Rights groups slam attack on RTI activist in Barmer, demand action

Amar Singh Godara had made complaints about illegal liquor trade, corruption in two schemes

The brutal attack on a young right to information (RTI) activist in Barmer district has led to tension in western Rajasthan and spurred the State’s civil rights groups into action. Following the arrest of four persons for the assault, a six-member fact-finding team left here on Friday for Barmer to assess the situation.

RTI activist Amar Singh Godara, 30, was allegedly abducted in a car earlier this week and forcibly taken to an isolated place, where he was tortured and left for dead on the roadside. His legs were pierced with nails and he was forced to drink a bottle of urine. The assailants told him that he was being “punished” for raising RTI queries on the village panchayat works.

Mr. Godara had earlier made police complaints about illegal liquor trade and corruption in two government schemes — the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana — in the Kumpliya village panchayat, where he lives. His activism had reportedly angered the local liquor mafia as well as the current and former sarpanches.

Shifted to Jodhpur

Having suffered multiple fractures, Mr. Godara has since been shifted to a government hospital in Jodhpur, where he is stated to be out of danger. The district administration has provided security to the activist and his family. He has alleged that he was hit all over the body with wires, chains, sticks and rods.

The four arrested include the son of the sarpanch of the Pareu village panchayat, situated near Kumpliya. The role of former Kumpliya sarpanch Nagraj in the attack is being probed. The accused have been booked under Sections 307 (attempt to murder), 365 (abduction), 355 (assault) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

Constable suspended

The Station House Officer of the Gida police station has been sent to the Police Lines till the investigation is completed. A police constable, under whose beat the illegal liquor trade was going on, has been suspended.

Civil rights groups have demanded exemplary punishment to the guilty and an investigation into the village panchayat works for which Mr. Godara had raised RTI queries and made complaints. Kamal Tak of Suchna Evum Rozgar Adhikar Abhiyan said this was the third attack on an RTI activist in Barmer and was clearly a revenge against Mr. Godara’s exposure of corruption and irregularities in the MGNREGS, road construction and other works of the village panchayat.

The team will visit the spot of the alleged assault and meet a cross-section of people in Barmer district, besides the District Collector and the police officers. The team will raise the issues of financial assistance to the victim and compliance with a government order for audit of the incidents of attacks on RTI activists by a State-level committee.

SHRC notice

The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has also taken cognisance of the case and issued notices to the Director General of Police, the Excise Commissioner and the Barmer Collector, seeking a report on the incident and the action taken subsequently.

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