Two days after an RTI activist from Aligarh district of western Uttar Pradesh died, after he was severely assaulted, allegedly by the village pradhan and his supporters, over filing RTI queries on substandard work and alleged corruption by the pradhan, his family on Tuesday said the pradhan’s accomplices have “long been involved in crimes and of harassing people”, but this was the first time they retaliated such violently.
“And a life has been lost,” said Sunil Singh, cousin of RTI activist and farmer Devjit Singh, 32, who succumbed to injuries on Sunday evening.
According to the family, Devjit was working on the family’s farm, along with younger brother Surendra, when eight people, allegedly including village pradhan Devendra and his son, attacked them around 6 pm.
“I saw them (assailants) leaving on their two-wheelers. They attacked my sons with sticks and other weapons…Devjit survived until he could tell a constable what had happened and then he passed away. Surendra is still in hospital — he has sustained injuries in the rib and has a broken arm.,” said Mahendra Singh, Devjit’s father, who had just left the field, where wheat has been sown, when the attack took place.
Wife Nisha, a daughter aged two and a son aged three survive Devjit. Surendra is still in hospital. One of the eight accused, Harvir, has been arrested, police said on Tuesday. The others are on the run. Police have registered an FIR for rioting, criminal intimidation, grievous hurt, murder, attempt to murder, and others.
When The Indian Express went to Amarpur Dahana village in Aligarh on Tuesday, mourning family members and relatives were gathered around a portrait of Devjit in the family’s home. They claimed Devjit had filed his most recent RTI application over alleged grabblng of government land.
His cousin, Sunil, alleged, “This corruption has been going on for a long time. I am a Gram Sabha sahayak, and my signature was forged on a response to the last RTI.”
He said Devjit had earlier sent complaint letters to the Chief Minister’s Office, police headquarters in Lucknow, the Aligarh SP and the District Magistrate, mentioning verbal abuse directed at him and his family members, that the pradhan and his supporters had allegedly threatened him with dire consequences and to implicate him in false cases.
Relatives and many villagers had protested initially. The family performed the last rites after the “local DSP and inspector assured us that action would be taken within 24 hours and they will make all efforts to arrest the accused”, Sunil said.
Relatives recalled Devjit, a BSc graduate, as an intelligent man. Sunil said, “He worked with a private firm in Agra and returned to the village after marriage. He ran a small internet cafe in the village. Who else but a man like him would have filed RTI applications on these issues?”
An uncle, D P Singh, said, “We will do whatever we have to do, even if we have to go to Delhi or Lucknow to demand justice.”