Rajasthan: Activist Nikhil Dey, 4 others sentenced to 4 months in jail in 1998 case
The court of Kishangarh Additional District Judge suspended Dey, Nauroti Bai, Ram Karan, Babulal and Chotu Lal’s sentence pending an appeal
A court in Rajasthan on Tuesday sentenced social activist Nikhil Dey and four others to four-month imprisonment after convicting them of “trespass” and “causing hurt”. The court of Kishangarh Additional District Judge suspended Dey, Nauroti Bai, Ram Karan, Babulal and Chotu Lal’s sentence pending an appeal.
The five have alleged that Harmara sarpanch Pyarelal Tank and his family had assaulted and abused them when they had gone to meet him to get some information on May 6, 1998. The sarpanch’s family has insisted that the activists allegedly assaulted them.
“We were punched and kicked around by Pyarelal and his family. His brother, Om Prakash, had filed the FIR (first information report) and claimed that Pyarelal was not there even though he was very much there,” Dey, who has championed the Right to Information among other causes along with Aruna Roy, told The Indian Express. “We have never lifted a finger and if this can happen to us then it also speaks about other cases. The process itself is a punishment.”
Nauroti filed an FIR against the sarpanch and his family for allegedly assaulting them two days after the incident. Pyarelal followed suit.Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), which is associated with the activists, alleged that the sarpanch produced one false witness after another since 2001. “MKSS is shocked and dismayed to receive the judgment.”
WHO IS NIKHIL DEY?
Nikhil Dey, 54, is a social activist mostly known for his campaigns to promote RTI (Right to Information Act).
Dey, along with activists Aruna Roy, Shankar Singh, etc., founded the Mazdoor Kishan Shakti Sangthan (MKSS) in 1987, an organisation that works for minimum wages for workers.
The MKSS also struggled for the legislation of the RTI act so that workers hired for public services by the government are no longer denied the information regarding their wages.
Dey is the co-convener of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information (NCPRI).
Apart from RTI campaigns, Dey is also known to have campaigned for the Right to Work, the Right to Food and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, among others.
Dey, who works closely with peasants, spoke out after the Rajasthan government decided to make Aadhaar mandatory for subsidised foodgrain supply through the public distribution system (PDS) last year.
“If you see what is happening in ration (PDS) shops in Rajasthan, the POS machines that are meant to identify the people are a complete disaster (sic). Not even 50 per cent of the people are able to validate themselves through these machines,” Dey said.
Dey appeared on Aamir Khan’s show Satyamev Jayate to speak about the RTI Act along with fellow activists Shankar Singh, Somia Kidambvi, and Aruna Roy.
THE 1998 ‘ASSAULT’ CASE
A statement made by the MKSS claims that Dey and fellow activists — Nauroti Bai, Ram Karan, Babulal and Chotu Lal — had visited sarpanch Pyarelal Tank’s home in Harmara, Rajasthan, on May 6, 1998, to get some information regarding the complaints of corruption in the area.
The statement says: “On May 6, 1998, the activists went to ask for information from the sarpanch of Harmara, carrying with them a letter from the BDO (block development officer). Since his office was usually closed during working hours, the activists went to his house to deliver the letter from the BDO. It is then that the sarpanch came out of his house and physically assaulted the activists present.”
Fighting corruption with #RTI leads to conviction of @nikhilmkss Naurti RamKaran Chotulal &Babulal in a false case that is 20 years old pic.twitter.com/jg4hyuxZ4P- MKSS (@mkssindia) June 13, 2017
After the incident, however, the MKSS notes that they did not issue an FIR against the sarpanch or his family.
Two days later, on May 8, Sarpanch Tank filed an FIR against the activists, accusing them of having assaulted him and his family.
According to the MKSS, Tank’s case was closed in June that year, but revived in July 2001 and supported by “producing false witness, after false witness”.
The MKSS also claims that in their FIR, Tank’s brother, Om Prakash, lied about him not being present during the meeting on May 6, 1998.
Speaking about the conviction, the MKSS said that it is “an utterly false case filed by a corrupt, powerful sarpanch who misused his influence and power and who had himself physically assaulted them for demanding information in a case where the activists were fighting for the rights of the poor through means that were completely within the ambit of the law.”
The sentence has been suspended for now, pending an appeal from the four activists, said the MKSS.
In their statement, the MKSS has promised to “bring out the whole truth of this case”.