New Delhi: Niyamat Ansari, an NREGA activist in Jharkhand was kidnapped and brutally beaten up on the evening of May 2.He died even before doctors had a chance of treating him. In Maoist hit latehar, this killing puts the spotlight yet again on the vulnerability of activists working in grassroots
NREGA activist Reetika Khera said, "He was carried by his family on a charpouy. hey walked 10 kilometers before reaching the Manika thana. From there they took his to the hospital, but he died when he reached the hospital."
Niyamat had been in the forefront of exposing corruption in the UPA's ambitious job guarantee programme in Jharkhand. The most recent being just weeks back in the Manika block.
Latehar District Collector Rahul Purwar said, "We have constituted a special task force. We are positive that the culprits will be nabbed soon. It was very unfortunate."
Niyamat's murder has sent shock waves among NREGA activists across the country. Sources in the rural development ministry say they were aware of Niyamat's case and were in touch with the government of Jharkhand just four days back.The ministry is considering sending a fact finding team and even handing the case to the CBI. Many activists are demanding prompt action.
Activist Jean Dreze said,"We demand that immediate action be taken, the culprits are known in the area.. They must be arrested immediately."
The NAC member, who has extensively worked in Jharkhand says,"There have been a series of such incidents going back to lalit mehta who was murdered a few years ago in the same area. And that the latest incident is just the logical conclusion of the complete impunity that has been given to criminal elements in Jharkhand. And that state insitutions are increasingly becoming parts of this criminal nexus."
NAC Member Harsh Mandar said, "Tis is not the first incident and nor will it be the last. It just shows what a hugh risk business it has become for an individual to say, ' I will not accept corruption'."
In the FIR, six people have been named so far, two are prominent contractors and one, called Sudarshan is known as a Maoist in that area.
Even earlier, there was an attempt on Niyamat's life. Not only did the local authorities failed to prevent the attack, even the ambulance did not reach him on time. Perhaps when the whistle blowers act is finally passed by paliament, it will become impossible for the local authorities to ignore threat perceptions.
Nikhil Dey, NREGS and RTI activist says, "What is to blame right now is that citizens have got access to information which is damaging for vested interest. There are powerful vested interests who are becoming more and more powerful through a combination of violence, crime and money. Every RTI activist is a whistle blower because a citizen can access that information and then blow the whistle on corruption. The whistle blowers act has to deal with that scenario."
The murder of Niyamat Ansari brings back memories of the the murder of Lalit Mehta, one of the first RTI activists who paid for battling corruption with his life. No one has been brought to book in that case yet. A poignant reminder for the government to ensure safety of whistle-blowers working in most inhospitable terrain.