Friday, 6 February 2015

Brief Proceedings of convention of RTI Activists and Human Rights Defenders in protest against Attack and Murder of RTI Activists in Odisha

  Date : 05.02.2015  Venue : Lohia Academy, Bhubaneswar

Needless to say, Right to Information Act (RTI) activists who are now in the forefront of Human rights defenders (HRDs) have become most vulnerable to all manners of threats, attacks and murder by vested interests in India. 

Unlike other HRDs, a majority of the RTI activists are still not a part of any collective forum or organisation; they often act alone, moved by anger at corruption and other illegal activities.
Though the RTI applicants and activists serve as self-inspired whistleblowers to cleanse the existing system of governance of its manifold malaises including corruption and maladministration, the Right to Information Act, 2005 provides as such no inbuilt mechanism for their protection in the face of physical attacks or malafide litigations hurled against them. In the past many RTI applicants owingto their relentless efforts to 'promote transparency and accountability' in the working of the public authorities have been subject to a variety of persecutions including murder, merely for their lawful act of seeking information.  Many of them face threats and assaults of various kinds on a regular basis. Even common people seeking information from their Gram Panchayat or the local administration are made to suffer gruelling humiliation and harassment by the vested interests, quite often in connivance with the Govt. officials.  There are some instances in the recent past where the RTI applicants who sought for information elated to bungling of MG-NREGA money were killed. Further, quite many instances of threats and attacks go unreported in the media and therefore un-redressed too.
 On 28.12.14, Sri Ganesh Chandra Panda of Rangeilunda Block of Ganjam district was murdered by vested groups, as he tried to unearth huge corruption in FDR and NREGA work through RTI. Similarly, one month has not passed, another RTI Activist Sri Krupasindhu  Sahu  of Niali Block  of Cuttack district  was   killed by Supari killer  because of his attempt  to  expose corruption and misappropriation of fund in BGREI fund ( Bringing 2nd Green Revolution in Eastern India).  Apart from that, attack on RTI Activists is reported in every alternate day in mass media. The list has no end. The growing attack and murder has raised concern about security and protection of RTI   Activists in the state. On the other hand,   the police administration are seen hand in glove  with  vested groups and criminals  who are masterminding murder and derailed  the enquiry without giving any justice to the victims or the family of victims.
 Proceedings of the meeting
 Keeping it in view, a state-level Convention of RTI Activists and Human Rights Defenders in protest against murder of RTI Activists was held at Lohia Academy, Bhubaneswar on 5.2.15 at 11am. More than hundred RTI Activists, Human Rights Defenders, advocates and social activists  from Ganjam, Puri, Balasore, Bhadrak, Bolagir, Kalahandi, Jajpur, Jagatsingh Pur, Kendrapara had participated i the meeting.  The meeting was organised under joint auspices of Human Rights Front, Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhijan and Civil Society Forum on Human Rights.  The meeting started with Sri Rabi Das, senior journalist presiding over the meeting. On request from chair, Sri Manoj Jena conducted one minute Silence Prayer  in memory of Sri Ganesh Prasad Panda and Sri Krupasindhu Sahu, two RTI Martyrs. Sri Manoj Jena, Chairperson, Human Rights Front At the outset, Sri Pradip Pradhan, State Convener, Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhijan delivered welcome address and introductory remarks about objectives of the meeting. He presented chronologically the incidence of attack, threats on RTI Activists in Odisha. Around 30 RTI Activists have been victim of brutal attack, threats, institution of false cases by corrupt influential people, political people and state administration. But recent murder of RTI two activists has set an alarming bell for us to stand united and work together to fight out the issues relating to corruption ad irregularities in development work. The fourteen years of misrule of Naveen Patnaik regime has not only perpetuated corruption in all fields but helped increasing crime against activists and common people in the state.  It is call for all activists to work together to fight out the issues affecting the interest of the state. He made appeal all the participants to speak on this issue and suggest for future course of action. All the activists one by one expressed their concerns and presented a number of proposals strengthening RTI movement in Odisha and to work unitedly to build up a corruption-free state. The prominent activists who spoke in the convention were  Sri Sambhu Panigrahi , advocate, Berhampur, Sri Jayant Das, Puri, Sri Sudarsha Das, Agami Odisha, Bhubaneswar,  Sri Jayant Bhoi, Dalit Activist, Shri Abdul Wali,Ms Anuradhan Subudhi, member of State Forum of Chit Fund affected persons, Sri Sudhir Mohanty, advocate, Sri Saroj Padhi, advocate and  Human Rights Law Network,  Sri Akhand, Human Rights Defenders, Sri Biswa Mohan Mohanty, RTI Activist, Bhadrak,  Sri Ashok Das, Samajik Nyaya Andolan, Sushree Babuni, ZP member,  Sri Ashok Mallik, State President, NACDOR, Odisha Chapter,  Sri Bijay Pradhan, Ekta Parishad,  Sri Bijay Parida, Odisha Jana Adhikar Parishad,  Sri Sudarshan Chhotaray, People’s Media Initiative, Sri  Lalit Mishra, Puri,  Sri Dibakar Nayak, RTI Activists, Sri Tapan Mishra, Activists,Angull, Sri Akshaya Jena, Jajpur  Ekta Manch, Sri Ashok Nanda, Lok Samukhya,  Sushree Bijaylaxmi Routray,Society for Fast Justice,, Sri Niranjan Biswal, Prof. Jantrana Parikhit,Odisha Nagarik Samaj, Sri Sanatan Mallik, RTI Activist, Jajpur, Sri Himashu Tripathy, Journalist, Kalahandi, Sri Pradipta Nayak, Human Rights Defenders,  Sri Dhirendra Panda,CSFHR etc.
 Decision of the Convention
1. Every participant expressed grave concerns over gruesome murder and attack on RTI Activists in Odisha and agreed to work unitedly to fight out corruption and irregularities in State administration and cooperate and support each other at the time of any type of attack on RTI Activists in the state.

2.  The convention unequivocally condemned the murder of Krupasindhu Sahu and decided to take all measures to give justice to the family of the victims.

3. To carry out united action for protection of RTI Activists and to fight out corruption, Sri Rabi Das suggested developing a common platform of all Activists called Unity for Protection of Activists of Odisha which was endorsed by all the participants in the convention. Sri Pradip Pradhan and Sri Manoj Jena were selected as conveners  of the Forum.

4. Legal and Meta Legal support to be provided to the HRDs against false and fabricated cases.

5. Advocacy for safeguard of Human Rights Defenders

6. A  Public meeting in protest against attack on RTI Activist Sri Krupasindhu Sahu will be organised at Niali, on 10.2.15 at 4.30 PM.  Sri Jayant Bhoi, Sri Ashok Mallik and Sushree Babuni were given responsibility to organise the programme.   

7.   Mass demonstration will be organised in front of assembly, Odisha on 13.2.15. 10,000 activists will gather and hold demonstration. National level RTI Activists like Smt. Aruna Roy, Sri Nikhil Dey will be invited to address the rally.

8.  An RTI Cell will be set up to monitor the activities of RTI Activists and threats to their life.
9. A Martyr tomb will be set up in Bhubaneswar. A  5-member committee consisting of Sri Manoj Jena, Sri Ashok Nanda, Sri Akhand, Sri Jayant Das and Sri Pratap sahu will look after.

 Sri Manoj Jena offered vote of thanks.

Report prepared by Pradip Pradhan, M-9937843482

News Link

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Fact-finding Report on alleged murder of RTI Activist in Niali Block of Cuttak district, Odisha

Deceased Krupasindhu Sahoo

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.

Fact Finding Team

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.

statement of witness
 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.

wife of Krupasindhu Sahoo

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.

suspected murder place
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.

river Bed where body found
Decomposed Body
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 2nd Feb.  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. 

After post mortem
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

1.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.

2. 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.

 3. 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. 

4. 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.

5. 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

1. 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.

2.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.

3. 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.

4.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.

5.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.

Fact-finding Team Members

Pradip Pradhan                                                                 Manoj Jena
State convene                                                                      Chairperson
Odisha Soochana Adhikar Abhijan                        Human Rights Front [HRF]
M-9937843482                                                                   M- 94371 78921

    Bijayalaxmi Routray                                       Srikant Pakal
Member, Society for Fast Justice               DHRM, HRF, Cuttack                                                             


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Human Right Defender’s Day Observed

Security of Defenders is Paramount in Human Right Movement

Manoj Jena, HRF
Justice BK Mishra , OHRC
Human Right Defenders play pivotal role in prevention of human right violation even working against all odds for which their security becomes a concern for the society. Due to increased vigilant role played by Human Right Defenders in remote areas there is a demonstrative increase in the situation of Human Right. The above statements emerged in a deliberation organised jointly by Human Right Front (HRF) and Committee for Legal Aid to Poor (CLAP) on the eve of World Human Right Day on 9th December 2014 at Redcross Bhavan,Bhubaneswar. It is pertinent to mention that globally 9th December is being observed as World Human Right Defender’s Day on the eve of World Human Right Day on 10th December.

The human right violations are manifested in various forms due to the situation of poverty with ignorance among a vast chunk of rural and tribal population. Even though there is a fundamental shift made in the nature of violation due to consistent initiative of Human Right Organisation still gross human right violations are being witnessed. The state endeavours to protect Human Right Defenders whose life is at risk for their relentless effort to prevent human right violation said Justice Bira Kishore Mishra, Acting Chairperson of Odisha State Human Right Commission in his inaugural speech.
With the enactment of Whistle Blowers Act there has been an expectation of human right defenders that larger security in terms of protection by the state to the Defenders would be made available. The state must take steps for early enforcement of the Whistle Blowers Act said Dr. Bikash Das, Executive President of CLAP. Dr. Das said that human right defenders are entitled to special protection and the Human Right Commissions at the union and state level must address the issue of defenders.
The Deliberation on Role of Human Right Defenders and the mechanism for their protection was addressed by chairperson of Human Rights Front Manoj Jena, Senior Advisor of Election Commission of India  Dr. Bhagawanprakash, convenor of Agami Odisha Sudarshan Das, Advisor Gotimukti Andolan Baghambar Pattnaik, and Human Right Defenders of Odisha Akhand, Bhajaman Biswal, Sanyasi Behera, Somnath Pattnaik etc. On  this occasion, the second Justice Ranganath Mishra Memorial Award on Human Right was conferred on Justice Bira Kishore Mishra for his outstanding accomplishment. The defenders present in the deliberation also paid their tribute to the legendry Jurist and former Judge of Supreme Court Justice V.K. Krishna Iyer who passed away recently. Sandeep Mohanty  of Human Right Front offered Vote of Thanks in the end of the programme.