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Another RTI Activist Killed in Bihar, Concern Rises Over Security

The victim was well known for his people-friendly RTI work on development projects, welfare schemes, and land mafia.
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Patna: Amidst opposition allegations of surge in crime cases in Bihar, an RTI activist was brutally stabbed to death in broad daylight in West Champaran district, police said on Wednesday.

Md Haroon, an RTI activist in his early 50s, was stabbed to death by unidentified criminals near Jokaha village in Manuapul police station on Tuesday night. Haroon's killing has sent shockwaves in the district.

Earlier, some local people attacked him and his leg was fractured because he was seeking information about irregularities in welfare schemes from the local administration.

According to a preliminary investigation by police officials, Haroon was on his way to visit some local people in connection with his RTI work when two or three criminals stopped him and stabbed him with a sharp weapon till he fell on the ground and died.

"Soon after we got informed that a man with serious injuries on his neck, stomach and hands was lying near the road, a police team rushed there and found him dead. He has been identified as RTI activist Haroon. Afterwards, his body was sent for postmortem and police investigation began into it," Mohd Alauddin, Officer in Charge of Manuapul police station, said.

The victim was a resident of Bankat Purena village under Chanpatia police station in the district. Haroon was well known for his people-friendly RTI work related to development projects, welfare schemes, and land mafia. He reportedly struggled due to a financial crunch but stayed committed to fighting for people's interests.

Haroon was also running a voluntary organisation called Sudhar Jagrukta Senani Sanstha. His main focus was to work for the welfare of the poorest of the poor.

This latest murder is not an isolated case, as 21 RTI activists, including Haroon, have been killed in the last 13 years in Bihar.

According to Mahendra Yadav, an RTI activist, of the 21 activists killed in the last 13 years, almost half of them died in the past four years. In 2018 alone, six RTI activists – Jayant Kumar (Vaishali), Rahul Jha (Saharsa), Rajendra Prasad Singh (Motihari, East Champaran), Valmiki Yadav and Dharmendra Yadav (Jamui), and Bhola Shah (Banka) -- were killed. Most of these RTI activists were seeking information about the functioning of public programmes, schemes, and institutions in their area, which should have been compulsorily made public by the government per Section 4 of the Right to Information Act.

A veteran RTI activist, Shiv Prakash Rai, said that RTI activists are under threat in the state for their work to expose the powerful nexus of corrupt officers, contractors, land grabbers and local politicians.

Rai recalled that a few years ago, facing threats to their life, the RTI activists in Bihar demanded security cover and the arrest of those involved in the killing of four of their associates. "We have demanded the arrest of all those involved in the killing of more than 20 RTI activists in the state. As usual, the top police officers assured action, but nothing has happened so far except for ritualistic steps," he added.

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