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MP: Dalit RTI Activist Assaulted, Forced to Drink Urine, Another Booked for Blackmailing 

The FIR stated that as an RTI activist, the victim had sought information about the Barhi village panchayat under Panihar police station area. 
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Bhopal: A 33-year-old Dalit RTI activist from Madhya Pradesh's Gwalior was allegedly beaten up and forced to drink urine by seven people after he sought information related to a village panchayat of Gwalior district, the police said. The incident happened only a week after a Right to Information (RTI) activist was booked for extortion in Indore.

The victim, who has been identified as Shashikant Jatav, received severe injuries on his legs and hands. He was shifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, for treatment after his condition deteriorated in Gwalior, the police said.

The incident took place on February 23 at Barhi village, around 25 kilometres away from the Gwalior district headquarter. The police booked seven people under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and arrested two of the accused.

The FIR, registered by the victim's wife Renu Jatav at Panihar police station, stated that as an RTI activist, Shashikant had sought information about the Barhi village panchayat under Panihar police station area. It alleged that Shashikant's RTI query enraged Barhi sarpanch's husband, panchayat secretary, and others, who called him to the village panchayat office on February 23 and assaulted him.

In the FIR, Renu also alleged that they not only locked her husband in a room, thrashed him, and passed casteist remarks but also forced him to drink urine from a shoe, said Additional Superintendent of Police, Jayraj Kuber, quoting the complaint lodged by the victim's wife.

The police registered a case against seven persons under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for attempt to murder and abduction, and provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. More penal provisions could be added in the case after the victim's statement, ASP Kuber said. "An official will be sent to the national capital to record the victim's statement," he added.

Speaking over the phone, Panihar police station in-charge, Praveen Sharma, said, "Two days before the incident, a scuffle took place between accused and victim which went unreported. But after the assault, two people have been rounded up, and we are looking for others."

He further said that close to eight cases have already been registered against Shashikant Jatav at Panihar police station for assault and criminal intimidation.

Upset with the news of the attack and unsatisfactory action of the police, members of the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) staged a protest outside the Panihar police station. They demanded the addition of the IPC sections in the FIR.

On February 21, two days before Jatav was attacked, the Indore district collector Manish Singh ordered an FIR against Indore-based RTI activist Sanjay Mishra. The order was given in a Monday meeting with the district officials, who raised the issue of blackmailing and extortion by Mishra under the garb of RTI.

FIR against the Indore-based RTI activist did not go down well with the Information Commissioner of Rewa division, Rahul Singh, who raised objection to the police action. He tweeted, "Blackmailing is a crime and the culprits should be booked accordingly. But, the information for which the officers are being blackmailed should also be put in the public domain."

He further pointed out that he has served as an information commissioner since 2019 and handles RTI applications, but no one ever blackmailed him. "Jo adhikari blackmail hote hai aur jo unhe karte hai, wo ek hi thali ke chatte batte hai (officials who get blackmailed and those who blackmail them are cut from the same cloth). We should not forget that RTI law played an important role in revealing many scams," he tweeted.

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