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RTI activists seek investigation into daylight murder in M.P. – Mrit News

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Police say that the accused and victim had filed legal cases against each other and were involved in financial disputes

Police say that the accused and victim had filed legal cases against each other and were involved in financial disputes

The daylight murder of a Right to Information (RTI) activist, Ranjeet Soni, in Vidisha — nearly 60 km away from Bhopal, two days ago, has put the spotlight on the safety of activists in the State.

According to the police, 46-year-old Soni had gone to collect documents at the PWD office when he was shot in the head by contract killer Ankit Yadav alias Tunda. Tunda, it is alleged, was hired by three contractors, Ashokumar Choubey, Jaswant Raghuvanshi and Naresh Sharma.

The victim himself was a contractor and both sides had filed cases against each other, the police further added. Soni was gunned down a day before he was to appear for a court hearing in one such case — a cheque bounce matter in which Raghuvanshi was the complainant and Soni the accused. In a separate incident, Soni and Choubey had accused each other of assault and had cross-FIRs filed in 2017.

While the police note issued on Friday after the arrests made no mention of Soni’s RTI enquiries or his history of RTI activism, fellow activists in the State claim that he was exposing corruption in government schemes and was silenced for the same. Bhopal-based RTI activist Ajay Dubey said that an activist getting murdered inside a government office building close to the district court showed that the murderers had support from the police.

“The murder is being passed off as a case of simple rivalry and financial dispute whereas the ambit of the probe should include exposing those who would face the consequence of his [Soni’s] RTI queries,” said Mr. Dubey.

Mr. Dubey demanded that Whistleblowers’ Protection Act be implemented in the State on priority, a long-standing demand of RTI activists in Madhya Pradesh. The National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI), too, wrote a letter to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan demanding a thorough investigation into the matter and asking him to “ensure that all the information sought by him [Soni] is put in the public domain and widely publicised, which would act as a deterrent against such attacks in the future.”

“Further, as the Central government has failed to operationalise the Whistleblowers Protection Act passed by Parliament in 2014 till date as it has not notified rules for the Act, we urge the government of Madhya Pradesh to provide protection to whistleblowers by adopting a State-level whistleblowers protection law,” the NCPRI letter added.

Speaking to The Hindu on the alleged links between Soni’s RTI queries exposing corruption in public works and his murder on Saturday, Vidisha Superintendent of Police Monika Shukla said, “It is not a part of the probe.”

“We are concerned about who murdered him and why. Prima facie both sides had financial disputes with one another and legal cases against one another. The other question [on RTI queries] is not a part of the murder investigation, so we did not look into it much,” said Ms. Shukla.

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