and the National Human Rights Commission for an investigation or an inquiry into incidents of attacks on RTI users.” 

Need to support  and defend  RTI applicants

According to CHRI, people submit between 5-5.6 million RTI applications every year, wanting to know the reasons informing government decisions and hence they need to be supported and defended.

“Many want public authorities to take prompt action on grievances about stoppage of pensions or scholarships, or poor quality of services in government hospitals, schools and colleges. Others use RTI to expose corrupt practices in building roads with taxpayers’ money, or how welfare programmes for the underprivileged are implemented.”

Asserting that “not everybody who is attacked, harassed or threatened is a seasoned activist”, the statement says, “Sometimes, just one RTI application from a concerned citizen can lead to harassment or life-threatening assault.” 
It alleged, “Vested interests, which benefit from corruption and wrong doing, are threatened by people’s demand for greater transparency and accountability. Hence the frequent attempts to stifle their voices.”

Maharashtra tops, Gujarat follows second

Maharashtra tops the list of deaths of RTI activists and Gujarat comes second. In this photograph one can see the fate of a RTI activist in the hands of  Shiv Sena workers.

In  March, RTI activist Vinayak Baliga was hacked to death in Mangaluru by two contract killers. It is believed that Baliga was killed for his attempts to expose alleged misappropriation of funds by Mangaluru’s Venkataramana temple authorities.

Recently the Central government refused to share information the details of foreign travels and how bills were cleared of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, citing security reasons. Activist said Air India has to pay heavily for the delay in such bills.

Here is a sample of the Hall of Shame which should become a constant reminder of the progress we need to achieve when we give citizens  the right to evaluate/ question  the ruling forces, an integral part of  a true democracy.

Name: P Suresh
Date of Incident: 29 June, 2016
Type: Harrassed or Threatened
Location: Ranga Reddy, Telangana, India
Source: Indiatimes.com
#9Name: J ParasmalDate of Incident: 7 June, 2016Type: Killed Location: Chennai, Tamil Nadu, IndiaSource: Timesofindia.com
Name: Vinayak Baliga
Date of Incident: 21 March, 2016
Type: Killed
Location: Dakshina Kannada, Karnataka, India
Source: Coastaldigest.com

And the list goes on.We will keep checking the new website- http://attacksonrtiusers.org/Home/Index1/

-UDAAN

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