B2 (1997-2011)

B2 (1997-2011)

Friday, 19 August 2011

In Memoriam : Shehla Masood – The dauntless tigress silenced

Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Shehla wrote in a blog post.

RTI crusader, wildlife conservationist, trekker, social causes leader, president Progressive Muslim Women’s Association, a born rebel, arguing with policy makers, foodie… This is how the slain activist and social worker Shehla Masood described herself in her twitter account.

She was just 38 years of age.  A fierce wildlife activist who dared to expose those who were mercilessly plundering our rivers, forests, killing tigers and destroying environment and eco-system. She was raising concerns about the nexus between the mining mafia and the ruling political regime. She feared for her life and had written to DGP Madhya Pradesh  { LINK } . The question is why Bhopal police ignores the well-defined threats?

On Tuesday 16th August she was gunned down right in front of her home by unidentified assailants. It clearly seems that taking advantage of the general chaos and the fact that the entire nation was gripped and being swallowed by the (anna)conda movement the mafia empire engineered her cold-blooded killing. Shehla Masood joins the unfortunate ranks of Satyendra Dubey, Shanmughan Manjunath, Shashidhar Mishra & 100s of others who got death by RTI.

She was a fearless Right To Information activist, a committed wildlife conservationist. She was seeking action against those responsible for the  brutal killing of  Jhurjhura tigress . The tigress,  a mother of three was brutally hit five to six times before she succumbs to fatal injuries. She was left to the mercy of God, with her three cubs destitute and failing to understand why their mother was seething in pain. The forest watched quiescent. Nothing was done to nab the accused as it happens in all wildlife crimes.

Shehla was fighting a legal battle to bring justice to the slain tigress. She dared to raise her voice against the rampant poaching of tigers  and the mining mafia which works hand in glove with the govt and the officials. Shehla challenged the issue of illegal Diamond mining project in Chhattarpur district, Madhya Pradesh by Rio Tinto and paid with her life like many other environmentalists and wild life conservationists who show dauntless courage to stand up against the all-powerful mafiosi. Fact sheet on Rio Tinto’s Illegal Diamond Mining in MP  (from an email attachment)

Just  as the accused are never convicted for wildlife crimes the accused for killing the wildlife activists are never punished.  Take the case of Swami Nighamanand , the crusader for river Ganges , the  nation has already forgotten his sacrifice.

Shehla’s father is not sure if the assailants of her courageous daughter will ever be nabbed as the police authorities have already started the cover up process by floating an utterly unbelievable crappy story about the suicide angle in Shehla death case. { Link } [LINK } .

Apart from those who love and support her cause No one, absolutely no one has come up to become the  torch bearer to get justice for Shehla Masood who herself was  a staunch Anna Hazare supporter. His concern is logical. Where are the anti corruption fasters, the anna brigade ? Has anyone given a single thought to the Slain RTI activist ? The nation is engulfed in mass hysteria over AH circus while citizens get murdered in broad day light and assailants sit comfy under the protection of politicians and corrupt officials .. Is anyone going on a hunger strike for these brave hearts ? The state of Madhya Pradesh for whose forests , rivers and wild life Shehla gave her life was shut down for anna andolan but did not mourn or condemn the killing of  Shehla.

If you be the change you want to see you are murdered. Shehla Masood dared to speak out and was gunned down right in front of her home. She was an eyesore for some bureaucrats, politicians, and industrialist of the State, as she had become very powerful as whistleblower. She had filed RTI queries against 19 IAS (Indian Administrative Service), 13 IFS (Indian Forest Service) and seven IPS (Indian Police Service), sources revealed. Some of mining mafias of the State also had grudges against her since she was working against them for longer time.

Social activist Ajay Dubey demanded probe by Central Bureau of Investigation, (CBI), India’s premier investigating agency, into the murder of Ms Shehla. He expressed doubt that since she had raised questions regarding several tiger deaths across the state forest officials who were involved in the racket may have got her killed. Mufti Arsh Shariff, a cousin of Ms Shehla Masood, revealed that she had got a threatening call from a Delhi number on Monday night. Speculations are on and while the police and higher authorities try to hush the matter those who stand for her will never  let her roar die. It will echo and haunt  every vigilant citizen of India.

My blood boils when I see how much is at stake for those who are fighting to keep our flora and fauna, rivers and mountains to breathe free and survive the human onslaught.  I wonder if those who are supporting AH (I hate to call it a movement) brigade really know what exactly they are crying hoarse for. Wildlife Conservation is not even remotely in the minds of people and that is the reason life of those who work for it has lost its value. Don’t know how many more it will take to awaken the masses, govt. we can forget about.

Right To Information has claimed ten more lives in the year 2010

1. Amit Jethwa – Gujarat – Shot to death – Enquiries about illegal mining that were a danger to the Gir reserve – July 20, 2010
2. Dattatreya Patil (farmer) – Kohlapur, Maharashtra – Beaten up and slashed with swords – Filed RTI against horse trading in Kohlapur Municipal Election – May 31, 2010
3. Vitthal Gite – Beed, Maharashtra – Killed by under the member’s scanner. – Exposed irregularities in a school in his village – April 21, 2010
4. Arun Sawant - Badlapur, Maharashtra – Shot dead Feb 26, 2010
5. Satish Shetty – Pune – Assaulted by assailants Exposed major land scams, near Mumbai-Pune expressway – Jan 13 2010
6. Vishram Laxman Dodiya - Ahmadabad – Shot dead – Sought info on illegal electricity connections in the city – Feb 11 2010
7. Shashidhar Mishra (street vendor) – Begusarai, Bihar – Shot dead – Filed more than a 1000 petitions before his murder – Feb 14 2010
8. Ramdas Ghadegaokar – Nanded, Maharashtra – Stoned to death – Took on the sand mafia – August 2010
9. Sola Ranga Rao – Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh – Found murdered – Filed a petition on funding of the village draining system – April 11 2010
10. Irfan Yusuf Qazi – Jaitapur,Mahrashtra – Killed when his scooter was hit by a police jeep –  Protested against nuclear power plant in Jaitapur – December 18, 2010

This post is not just about Shehla Masood it is also a tribute to all those brave hearts who stood against the system, for whom  RTI became a death warrant . Who is safe in this country? Not the common people certainly and those who raise their voices against unjust their days are numbered.

Isn’t it Ironic that  Tigers, wildlife crusaders and RTI activists are being hunted and killed mercilessly.. they are the endangered species.

We want justice for Shehla Masood . We want the killers nabbed and convicted. 

My earlier post on bloggers for tigers  

The spark that she left in everyone’s heart will become a flame,  her roar will not be silenced. 
Girte hain Sheh-Sawar hi Maidan-e-Jung me
Woh Tifl kya gire jo ghutno ke bal chale

Shehla Masood murder: MP govt orders CBI probe

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

No leads yet in Wildlife & Tiger activist Masood murder

Prominent wildlife & tiger activist Shehla Masood shot dead in Bhopal

A prominent Right to Information activist and supporter of social activist Anna Hazare's anti-corruption campaign was shot dead outside her residence in Bhopal on Tuesday morning.

Shehla Masood was shot dead by an unidentified assailant outside her house in the city's posh Koh-e-Fiza locality as she was on her way to an anti-corruption campaign being organised by her and other activists in support of Mr. Anna Hazare at the Bhopal Boat Club.

“We have registered it as a case of unnatural death. Anything more can be said only after the postmortem report,” Bhopal Senior Superintendent of Police Adarsh Katiyar told The Hindu.

Bhopal, not used to the professionally executed metro-style shootout, was stunned at the activist's death. “I am shocked. We had planned a proactive campaign where people would have been asked to write, on a 200-foot-wide banner, about the most corrupt government departments and officers in Madhya Pradesh,” Ajay Dube, RTI activist and long-time associate of Ms. Masood told The Hindu.

Ms. Masood, who also ran an event management company, had managed to constantly annoy the powers that be with her incisive RTI queries and public campaigns, mostly against corruption and for wildlife conservation. She was also a freelance journalist, contributing regularly to news website rediff.com on issues related to the environment and tiger conservation.

Last year, Ms. Masood had told the authorities 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.

Ms. Masood had written to the current Madhya Pradesh Director-General of Police S.K. Raut, complaining against a particular officer.

In the letter, Ms. Masood 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.

I fear for my life from [him]. Please do the needful and oblige,” she had urged the DGP.

The officer concerned, whose name The Hindu is withholding, did not answer calls or reply to text messages seeking his clarification on the matter. However, Bhopal IG Shailendra Shrivastava told The Hindu: “Yes, there was a complaint against the said officer. We sent Ms. Masood several notices offering probes at the thana level, additional SP level and DIG level, all of which she refused. Finally, I requested her to give me her statement. But she said she had filed a case against the said officer in Lokayukta and that she would give me a statement only once the Lokayukta probe was over.”

Like other RTI activists across India who have paid the ultimate price for making persistent and uncomfortable queries, Ms. Masood's efforts may well have put her in harm's way.

She was planning to file a Public Interest Litigation petition against a private college based on recent media reports. “It is a very powerful group of people, including local political leaders, that I will be up against once I file this PIL. I know who they are but I can't speak out much as I am still collecting information,” Ms. Masood had confessed, speaking to this correspondent last week.

Ms. Masood 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.


RTI lady killed, stink of tiger mafia
Bhopal, Aug. 16: A right to information campaigner who had raised questions on several tiger deaths across Madhya Pradesh was shot dead as she got into her car moments after stepping out of home this morning.
Shahla Masood, known to be working on alleged malpractice in the state’s wildlife conservation, tourism and other departments, had before leaving home updated her Facebook account, urging people to support Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption.

Police said the 35-year-old was shot by an unidentified assailant as she sat in her Santro in the Koh-e-Fiza locality of the Madhya Pradesh capital.
“Shahla Masood was shot dead around 11am when she was sitting in her car,” senior superintendent of police Adarsh Katiyar said.

The SSP said a massive hunt had been launched to nab the assailant though the motive behind the murder wasn’t clear yet.

Ajay Dubey, a close associate of the slain RTI campaigner, said Shahla had “raised questions regarding several tiger deaths” across the state. “People involved in the racket may be responsible,” he added.
A former model, event manager and later a full-time RTI activist, Shahla was feared by many politicians and bureaucrats.

Dubey demanded a CBI probe into the murder. “We have no faith in the state government, so the matter should be investigated by the CBI.”

The killing of Shahla has again raised questions on the ability of governments to protect whistleblowers or rights activists.

In April this year, Niyamat Ansari, an RTI activist from Latehar, Jharkhand, was killed for exposing embezzlement of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act funds. 

“The fact that a lady can be murdered like this in broad daylight outside her own house shows that there is no security worth its name in Bhopal,” leader of Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly Ajay Singh told PTI.

State police chief S.K. Raut visited Shahla’s residence, where a police force was deployed.

“I am sure…we will solve the murder soon,” PTI quoted IG Shailendra Shrivastava as saying.
Shahla’s body has been sent for post-mortem. Police have seized the car and locked her room.
Sources said the Bhopal-based activist had stayed up the whole of last night and watched the dramatic scenes of Hazare’s arrest this morning.

They said before leaving home, Shahla had updated her Facebook account, urging people to support Hazare’s movement.

Her last status update on Facebook read “Gandhi: ‘the purpose of civil resistance is provocation.’ Anna has succeeded in provoking the government and the opposition. Hope he wins us freedom from corruption. Meet at 2pm Boat Club Bhopal.”

A PTI report said Shahla’s aunt Rubab Zaidi came down to see why her niece hadn’t driven off even 15 minutes after stepping out of home. When she reached the car, Zaidi saw Shahla slumped inside. She then called Shahla’s father.

The activist was single and her only sister lives in America.


Jairam Ramesh expresses shock at RTI activist’s murder

While civil society groups in Madhya Pradesh preferred to remain silent over RTI activist Shehla Masood’s mysterious death, Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh wrote to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan expressing shock at the activist’s murder.

I was shocked to read of the shooting of Ms. Shehla Masood...She was young and enthusiastic and I am very sad that she met an untimely end in such a brutal manner,” Mr. Ramesh wrote in his letter.

Recalling 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 Dr. Rajesh Gopal, member secretary NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority) and Dr. H.S. Pabla, Chief Wildlife Warden, Madhya Pradesh 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,” Mr. Ramesh concluded.

Meanwhile, some local media reports reported the death as being a possible suicide. Also, the State government effected a major reshuffle in the police department right after Ms. Masood’s death, transferring senior police officers overnight.

“We don't know whether it was murder or suicide. In fact, we can't say anything as investigations are still going on,” newly appointed Senior Superintendent of Police (Bhopal) Yogesh Chaudhary told The Hindu.

The opposition Congress party, along with Ms. Masood’s family, has demanded a CBI probe.


Tigers can ‘burn bright’ in Bandipur forest now

The proverbial tiger of William Blake can now ‘burn bright in the forest of the night.’ A special tiger protection force has begun operations for the protection of endangered tigers in Bandipur National Park (BNP).

A rare sight of a tiger caught on camera in the Bandipur National Park. DH PhotoThe BNP encompasses Madumalai, Satyamangala and Nagarahole. There have been increasing incidents of poaching in the park bordering Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Due to ill-equipped staff, the protection of the tiger and other wild animals took a back seat.

In accordance with the guidelines the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), a dedicated Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) was sanctioned to tackle the wildlife crime related to the big cats. The State Government and the Forest Department appointed the staff necessary for STPF. Training was imparted to the Force at the Police Training Institute in Bangalore.

The STPF comprises 90 guards, 18 foresters, three range forest officers and is headed by an Assistant Conservator of Forests. Among the trained personnel a team of 47 has begun functioning in Bandipur becoming the first such team in South India. It has also been decided to use the same team for the protection of tigers in Nagarhole National Park. The 47-member team has been divided into three squads and assigned to Melukamanahalli, Titimati and Bandipur of H D Kote forest ranges. The force works round-the-clock in the protection of wildlife.

In Gundlupet, some persons from Kerala have taken land on lease for the cultivation of ginger. There is an allegation that some among them have taken to poaching.  Wild animals also get electrocuted due to illegal electrification of fences.

Some poachers who are booked for killing wild animals get bail from the court and then continue poaching. The Special Tiger Protection Force will keep an eye on all these illegal activities.

The STPF has given strength to the efforts in protecting the tiger. Very soon a second team of the Force will be deployed”, said Dr K T Hanumanthappa, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Bandipur Tiger Project.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Camera Trap Pictures of Tigers - (Part 4 of 4)

Tigers from North-Eastern Hills and Brahmaputra Flood Plains

Tigers from Kaziranga

Tiger from Orang

Tigers from Manas

Tigress from Kaziranga

Source : Status of Tigers, Co-predators and Prey in India, 2010

Camera Trap Pictures of Tigers - (Part 3 of 4)

Tigers from Western Ghats Landscape

Sathyamangalam Forest

Bandipur Tigers

Mudumlai Tiger

Monday, 1 August 2011

Camera Trap Pictures of Tigers - (Part 2 of 4)

From Valmiki Tiger Reserve (Eastern Terai)

Tigers from Central Indian Landscape

From Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve

From Bandhavgarh

(Bamera male Captured in Camera Trap)

Supkhar Range (Kanha)

Melghat Tiger Reserve

Ranthambore Tiger Reserve