RTI activist killed for campaign against BJP MP, says family

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Ahmedabad:  The family of Amit Jethwa believes that the Right to Information activist was killed in Gujarat because he was fighting illegal mining, which allegedly involves several politicians.  

Jethwa was shot on Wednesday night as he was leaving his lawyer's office, opposite the Gujarat High Court which is a high-security area. The two men who fired a round in his neck escaped into the night.  

A gun and cartridges left behind by them have been sent to a forensic lab.

Jethwa's family blames BJP MP Dinubhai Solanki for the murder. Over the last two years, Jethwa filed nearly six RTI applications, asking for information on Solanki's possible involvement in illegal mining. "We have been receiving threats and we are sure that Dinubhai Solanki and his family members were involved in the cold blooded murder," says Jethwa's father, Bikhubhai.

Solanki was not available for comment. The BJP says this is a criminal case, and not a political one.

In atleast a dozen RTI petitions filed in the last one year, Jethwa said that Dinubhai Solkanki and his relative operated limestone quarries and stone-crushers on government land just outside the Gir sanctuary for lions - meant to be a protected forest area. Jethwa was so committed to exposing the nexus between politicians and the mining mafia in Gujarat that he left his village a few years ago for Ahmedabad.

Jethwa's family believes that his campaign had picked up enough to make his opponents uncomfortable - based on the information gathered through his RTI applications, he went to the Gujarat High Court two months ago with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) alleging large scale illegal mining in and around Gir sanctuary by Solanki and his family. Last week, the court issued notices to the state government and union environment ministry to respond.  

Jethwa's murder, say other RTI activists, proves that those trying to fight corruption are at grave risk. "We are feeling highly insecure...if this is how activist are killed how can we feel safe" asks Amarsinh Rathwa, who is also an RTI activist operating in Gujarat.

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