Ram Kumar Thakur, one of the main persons to expose the scam relating to payments under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in Muzaffarpur, was shot dead in his native village, Ratnauli, on March 23. The village head (mukhiya) is the prime suspect in the case.
The family of Ram Thakur and NAPM fact finding team have alleged that the police was complicit in his murder.
Here is the fact finding report:
A six member fact finding team of the NAPM (National Alliance of People’s Movements) visited Ratnauli village of Muzaffarpur district in Bihar, where Ram Kumar Thakur, a lawyer and RTI activist was shot dead on 23rd March. Ram Kumar was returning by cycle from the courts with his nephew early yesterday evening. On reaching Purshottampur village, Jamarua panchayat, at around 4:30 pm they were surrounded by six men who came on two motorcycles. The men who have been identified by the nephew are Raj Kumar Sahni, Brahmanand Sahni, Parmanand Sahni, Rajesh Kumar Sahni, Mahesh Sahni, Sukhdev Sahni. According to nephew, Sujit Kumar, It was Rajesh Kumar Sahni, the son of the Mukhiya who gave instructions to surround them and shoot.
Ram Kumar was being rushed to the nearby hospital in a tempo when they were met by the police who transferred ram kumar to a bolero with a missing number plate and told the accompanying people to reach Prashant Hospital, but instead of taking Ram Kumar to Prashant Hospital the police took him to Ma Janaki hospital. Those accompanying Ram Kumar have said that the police caused a delay of two hours as a result of which Ram Kumar was brought dead to the hospital. An FIR stating the above has been filed in Manihari thaana this afternoon.
Ram Kumar Thakur had been actively raising the issue of corruption in his village, Ratnauli, for the last few years. He had filed a number of RTI applications on the implementation of the MNREGA and IAY. In a social audit conducted by the Department of Rural Development in September 2011, Ram Kumar Thakur, among others had raised objections to the inclusion of ‘ghost’ names in the muster roll that were read out during the public hearing.
This resulted in an uproar where the Mukhiya and his supporters vociferously opposed these claims as false. The social audit could not be completed because of the disruption which then erupted into a fight where those who had objected to the fudged muster roll were beaten. Ram Kumar Thakur was also beaten by the Mukhiya’s men during this incident. After this incident an FIR was filed against the perpetrators by the district administration, however action is yet to be taken.
Most recently Ram Kumar had filed a case with the State Vigilance Commission on the installation of solar lights under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme. The case which was filed along with Sundeshwar Sahni of Lok Jagran Manch, an NGO based in Muzaffarpur raised questions on the allocation of money under the project and alleged mis-management of funds by the Mukhiya, Raj Kumar Sahni. The issues raised by them were even investigated by the Sub-Divisional Officer. The findings of this investigation are not yet available. Following this, in the month of December, Ram Kumar Thakur and his family had received death threats from the Mukhiya’s son, Rajesh Sahni. A letter asking for protection was even sent to the DIG of police by Ram Kumar Thakur asking for protection.
Over three months since Ram Kumar received threats at his home, over three months since the letter asking for protection was sent to the police, and well over a year since the fight that broke out during the social audit in which he was beaten, Ram Kumar was killed by the perpetrators of previous incidents of violence who were well known to the police and district administration. Had the police and administration taken notice of Ram Kumar’s appeal for protection, Ram Kumar Thakur would still be alive. Ram Kumar is succeeded by his wife, two daughters and a son.
Based on the facts that have come to light the NAPM demands that:
Those named in the FIR be arrested immediately
Speedy trial is undertaken.
Immediate compensation of Rs. 20 lakhs be given to the victim’s family
Police complicity is investigated.
A complete investigation into the corruption issues raised by Ram Kumar in Ratnauli Panchayat should be done by the Rural Development Department, Government of Bihar.
This is the fifth case of murder of a RTI activist/ whistleblower in Bihar, making a serious note of this the Government should work towards a comprehensive law for the protection of such persons.
Ram Kumar was also an associate of the Bihar MNREGA Watch, which has been spear heading an unprecedented mobilization of workers in Ratnauli panchayat, and has in the past years spread to other blocks of Muzaffarpur. Sanjay Sahni and others of Bihar MNREGA Watch have been actively raising their voices for securing entitlements under MNREGA and the national and state pension schemes for close to two years through public meetings, demonstrations and application filing.
Members of the NAPM fact finding team included Shahid Kamal (NAPM), Ashish Ranjan (NAPM), Mahendra Yadav(NAPM), Ranjit Paswan (JJSS), Sanjay Sahni (Bihar MNREGA Watch) and Arvind Kumar (JJSS).