[dropcap]M[/dropcap]ost of the land grabbers in Mumbai are either gangsters’ hencemen or local politicians irrespective of political parties. Earlier, Dawood Ibrahim, Arun Gawli’s henchmen and Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP’s goons were land mafia in this metropolitan city. Now, 90 per cent of the land mafias are BJP supporters. There are some big names but the fact is that these ‘dadas’ are affiliated to some or the other political party. Mumbai is always ruled by the Khakhi- Khadi and underworld dons. RTI activist are getting brutally murdered doesn’t surprise me too much, but those who are alive are courageous entities.
On Saturday, a 72-year-old Right to Information activist Bhupendra Vira was killed in Santacruz by a man who barged into his home, held a gun to his head and fired. A former corporator of the Congress and his son have been arrested. The activist had reportedly told his wife to keep the front door open. Vira had led a campaign against land grabbing and illegal constructions in his colony. Based on his family’s complaint, the police filed a case against Razzaq Khan, a former corporator with whom the activist allegedly had many confrontations. Mr. Vira was murdered because of his relentless fight against illegal land dealings. He was attached to the ‘Voice of Kalina’, a citizen’s group.
Many activists like Govind Pansare, Narendra Dabholkar and MM Kalburgi were murdered in the recent past. Pansare, a left-wing politician and author, was shot on February 16, 2015, by assailants in Kolhapur in Maharashtra. He succumbed to his injuries five days later. Dabholkar, a rationalist and author, was killed on August 20, 2013, in Pune. Kannada writer Kalburgi was shot dead on August 30, 2015, in Dharwad district of Karnataka.
Veteran Left leader Govind Pansare and his wife were shot at near their home in Kolhapur district. The 82-year-old lawyer, a known anti-toll tax campaigner, was on a morning walk with his wife Uma when at around 8 am, unknown attackers fired at them. The shooters reportedly fired at least four rounds at close range before running away. Pansare further forced the state government to pass the Anti-Superstition Bill in the assembly and implement it.
Pansare, a communist leader, has fought for years against the state government’s decision to charge citizens for road development. Tolls are indirect taxation. This mode is adopted when the direct taxation is not comprehensive and many people are outside the direct tax net. What can be done is that if one has paid a certain amount as direct taxes, the tolls can be exempted for that person. However, this will require a lot of technology to be put in place to track ones direct taxes paid every year and issue him a card that can be swiped at toll plazas to exempt him from the toll. Pansare was building a pressure on government against these toll mafias.
In the similar manner, Dabholkar, an anti-superstition activist, was shot dead in August, 2013, while he was on a morning walk near his house in Pune. The Maharashtra government had announced a reward of Rs. 10 lakh for information on his killers. His murder comes days after the Maharashtra government assured introduction of the Anti Superstition Bill even as Right Wing groups continued to oppose the bill. A staunch fighter for the cause of eradication of inhuman rituals and superstitions, Dabholkar was also in the forefront of the campaign to persuade Maharashtra government to pass an Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Bill.
In 2010, RTI activist Satish Shetty was also killed while he was out on his morning stroll. He was allegedly stabbed by several people. Popularly known as “Satish”, he was a social activist, noted for exposing many land scams in Maharashtra especially in Pune. He had used the Right to Information Act to expose irregularities in Government offices. He was killed on 13 January 2010, by unknown attackers in Talegaon. Shetty had used the RTI Act to expose large scale land scams involving the leading real estate firm IRB Infrastructure and its subsidiary Aryan. In 2009, he filed a complaint that forged documents had been used by these firms to acquire large swathes of land in the Taje and Pimploli villages off the Pune-Mumbai highway. After investigations, 90 sale deeds were cancelled. After this episode, Shetty started getting threat calls. In November 2009, he filed a request with the Pune rural police seeking protection. In the request, he said that he had been receiving threats. In January 2010, Shetty was stabbed by several people while he was at a kiosk reading a paper after his morning walk.
The attack on Pansare is the third in this pattern and I am sure this would also be open and shut case like the other two. Toll Mafias are powerful than Maharashtra Government, Judiciary and law enforcement agencies. All the toll-ways (highways) are not maintained at all. We are suffering jarring journeys. Toll is highly unpopular and anti-people. Only the contractors are benefited. It is the biggest example of Politician-Official-Contractor nexus. It is a wakeup call all the governments that only the middle men stand to benefit. Many leaders across political parties have indirect business interest in Road Construction and Infrastructure through Sub-contracts with Toll Mafia. Only Raj Thackeray and his MNS taught lesson to them and there on tamed down after election results. There was debate and discussion around the country about tolerance and in tolerance but so far no one is caught and government is not willing to probe these murders further and find out who killed them and what was the motive? Until this covert solved, the question will always remain who killed these activists and why?
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