With Attack on Himachal Man, Number of Murdered RTI Activists Rises to 73

Family members of slain Kedar Singh Jindan, along with several locals and activists, have demanded a CBI probe into the matter.

New Delhi: Even as the Centre dithers on implementing the Whistleblowers Protection Act, which was passed four years ago to protect anyone who exposes alleged wrongdoing in government bodies, another name has been added to the growing list of RTI activists who have been killed for raising disturbing questions.

The 73rd person to be killed for raising a voice against corruption is Kedar Singh Jindan, who according to agency reports from Himachal Pradesh was first allegedly beaten up and then run over by a vehicle near Bakras village in Sirmaur district on the afternoon of September 8. Jindan was a social activist and an SC/ST rights leader who had also contested the 2017 assembly election in the state on a Bahujan Samaj Party ticket.

In June, Jindan had claimed at a press conference in Shimla that an RTI application filed by him had revealed that six affluent families in the Bakras panchayat with assets running into crores were wrongfully registered under the below poverty line category.

Reporting this, a local website had also stated that he had alleged forging of records by one Jai Prakash for securing government jobs for his family members. The website stated that Jai Prakash along with another person, Gopal, were among those accused in the case.

Though the police initially thought it be an accident, they later registered a case of murder. Jindan’s family protested with his body and has demanded that the case be probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation. They were joined in the protest by a large number of locals as well as RTI and social activists.

The protesters charged that there were five people who were involved in the attack on the slain activist and demanded that they all be proceeded against. They also sought security for the family, which has lost its sole earning member, and a job for the victim’s wife, Hem Lata.

Jindan’s wife also claimed that he had “already asked for security as he was threatened for life” but insisted that “police did not take any action”. She said the RTI activist had been “attacked by these people earlier also.”

According to the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative which maps cases of attacks on RTI users, there had been 419 cases of such attacks till August 20 in which 72 people had lost their lives. As such, the attack on Jindan marks 420th such recorded case and takes the toll up to 73.

It is in view of such attacks on RTI workers that there has been a constant demand for implementing the Whistleblowers Protection Act.

In July, RTI activists had taken to the streets in Delhi and held a rally to protest against the Centre’s attempts to dilute the transparency laws. With respect to the Whistleblowers Protection Act, they had demanded that the government implement it in its present form.

Speaking to The Wire, co-convener of NCPRI and organiser of the event, Anjali Bharadwaj, had stated that while the original Act was passed four years ago, instead of implementing it, the Narendra Modi government had brought in amendments to dilute it and got these passed in the Lok Sabha. The activists had claimed that amendments to this Act sought to dilute the law as they provided for punishing RTI users under the Official Secrets Act.