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'Why was Team Anna silent on RTI activist's murder?'

Sunday September 11, 2011 12:11:36 PM, Shahnawaz Akhtar, IANS

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Bhopal: The family of RTI activist and India Against Corruption's Madhya Pradesh chapter head Shehla Masood, who was killed here last month, feels the probe into the case would have acquired more urgency had Anna Hazare and his associates "raised the issue the way they should have".

"I cannot say why after saying a few lines initially, no member of Team Anna raised the issue the way they should have. Now, we are only two people left in the family. If they had come forward and raised the issue, it would have been a different story altogether," Shehla's 72-year-old father Sultan Masood told IANS.

Shehla was shot in the neck while she was starting her car outside her home on the morning of Aug 16, sending shockwaves across the state and beyond. It was on the same day that Hazare began his fast against corruption.

Initially being probed by the Madhya Pradesh police, the case was handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Sep 5.

What made the case even more murky was that several high profile names cropped up during the probe, including those of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Tarun Vijay and Anil Dave and Bhopal legislator Dhruv Narayan Singh, apart from senior police officers and even the mining mafia.

Activists claimed that Shehla was targeted as she was not only a green crusader but had also filed several Right to Information (RTI) applications in different departments of the Madhya Pradesh government.

Speaking to IANS, Shehla's younger sister Ayesha Masood said the support of Team Anna members Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal, former Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers respectively, could have added momentum to the case.

At least Bedi, being a woman, should have realised the perils of being a young woman activist, Ayesha said.

Ayesha, an MBA living in the US, added: "We strongly believe that Shehla's murder is linked to Madhya Pradesh-centric issues, but still, being part of India Against Corruption, the support of Team Anna members would have played a significant role in getting justice."

Both father and daughter vehemently criticised the Madhya Pradesh police for their attitude.

"How can police say we did not cooperate with them? Not only us, even our relatives provided all the information and documents to police," Sultan said.

"Whenever and whatever they wanted, we gave. It is a very painful statement when they say that a family whose young daughter was killed did not cooperate with them," he rued.

Ayesha added: "After only a few hours of investigation, CBI found her pendant and files from the car, which the police kept with them for 20 days but could not get anything significant. They kept the mobile phone and made calls from it. They tampered with the vital evidences of the murder."

She said police first termed the case a suicide, then a property dispute, and finally attempted to malign Shehla's personal life.

Ayesha, who has been living in the US for the last 12 years, compared the police investigations of the two countries.

"The approach of American police is very professional. Even there, we have lobbies of every kind, but they do not get influenced by the high and mighty. Both the father and daughter however expressed confidence in the CBI.

Since the murder took place, a few policemen have been deployed outside their house, but Ayesha is still uneasy.

"So far, we have not got any direct threat from anybody, but as we are pursuing the case strongly, a few neighbours have suggested that we keep silent, as it will not be a difficult task for Shehla's killers to eliminate the last two members of this family as well," Ayesha said.

(Shahnawaz Akhtar can be contacted at





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