Shehla Masood’s murder: police playing games
Posted August 21, 2011on:
As a retired government official remarked, the Madhya Pradesh police cannot be subtle even when it is trying to hush up a high profile-crime. He was referring to the crude manner in which the police had floated the theory that RTI activist Shehla Masood could have died from “self-inflicted” gun wound — in other words, might have committed suicide.
In this respect, the police quoted Dr D S Badkur, director of the State government-run Medico-Legal Institute, who conducted the autopsy on Shehla Masood. The institute had become notorious for handing down “made to order” forensic reports during the tenure of Dr Badkur’s predecessor, Dr D K Satpathy. It is yet to be recognised as a credible institution.
The circumstances prevailing at the time of Shehla’s death would make the Bhopal police hypothesis the most fantastic in the forensic history of the world. It was the day (august 16) when Anna Hazare was picked up by the police from his residence in New Delhi. RTI activists Ajay Dubey, Shehla Masood and others had decided to launch a signature campaign at 2 pm at Boat Club (Bhopal) in support of Hazare’s campaign. Shehla sent in the morning emails and SMS’s to people exhorting them to reach the Boat Club. Around 11 am she left her house at Kohe-Fiza locality and entered her car, parked in front of the house. She was said to be talking to someone on her mobile even as she was heading towards her car.
It was Shehla’s day of glory. Those who had talked to her say she was all excited about the Boat Club programme. Hardly the frame of mind in which one contemplates suicide!
An aunt saw the car still parked after some time and came out to find out what had happened. On seeing Shehla slumped on the driver’s seat, the aunt called Shehla’s father. They found Shehla inert, with blood spattered on her clothes. She still had a feeble pulse. The family members called an ambulance to take her to the hospital. On the way she succumbed.
She was shot just below the neck, apparently from a weapon fitted with a silencer. The weapon has not been found. By all accounts, the assailant could have been a known person because there were no signs of resistance or struggle. Shehla’s killer, or hirer of the killer, must be a very influential person warranting the State police chief’s prompt presence at the place of crime and of Dr Satpathy, retired director of Medico-Legal Institute at the place of autopsy. It is not usual for a State police chief to reach the crime scene ahead of the field staff who would be involved in the investigation.
Elder of the two sisters, Shehla was in her late 30’s. Defying the constraints of an orthodox Muslim family, Shehla became a fashion designer, a model, an event manager and eventually, some three years ago, a full time RTI activist. A few hundred applications filed by her under the RTI Act are said to be pending with various departments. The fields of her activities included, among others, wildlife, ecotourism and diamond mining. Besides, she had dug up through the RTI applications the financial bungling of some ministers and top bureaucrats.
While she had ruffled many a powerful feather in several departments including the chief minister’s office by seeking corruption-related information, she had made a formal complaint to State police chief that Pawan Shrivastava, an IPS officer, was making threatening calls to her. By a strange coincidence, the government announced promotions of some IPS officers on the day Shehla Masood was killed and Pawan Shrivastava was promoted to the Inspector General rank.
Following pressure from Shehla Masood’s family, the opposition Congress party and a section of his own BJP, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan recommended to the Union Government to entrust the investigation of the RTI activist’s murder to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).