Monday, June 27, 2011

Gujarat RTI activist attacked, 
former minister blamed

Gujarat RTI activist attacked, 
former minister blamed

A 65-year-old advocate who has been using the right to information (RTI) Act to seek official details on illegal mining and unauthorised constructions in and around Porbandar was seriously injured when six unidentified men attacked him on Friday. Four of the assailants were arrested later.

Activist Bhagu Devani has pointed finger at a former minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat. Sources in the office of the director-general of police in Gandhinagar said a group of six men arrived in a car and stopped Devani's car when he was about to reach his residence.

After forcing him and the driver to get off the car, the men hurled abuses on him for his RTI activism, assaulted him with sticks and even stabbed him before escaping. Devani was rushed to a hospital where his condition was said to be critical. The advocate had recently filed a writ petition in the Gujarat High Court against greedy miners and builders who had political connections. He had named former BJP minister Babu Bokhiria, who owns mines and properties in the region where limestone extraction is Rs 5-billion business.

According to the First Information Report (FIR), Devani was assaulted because he raised his voice against illegal constructions, specifically mentioning two buildings — an eight-storey residential complex in which Bokhiria is a partner, and another a three-star hotel belonging to his close associate Vikram Odedara, also a BJP leader.

Odedra's brother Lakhu is among the four nabbed by the police so far. The name of a third BJP leader, Suresh Thanki, has also cropped up in the case.

Only a couple of months ago, a 45-year-old social activist in Kutch had set himself ablaze in the compound of the revenue officer's office in Rapar. He had been receiving constant threats from government officials and local policemen for seeking information through the RTI Act on irregularities in cattle grazing in the district.

In another case in July 2010, RTI activist Amit Jethwa was shot dead near the high court here for campaigning against alleged illegal mining near the Gir wildlife sanctuary that went on with the backing of some politicians.

Jethwa's father had blamed the daylight murder on Junagadh BJP MP Dinu Solanki, a powerful, dreaded politician who alone owns 55 of the 200-odd shady mines in his constituency that covers the woodlands housing the rare 
Asiatic lions.

The captured leopard is believed to be six-year-old. The forest department has sent it to Sasan Animal Care centre.

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