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Rights

RTI Activist Shot Dead Near Government Office in Madhya Pradesh

Hundreds of RTI activists or users have been victims of targeted killings since the Act came into being.

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New Delhi: A Right to Information (RTI) activist was allegedly shot dead by unidentified persons near the Public Works Department (PWD) office in Madhya Pradesh’s Vidisha on the evening of Thursday, June 3.

Forty-two-year-old Ranjeet Soni had earlier worked as a government contractor.

District Superintendent of Police Monica Shukla said Soni was a resident of Ashoknagar district. “He was shot in the head from behind, from a close range, in the portico of the PWD office,” she said.

“CCTV cameras at the PWD office premises were not functioning, and police are looking for footage of cameras installed in the surrounding areas,” the SP said.

“The assailants escaped from the spot after the incident,” said Additional Superintendent of Police Samir Yadav.

Soni used to collect information, quite often related to government works, by using the RTI Act, he said.

The news agency IANS has quoted Yadav as having said that Soni had gone to the Janpad Panchayat office to collect some documents when he was killed.

More than 100 RTI activists or users have lost their lives since 2011, Aruna Roy, Mayank Labh and Meera M. Panicker noted in a piece for The Wire earlier this year.

By 2016, 311 instances of attacks on or harassment of citizens who sought information under the Act had been recorded.

In November last year, the discovery of the charred body of 22-year-old RTI activist Buddhinath Jha who had ‘exposed’ illegal medical clinics that were operating in a Bihar village led to outrage.

In September last year, Vipin Agarwal, a Bihar-based RTI activist who had raised the issue of illegal encroachment by land mafias in the district through his queries was shot dead in broad daylight.

Six months after Agarwal’s murder, his 14-year-old son died by suicide on March 25, this year. Family members had told The Wire that the teenager had been deeply disturbed with the fact that police had not taken action to arrest the main culprits in the case.

(With PTI inputs)