On the 20th of this month, 33 year old Amit Jethwa, a prominent environmentalist and Right to Information (RTI) activist was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen opposite the Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad. His murder comes just a few days after he had filed a public interest litigation in the Gujarat High Court naming Bharatiya Janata Party member of parliament, Dinu Solanki as one of the parties involved in illegal mining activities in the protected Gir Forest (home to the last of the Asiatic Lions) areas in Junagadh, Gujarat.
In a country where till date there have been eight murders and 20 serious attacks on RTI activists in the last one year, Jethwa's killing once more drove home the dangers of standing up against the powerful corrupt.
Netizens have reacted with shock at this incident. There have been public statements posted condemning the killing in strong terms. Twitter abounded with tweets expressing the sentiments of netizens, some of which have been captured below:
bittusahgal: My friend Amit Jethwa, whose life was dedicated to protecting Gujarat's wildernesses was shot dead 20 minutes ago. The world has gone mad.
s_chowdhury: I mourn the death of Amit Jethwa, shot dead in front of the Guj HC. A lone fighter who took on mining mafia n tried to save the Gir lions
drrbalu : Another RTI Activist Amit Jethwa has been killed. Politicians and corrupt leaders have found a way to permanently silence RTI activists
KanishkaNarayan: Shocked and scared by Amit Jethwa‘s murder for filing PIL against illegal mining
Vinaymenon01: Very sad on the killing of one more rti activist. great gift the pm has given us. To see all the wrong and get killed trying to get it right
protectwildlife: Shocking ; Amit Jethwa fellow conservationist/activist member nathistory India shot dead. He was president Gir Youth Nature club
_bharath_k : Another RTI activist gets killed. The message -“Demanding accountability from bureaucrats and politicians! We know where you live.”
nutanthakurlko: We shall do whatever possible to get justice done in the murder case of Sri Amit Jethwa, the RTI activist and our associate in Gujarat.
TusharG: Satyendra Dube, Manjunath Shanmugham, Yogendra Pande, Satish Shetty, Navleen Kumar, Amit Jethwa……. Martyrs of modern India.
Madhusudan Katti wrote on his Reconciliation Ecology blog:
Bloody sad news from the conservation battle front in Gujarat, India: Amit Jethwa, a young wildlife activist whom I knew only through his occasional postings on Nathistory-India was shot dead right in front of the Gujarat High Court in Ahmedabad! He was there to take on the mining mafia threatening the last natural home of the Asiatic Lion at Gir National Park, which Amit had dedicated his young life to – now literally so! Wildlife conservation remains a dangerous business in India (as indeed elsewhere) – perhaps more so now than ever, and my (academic conservationist's) hats off to people like Amit who take on these real battles in the trenches despite the risks
Citizen Journalist Subhash Chandra, in an article in Merinews, wrote the following:
Immediate concrete steps are needed at the highest level to prevent such happenings and to ensure that law and order authorities protect people like him, who are fighting the rich and the mighty…It is an irony that criminals and corrupt ones enter our political system and get security, while whistle-blowers get threat to life from such notorious politicians or those patronised by such politicians.
As activists join ranks on the ground to push for justice for their slain colleagues, an online petition has been launched, addressed to the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers of all the Indian State, drawing their attention to the dangers of RTI activism in the country. The petition points out:
The state, by passing the RTI Act, is allowing citizens to use information as a weapon. But it is falling short in bringing the real culprits to book or giving protection to the whistleblowers , undermining its own commitment to truth i.e. the government’s commitment on the protection of whistleblowers .
Hope the powers that be are listening and that we the citizens too are ready to give active support to these ‘lone warriors’ – for as this tweet rightly points out
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