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‘Gujarat government trying to suppress RTI activists’

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By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani


Ahmedabad: Continuing her onslaught against Modi government, renowed social activist and danseuse Mallika Sarabhai alleged that state government was trying to suppress the RTI activists.


Activist Mallika Sarabhai said, "It has been difficult to get information on anything in Gujarat. The recent attacks on RTI activists are proof of this. The state government has decided to keep a watch over RTI activists to instil fear among them. But we are not going to be intimidated by this and will continue our struggle."


Sarabhai also called the situation in Gujarat as emergency-like. "We activists need to come together and fight those trying to suppress the implementation of RTI Act in the state," she said.


Expressing concern over their safety and Gujarat government's 'pathetic' approach in implementation, the Right to Information (RTI) activists from across the state on Sunday decided to form a union.


The activists alleged that the implementation of the RTI Act in Gujarat has been 'pathetic' with over 52 percent applications being rejected by the Chief Information Commissioner of the state.


RTI activist heading an NGO, Citizen Resources and Actions Initiatives (CRANTI), Bharatsinh Zala, claimed, "RTI activists in Gujarat are being attacked, killed for exposing the illegal activities in the state which are being run with connivance of politicians."


"RTI activists are not safe in Gujarat and there is not protection from the state government so we have decided to form a union of activist," Zala told media persons at a press conference here.


"Our freedom is being curbed and voice of RTI activist was being suppressed by the government. The change from Bombay Charitable Trust Act to Gujarat Charitable Trust Act is example of the autocratic approach of the state government. Our right for information is also being violated," Sarabhai said.


"This is an emergency like situation in the state of Gujarat. We activists need to come together and fight those trying to suppress the implementation of RTI Act in Gujarat," she added.


Bhikhu Jethva, whose son and RTI activist Amit Jethva was killed by gunmen one year ago for exposing illegal mining in Gir forest region, said he would fight till the end for the cause in which his son believed in.


"I have faith in the High Court where the PIL filed by Amit (Jethva) is being heard. They will do justice to it. But if I feel that they have not done enough I will approach the Supreme Court," Bhikhu said.


Another RTI activist, Bhagubhai Devani from Porbander said he too was attacked by land mafia after he complained against illegal mining in the Saurashtra region which he said was being promoted by a former minister.


Bharat Tann from Rajkot narrated the same citing alleged land scam to the tune of Rs 800 crore in the heart of the city.


The group of activist also demanded that the state and the Central government should pass bill for providing protection to RTI applicants.


[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]
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