Prashant Pandey: Modi’s Gujarat has no space for RTI activists

Amit Jethwa (1975 – 20 July 2010) was an Indian environmentalist and social worker, active in the Gir Forest area near Junagadh, Gujarat. He had filed several court cases against illegal mining in the protected area, naming Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of parliament, Dinu Solanki as one of the respondents”.

BJP parliamentarian arrested for RTI activist's murder

Dinu Solanki, sitting BJP MP of Junagadh, and a close associate of Amit Shah (Modi’s most trusted), was arrested by the CBI for the murder of Amit Jethwa, an RTI activist, seeking to expose his illegal mining activities. While one would surely worry about such an incident, one wouldn’t attach too much importance to it if it were just a single, isolated incident. A small Google search however reveals that Gujarat occupies one of the top slots in the list of states where RTI activists have been killed in recent years.

Gujarat is a laggard in the implementation of the RTI Act. Let’s accept it. The RTI Act is a pain point for politicians. The UPA government – which enacted it incidentally – has “suffered” as activists have unearthed documents and scams using it. It is these revelations that the BJP has used to pan the Congress nationally. However, thanks to the communication deficiency of the Congress, the BJP has gotten away scot free for its own mindblowing record of attacks on RTI activists.

Wikipedia ( gives a full listing of RTI activists harassed, assaulted and killed in recent years. A quick scan of those “killed” reveals that 5 out of some 23 odd killed in recent years (22%) were from Gujarat. Isn’t that rather surprising considering just how peaceful Gujarat is supposed to be? An equally high 10 out of some 51 cases – nearly 20 – of “assault” cases are also from Gujarat, a state that accounts for barely 5% of India’s population. In contrast, the known “danger” pockets – UP, Bihar, Jharkhand – account for barely a handful of assaults and killings.

There is also this other minor detail that must be brought up. That Gujarat has for long had a huge deficit in RTI Commissioners. Even today, as per the CIC website (, Gujarat has just 2 CICs as compared to 8 and 9 in Maharashtra and TN respectively and more than 5 in most other big states. Narendra Modi’s mantra has been simple – what is all this RTI rubbish? If it hadn’t been for a constitutitonal necessity to follow the laws of the land, Modi would have done away with the RTI totally! It’s the same with the Lok Ayukta, another painful body that tends to stop a government in its tracks. Why have a Lok Ayukta at all? Gujarat hasn’t had one since 2003! These are key elements in the Gujarat model that Modi is promising us all.

What was Amit Jethwa’s crime? Wikipedia ( writes this about him 
Amit Jethwa (1975 – 20 July 2010) was an Indian environmentalist and social worker, active in the Gir Forest area near Junagadh, Gujarat. He had filed several court cases against illegal mining in the protected area, naming Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of parliament, Dinu Solanki as one of the respondents”. 

Well, Jethwa had become a pain for Modi’s government 

In 2010, Jethwa had filed a PIL petition questioning the state government's "inaction" over the appointment of a Lokayukta. The high court directed the government to appoint a Lokayukta. Jethwa had spearheaded the campaign against rising case pendency in the Gujarat Information Commission (GIC) due to lack of commissioners. It was on his petition that the HC directed the state government to complete the appointments within a stipulated time”. 

Something had to be done…..

Specific to the case that got him killed
Since 2008, Jethwa had filed six requests under the Right to Information Act, probing the activities of an illegal mining lobby operating in the protected forest area just outside the Gir Forest National Park. At the time, Jethwa was badly beaten up by goons, allegedly from Solanki's party.In mid-2010, he filed a Public interest litigation in the Gujarat High Court, citing evidence found, and naming local BJP politician Dinu Solanki and several relatives, for involvement in the illegal mining in the Gir Forest”.

FurtherJethwa's family has alleged that he was under constant threat from Dinu Solanki for interfering with the powerful and illegal mining lobby in Saurashtra. At one point Solanki threatened him in front of a large gathering at a meeting in Kodinar, the area Solanki hails from. Jethwa had recently filed an affidavit at the Kodinar police station seeking protection and stating that he would be killed by Solanki. His father recently received a threatening phone call from Dinu Solanki”.

And as is increasingly common in Gujarat – a  lack of credibility of the government’s law and order machinery – “A number of civil bodies and NGOs held a vigil in Ahmedabad on 21 July, seeking an independent investigation”. Well, none of that proved effective in saving Jethwa’s life. Gujarat’s BJP leaders – which includes the likes of Maya Kodnani and scores others accused and held guilty of the riots in 2002 – have a free reign in this state of Mahatma Gandhi. Would Sardar Patel have tolerated this? Is Narendra Modi really the “Chhote sardar” that he likes to have himself called? Crap….

The real truth is that Gujarat used to be a peaceful state. But in the last decade or so, it has morphed, becoming dangerous for anyone who dares to bring out the evil shenanigans of the state government. 2002 may have represented the worst of this…..but there are many other smaller parts to the story. Whether it is Haren Pandya, or Sohrabuddin or Tulsiram Prajapati…..or Amit Jethwa, they learnt of this too late. 

This is not Vibrant Gujarat….this is Killer Gujarat.

See also:
A Hard Rain Falling - private armies & political violence in India-EPW

The law of killing: a brief history of Indian fascism

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