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Shehla Masood murder: Needle of suspicion points towards IPS officer

Thursday August 18, 2011 08:11:51 AM, Pervez Bari,

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Anti-corruption activist shot dead in Madhya Pradesh

An anti-corruption crusader and Right to Information activist, Shehla Masood, was Tuesday shot dead outside her residence here, police said. Masood was in her car in Koh-e-Fiza area when she was shot in the  »

Bhopal: The broad day-light murder of Right To Information, (RTI), activist Ms Shehla Masood here in Bhopal in front of her residence on Tuesday morning continues to be a mystery as no clue have been found. And as such no arrests have been made so far. The Madhya Pradesh police is groping in the dark.


However, a private TV channel on Wednesday claimed to lay hands on some proofs about the gruesome murder. According to the TV channel it has found a letter purported to have been written by an IPS officer to Ms Shehla wherein he has reportedly threatened her of dire consequences.


A team from forensic science laboratory Sagar visited the scene of the crime on Wednesday. Since, there is no concrete clue in the case till date; the police are relying much on the forensic investigation to find out exact cause of the incident.


A team of forensic experts led by Director FSL Sagar OP Shrivastava reached the place on Wednesday morning and reconstructed the crime scene to find out what had been the sequence of acts before murder. 


The silver Santro car of Ms Shehla, in which she was shot, was also brought to the crime scene from Koh-e-Fiza police station. A lady police constable was on the driver’s seat and the whole action was reconstructed as how the bullet shot could have hit Ms Shehla Masood.


The team took photographs, shot a video for detailed investigation of the matter, and will submit a report in a couple of days. 


According to Shrivastava his team would submit a report to the IG about the scientific process of the murder in the next few days.


“The bullet was shot within 6 inches and a 315 bore bullet was found stuck in her shoulder. There are many possibilities and everything will be examined,” he added. 


Meanwhile, the family members of Ms Shehla Masood have accused the police of floating a suicide theory. Ms Shehla's cousin Umar Sharif said the family was not satisfied with the pace of investigation and sought a CBI inquiry into the murder.


Her father Mr. Masood Sultan has revealed that his daughter had told him about a threat call from a Delhi number a couple of days before the incident. Earlier, on Tuesday, Shehla's cousin Umar Sharif had also stated that she (Shehla) had received a threat call from a Delhi based number on Monday night, a day before she was murdered. 


Giving a queer turn to the murder mystery the police has started to float the theory of suicide to serve the vested interests wherein the needle of suspicion could be directed towards one of the senior member of their fraternity. Some police officers had suggested the injury resulting in Ms Shehla's death might have been 'self-inflicted'. Toeing the line the Medico-Legal Institute director D.S. Badkur has reportedly made a similar observation.


The suicide theory gets nipped in the bud as no weapon was found on the scene of crime. Infuriated 72-year-old Mr. Masood Sultan, Ms Shehla’s father, feared the police is trying to twist the case.


Brushing aside the suicide theory Mr. Sultan said: “It is very clear that the murder was well-planned with intention to kill. She was in possession of some information received under RTI Act, which was probably causing hurdle in someone's work and giving sleepless nights to him". 


Crest-fallen Mr. Sultan questioned that if it is a case of suicide, where is the gun. "There was no trace of gunpowder on her hands either", he said.


Meanwhile, commenting over possibilities of suicide, which has been suspected by some police officials, Director FSL Sagar OP Shrivastava said that after examining the Gun Shot Residue (GSR) in the forensic laboratory the team could confirm whether it was homicide or suicide.


“In a suicide, the GSR is found on the hands of the victim and if something like that will be found then we can claim as suicide but it will take time and in the meantime police investigation is on,” Shrivastava explained.


It may be noted here that in January 2010 Ms Shehla had told the authorities that she “feared for her life” from a senior officer of the Indian Police Service and had complained about the matter to two successive police chiefs of the State. She had written to the current Madhya Pradesh Director-General of Police S.K. Raut, complaining against a particular officer.  In the letter, Ms. Shehla had accused him of harassing her and making threatening calls to her, about which she had lodged a complaint at the city's Maharana Pratap Nagar Police Station in 2008.


It may be stated here that Ms Shehla had filed a complaint with the Lokayukta (Vigilance Commissioner) against the malpractices of this senior police officer where the inquiry against him is pending. “I fear for my life from [him]. Please do the needful and oblige,” she had urged the DGP.


Meanwhile, the police in Bhopal has set up five investigating teams to probe into Ms Shehla’s murder from different angles.


Volunteers under the banner of MP Against Corruption gathered at Boat Club here on Wednesday and paid homage to the departed soul. The volunteers led by old friend and colleague of Ms Shehla, Ajay Dubey severely criticized the 'murder' and demanded a CBI probe to bring the perpetrators of the RTI activist's death to book.


While condemning the murder of Ms Shehla’s murder, Mr. Ajay Singh, the leader of the main Congress Opposition in Madhya Pradesh Vidhan Sabha, has demanded a CBI inquiry into it. He said that the day-light murder in the state capital has proved that law and order situation in Madhya Pradesh has collapsed.


Writing a letter to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Singh pointed out that Ms Shehla Masood was working as a RTI activist since a long time. Due to this many officers in the police administration and politicians were coming under her purview for their many a malpractices and deeds of corruption. In such a situation any probe by state agencies cannot be impartial and as such the whole gamut of investigations into the case must be handed over to CBI forthwith.


Mr. Singh recalled that last year Ms Shehla in a letter to the state Chief Minister and Home Minister along with high officers of the state and the police administration had named a senior police officer from whom she apprehended threat to life. However, despite this no security was provided to her and no action was taken against the named police officer goes to show that influential persons are involved.


He expressed apprehension that police is trying to downplay the crime and hush up the case. This is evident from the fact that despite the crime appears to be that of murder but police has started to float the theory of suicide even though no weapon has been on the scene of crime. Only a CBI inquiry will unravel truth and give justice to Ms Shehla’s family. 


Meanwhile, All India Democratic Women’s Association, (AIDWA), while condemning the heinous murder of social activist Ms Shehla Masood by unknown assailants, has demanded that pre-emptive measures to prevent such mafia style murders should be undertaken at the state and the national level. Checking rampant corruption should be one such priority agenda for action.


AIDWA in a statement said that the killing is a shocking indictment of the ruling BJP Government in Madhya Pradesh, and its police force which failed to take action despite repeated complaints from Shehla that she faced a threat to her life from a senior police officer. 


The statement stated that the incident underscores the vulnerability of social activists like Ms Shehla in a scenario where the nexus between corporate greed, corrupt power brokers including politicians, and mafia forces is on the rise.  Ms Shehla’s brave campaign to expose corruption in high places, her persistent crusade against poachers, illegal timber and mining mafia, had earned her many enemies. It is deeply regrettable that the state Government could not protect the life of such a committed and sincere individual.


AIDWA urged a proper enquiry into the murder, and exemplary punishment to all those guilty of this crime. The police officers who ignored her complaints must also be held accountable for their negligence.


Meanwhile, in a letter written to the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh has expressed shock at Shehla Masood's death. "She was young and enthusiastic and I am very sad that she met an untimely end in such a brutal manner."


Commenting on the slain activist's correspondence with him over several issues of environment and tiger conservation, the former Environment Minister said: "She brought to my notice issues relating to Panna and Bandhavgarh and I recall having spoken to Rajesh Gopal, member secretary NTCA and HS Pabla, MP Chief Wildlife Warden about her complaints." 


"I sincerely hope that the State Government will bring the killer or killers to book soon. This is the least we owe to the memory of a committed activist," said the former Minister of State for MoEF. 


Ms Shehla was also an active tiger conservationist and environmental crusader, constantly digging up information on the poaching mafia, illegal diamond mining mafia, timber mafia and the hospitality industry, which she said was violating environmental laws.





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