The body of an RTI activist was found in his burnt car in Greater Noida on Friday night.
While police said the death of activist and AAP member, Chandra Mohan Sharma, seemed to be an accident, his family has alleged foul play.
Police have filed an FIR against five people at Kasna police station and are probing all angles.
This is the third time in six months that an RTI activist has been targeted in Noida and Greater Noida.
According to police, Sharma had received threats for highlighting an encroachment on a temple land in Kasna. Though the family had approached police in Kasna, no complaint had been registered. Following his death, an FIR has been registered against five persons involved in the temple land dispute, police said.
According to police, Sharma (38), who worked for Honda Siel in Greater Noida, was heading home to Alpha II in Greater Noida in a Chevrolet Aveo on Friday night. When he reached Eldeco Crossing at Pie Sector, his car caught fire and he couldn’t unlock the door, police said.
By the time fire tenders reached the spot, it was too late to save Sharma. Police have sent his DNA and viscera samples to a forensic lab.
According to Sharma’s family, he set out for home at 11.10 pm on Friday. He had earlier spoken to his children around 10.30 pm.
Police said they received information about a burning car a little after midnight, but it wasn’t until morning that the body was identified with the help of the car registration number.
Meanwhile, police claimed that Sharma’s family kept trying to get in touch with him but found his mobile phone switched off.
Sharma’s family alleged that his work as an RTI activist resulted in his death. According to his family, Sharma worked to unearth land allotment irregularities in the area. He had exposed the activities of a land mafia which had captured gram sabha land, police said.
“On April 28, he was returning home in his car when he was forcibly stopped by men of the land mafia, who threatened to kill him. At that time, police did not take the matter seriously. Now they are trying to hush up the murder and pass it off as an accident,” Sharma’s wife Savita said.
The family alleged that the circumstances under which Sharma’s body was found suggested murder.
“Police are saying that the windows were closed and the doors of the car were locked when the fire broke out. But we know that he drove with the windows down since the AC unit in the car wasn’t working. The car didn’t have central locking and there was no CNG kit in the car.
Moreover, the car was found parked by the roadside. If the car had caught fire while he was driving, it would have been in the middle of the road,” she said.
Police, however, maintained that initial probe pointed to an accident. According to police, the car’s CNG kit had been removed four days ago and the car wasn’t working properly. They said the car had also been shown to mechanics and they had also attempted to fix the problem.
“We have sent the car for a technical investigation to identify the cause of the fire. Meanwhile, we are looking at all possible angles. We will also be looking at CCTV footage in the area,” Brijesh Singh, Superintendent (rural) of Police, Gautam Buddh Nagar, said.
According to police, Sharma had participated in Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement and his family members were among the first to join the AAP in Greater Noida. Sharma and his wife Savita had also raised their voice against the suspension of IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal by the Uttar Pradesh government.
An AAP leader said, “The two had protested against the UP government’s move and had gone on a hunger strike for three days. AAP leaders Kumar Vishwas and Manish Sisodia had also gone to Greater Noida to support them.”
Earlier, RTI activist Anoop Singh was abducted from Dankaur in December last year and tortured for four days. In February, Salimuddin Solanki — another RTI activist — had alleged that he has been receiving threatening calls from a contractor after he sought information on development work in the area.