Fighter against Corruption:Dattareya Patil, killed

Maharashtra corruption buster killed

This is the third such incident in the state where RTI activists were either killed or threatened with dire consequences after their exposes made local politicians uncomfortable.

By Deepak Lokhande in Mumbai

THE MURDER of Right to Information ( RTI) activist Dattatray Patil at Ichalkaranji in Maharashtra has left the community worried, which wants the state government to take some firm action.

This is the third such incident in the state where RTI activists were either killed or threatened with dire consequences after their exposes made local politicians uncomfortable.

Unidentified assailants threw chilli powder on Patil’s face before stabbing him to death last week. He had unearthed a corruption racket involving a Congress MP and former ministers. According to family members, Patil had exposed misappropriation of funds meant for the backward class people allegedly by these politicians.

“ A sustained campaign is on in the state where politicians and rulers are trying to silence RTI activists by either threatening them or by simply eliminating them. That’s what happened to Shetty and that’s what has happened to Patil. My own house was stoned last October. I have been engaged in social work for the past 20 years. Never before have I experienced such fear in my life,” Shivaji Raut, another RTI activist in Satara, said.

While the police claimed to have arrested a few suspects, Patil’s family has alleged that the real culprits are still at large.

Earlier this year, RTI activist Satish Shetty had been killed in Talegaon Dabhade near Pune. Neeraja Punj of Citispace NGO had been threatened for filing petitions against a slum rehabilitation scheme worth hundreds of crores of rupees.

Patil, who was a farmer and had no political affiliations, filed a series of RTI applications and found that the money pumped into the backward class societies was allegedly siphoned off by the local politicians. He found how the chairmen of the societies were namesakes and the financial affairs were run by a board that had few members from the backward class.

He wrote to the Central Bureau of Investigation seeking an inquiry into the matter. He also wrote to the chief minister, the director general of the Anti-corruption Bureau (ACB). The money pumped in Kolhapur district was over Rs 370 crore. In neighbouring Sangli, Satara and Sindhudurg districts, the funds were in excess of Rs 766 crore.

Patil filed a public interest petition in March this year seeking action against local Congress MP and former minister Jaywantrao Avale and his sons for alleged misappropriation of Rs 7.6 crore in one such society. He had named NCP’s Prakash Awade and former social justice minister Chandrakant Handore in several of his complaints to the police.

He had also filed a writ petition against local councillors, who had allegedly taken favours during mayoral polls. The court had directed the ACB to take note of his complaint, which said that as many 56 council members of the Ichalkaranji city council were offered money, property and junkets for voting Shahar Vikas Aghadi, an alliance of rebel Congress councillors, Jan Surajya Shakti and other independent councillors. As Patil’s RTI applications started to expose the local politicians, he started receiving threats.

“Last week, my brother received an abusive call. He challenged the caller to meet him near the Shahu Maharaj statue and went there. But the caller did not turn up. On Saturday, too, he received one such call and again he went to the statue. This time, however, he went there alone and was killed by a couple of people,” Patil’s elder brother Pratap said.

He said though the police have arrested two persons for killing his brother, the real culprit was still absconding. “ They are merely the assailants. Those who hatched the plot are still at large.

We have told the police about the suspects. My brother was running a campaign against them and they had even come for settlement.

He declined their offer,” Pratap added.

“ In July last year, Patil had written to the police that his campaign against corruption could endanger his life and had sought police protection. But nothing was done about it,” Raut said.

The Kurundwad police, who are investigating the case, said six persons were arrested in connection with Patil’s murder. “ We have arrested six persons — Rahulkumar Dhale ( 19), Srinivas Morkar ( 20), Dayanand Navle ( 29), Mahesh Vibhute ( 25), Gurunath Anant Mistri ( 25) and Satish Rajput ( 22). They have confessed to the crime. We have also confiscated the murder weapon. We are aware of the family’s allegations of political vendetta and have sought all the relevant documents from them. We are not ruling out a revenge killing at the moment,” said a police officer.

Avale and Handore were not available for comments. Awade, too, refused to comment saying he was busy in a function.

One Response

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