Poipynhun Majaw first RTI activist to be murdered in Meghalaya

first_imgExcommunication from the village or society was the preferred form of punishment for those who used the Right to Information in Meghalaya. Until youth leader Poipynhun Majaw was murder on Tuesday.The police in the State’s East Jaintia Hills district said unknown assailants killed Mr. Majaw by hitting him with a heavy iron object, possibly a wrench, found lying beside his body in Khliehriat, a coal mining hub. They are following a clue – a 125 cc motorcycle found abandoned nearby – to get to his killers.Rights activists in the State said that at least 20 people have been banished from their villages for using the RTI to expose corruption in local governance and utilisation of beneficiary schemes in less than a decade.“Many of those excommunicated are women who dared to go against corrupt local body heads and moved the RTI to find out rations allotted for them were being diverted or ghost workers were awarded MGNREGS (rural job guarantee scheme) work,” Agnes Kharshiing of the Civil Society Women’s Organisation said.On Wednesday, as the police began hunting for the bike owner, some villagers in the adjoining West Jaintia Hills told the authorities they were being hounded by local leaders after getting a reply to their RTI query on the status of MGNREGS in Sankhat, their village.“The RTI reply revealed that area leaders withdrew more money than what the MGNREGS assignment for 11 job card holders of our village could have entailed. We are under tremendous pressure to either take up the matter or leave,” a member of one of 32 households denied work said from Sankhat.Ostracised for using RTI In 2014, the dorbar (governing body) of Umsumbah village in the West Khasi Hills district deprived 11 people of their basic right of seeking information through RTI. The dorbar ‘blacklisted’ them and it needed the intervention of the Block Development Officer to come to a compromise. But the reprieve was temporary, as the ‘dorbar’ allegedly punished the villagers till December last year, cancelling their job cards, denying them access to fair price shops and residential certificates for their children.In 2011, three women – Fatima Mynsong, Acqueline Songthiang and Matilda Suting – were excommunicated by the ‘dorbar’ of Jongsha village, about 30 km from Shillong, after they exercised the RTI to know about utilisation of government funds for the village.The trio, however, fought back and managed to get the village headman, who ordered their exile, removed from his post.In February 2011, a student leader named Bobby Basaiawmoit was asked by the ‘dorbar’ of Mairangbah village to either pay a fine of ₹5,000 for exercising RTI or be banished.“Mr. Majaw’s was the first case of murder of an RTI activist in Meghalaya, where violence was not associated with activism unlike other States such as Assam,” Ms. Kharshiing said.Rights activists believe that Mr. Majaw was killed because of using RTI to expose the unholy nexus between the Jaintia Hills tribal council and cement companies who have been extracting limestone with scant respect for the fragile ecology of the State.“We are yet to find the motive behind Mr. Majaw’s murder, but we hope to get some answers once we find the owner of the bike. The suspected murder weapon has been sent for forensic tests while the autopsy report is expected within a week,” Nazarius Lamare, Superintendent of Police of East Jaintia Hills district, said.last_img

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