PATNA: Hours after an RTI activist and one of his associates were shot dead in Bihar’s southern Jamui district, a panchayat head and a block unit chief of the ruling JD(U) were detained along with two other men by police on Monday.
Unidentified assailants fired at the RTI activist, Valmiki Yadav, 38, and his associate Dharmendra Yadav alias Karu Yadav, 35, from close range when the duo was riding a bike on Sunday evening, police said. The incident took place at Bicchwe Mod under Sikandara police station.
While Valmiki Yadav died on the spot, Dharmendra was rushed to a nearby government hospital, where he was declared brought dead.
Valmiki Yadav is the third RTI activist to be shot dead in Bihar since April. RTI activist Rajendra Singh, 65, was shot dead by unidentified assailants in East Champaran district on June 19. Jayant Kumar, an RTI activist in Vaishali district, was shot dead on April 4.
“These twin murders seem to be part of a pre-planned conspiracy. Krishna Ravidas, the panchayat head of Bicchwe, and Suresh Mahto, the Sikandra block unit president of JD(U), have been detained along with two others for interrogation in connection with the murders,” said Jamui SDPO Ram Pukar Singh.
Jamui SP Jagunatharaddi Jalaraddi said the motive behind the twin murders is yet to be ascertained, but police sources said the RTI activist was targeted because of a complaint he had lodged regarding alleged irregularities in the selection of sevikas in the local anganwadi. He had had a heated quarrel with some villagers over this matter, said the sources.
Sikandara police station SHO Pramod Kumar said Valmiki Yadav’s family has said that six people were involved in the murders. “We are looking at all angles in the ongoing probe,” he added.
As many as 14 RTI activists have been killed in Bihar since 2008, including four this year. Only the murder case of RTI activist Ram Vilas Singh of Lakhiserai, who was killed in December 2011, has resulted in conviction so far. Four people were sentenced to life in that case. The rest of the cases are in the trial stage.
Four people have been arrested for the murder of Vaishali RTI activist Jayant Kumar. East Champaran police have arrested a sharp-shooter, Rana Singh, while another accused, former panchayat head Subhash Yadav, has surrendered in Rajendra Kumar’s case.
“RTI activists across Bihar are being constantly targeted and killed due to their work. They are living under fear. Numerous false cases of crime have also been registered against nearly 600 RTI activists in the state,” said Shiv Prakash Rai, an RTI activist from Buxar.