The Jawabdehi Yatra, a peaceful caravan of people committed to bringing about transparency and accountability, has been attempting to raise awareness and use methods of community monitoring, including public hearings and the filing of grievances to promote better delivery of public services and entitlements. On 16 January 2016, it was violently attacked by a mob let by the local MLA in Aklera, Jhalawar, Rajasthan. Six prominent citizens — Pamela Philipose, Dr Achin Vanaik, Shailesh Gandhi, Jayati Ghosh, Rajni Bakshi, and TM Krishna — have written to chief minister Vasundhara Raje seeking action against those who attacked the caravan. About 150 activists have endorsed the letter. Text:
We are writing to you enclosing a statement condemning the attack on the “Jawabdehi Yatra” in Aklera, Jhalawar on the 16th of January. This statement also demands the arrest of BJP MLA Kanwarlal Meena who led the mob in this unjustified and unprovoked attack. The impunity enjoyed by Kanwarlal Meena is unacceptable. The fact that he is an MLA of the ruling party makes this even more glaring and alarming.
Mr. Meena has innumerable cases against him and should be classified as a history-sheeter given his record of repeated offences. He is clearly confident that he has the protection of the law enforcement agency and the other powers that be. His remaining at liberty is a threat to the public at large and our democratic structure. It is also an affront to the rule of law. We demand that he be arrested immediately and we hope that the party itself takes appropriate action against him.
The Jawabdehi Yatra is a peaceful caravan of people committed to bringing about transparency and accountability. It attempts to raise awareness and uses methods of community monitoring including public hearings and the filing of grievances to promote better delivery of public services and entitlements. It is an effort that is to be appreciated, supported and strengthened, and those responsible for the attack upon it must face due process and the law.We hope for your support and speedy response.
Statement condemning the attack on the Jawadbehi Yatra in Aklera, Rajasthan
News that the “JawabdehiYatra” was attacked on the evening of January 16 near Aklera police post in Jhalawar, Rajasthan has come as a great shock. This 100 day journey was being undertaken by over seventy social activists under the banner of the Soochana Evam Rozgaar Adhikar Abhiyan (SR Abhiyan)– a network of more than 100 citizens groups in Rajasthan.
We are extremely disturbed by the accounts of brutal assault faced by the participants; activists and volunteers of the MKSS and other citizens groups who were carrying out a state wide campaign focusing on issues of transparency, accountability, and the delivery of social sector entitlements. This attack appears to have been planned and pre meditated, carried out by lumpen goons under the leadership of the BJP MLA Kanwar Lal Meena. Video footage of the attack clearly shows the BJP MLA from Aklera, inciting his compatriots while mercilessly beating activists himself, as they were engaging with the public at a popular market place. Victims include noted theatre and social activist Shankar Singh. Women were also manhandled and beaten, cameras and vehicles were reportedly smashed, and onlookers terrorized. What makes the incident even more condemnable was that it took place in the home District of Rajasthan’s Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia, and the Lok Sabha Constituency of her son, Dushyant Singh.
According to news reports in local dailies, this ongoing 100-day accountability rally, flagged off in early December, has been met with unprecedented enthusiasm at the local level. Street corner meetings held in various districts of Rajasthan have drawn tremendous support for the demand for a comprehensive accountability law, and helped to raise awareness of social sector rights and entitlements. The volunteers with the Yatra have facilitated and expedited the registration of over 6000 grievances of various kinds, from those involving ration cards and old age pensions to caste atrocities and violence against women. We find it reprehensible in a democratic order that political leaders should seek to unleash violence in order to intimidate and silence such efforts, instead of addressing the genuine concerns being raised.
Urgent, and firm action is needed from the Rajasthan State government. Thus far 11 people have been arrested in connection with this attack. However, BJP MLA Kanwar Lal Meena is still at large. We demand…
• That those guilty of the attacks and the leaders behind them be brought to justice promptly.
• That proper compensation be paid for the medical treatment of those who were assaulted, and for the mental and physical trauma they have suffered. The damage done to their vehicles and infrastructure should be evaluated and recompensed.
• That the Rajasthan state government publicly condemn the incident, institute a proper inquiry into it and ensure that elected representatives involved in the attack be disciplined in an exemplary manner.