Fed up of police harassment, RTI activist hangs himself
RTI activist Vilas Dattatreya Baravkar committed suicide by hanging himself from a ceiling fan on Tuesday morning at his residence in Chakan, 33 km from Pune.
Relatives console Vilas Baravkar’s wife; his family has said that their lives are also under threat from the “influential people”. Baravkar (below) had police protection for the past three years. Pics/Mohan Patil
In a suicide note written on a stamp paper, Baravkar blamed several senior police officials, stating that they connived with many of his own relatives, and some board directors of a cooperative bank who were caught in scam allegations following an expose by him a few years ago.
Vilas Baravkar’s body being taken to Chakan rural hospital for post-mortem
“My father-in-law had exposed several influential persons involved in illegal construction activities and economic offences. He was harassed by police officers and many false allegations were also leveled against him. He was depressed and on Monday night, at around 9 pm, he was very tensed. These influential people pose a threat to our (Baravkar family’s) lives, but still our fight will continue. Police should provide protection to us,” demanded Baravkar’s son-in-law Sushil Shankari (28).
Baravkar’s son-in-law Sushil Shankari (red) lodges protest with Additional SP Vijaykumar Magar outside the hospital. Pics/Mohan Patil
During the last eight years Baravkar, a farmer based in Chakan, had unearthed scams through his RTI applications and compelled Chakan police to register cases against board directors of a cooperative bank in Rajgurunagar and several others indulging in illegal construction activities in Khed-Chakan area – a booming real estate location where an international airport has been proposed.
Baravkar had been provided police protection for the past three years. He was accompanied by an armed police constable whenever he stepped out of his house, but his house was not covered by protection.
“We take away police protection from many people during elections. But since Baravkar was an RTI activist, the screening committee headed by our superintendent had approved continuing his police protection,” said Additional Superintendent of Police (Pune Rural) Vijaykumar Magar.
“Our constable was with Baravkar on Monday evening, when he had been to the tehsildar’s office at Khed. He had purchased a stamp paper and got some content printed on it. Later, he returned to his house and told the constable to leave,” Magar stated.
Allegations vague: cops
Magar said, “We have registered a case of accidental death. The allegations made by Baravkar in his suicide note are not specifically against any particular officer or person. They are very vague, blaming many senior police officials who have served in Pune Rural police department over a period of time. We will first record statements of the relatives mentioned in the note and, if required, the police officers concerned will be contacted for questioning.”
He continued, “The suicide note contains names of some board of directors of a cooperative bank located in Rajgurunagar. We will interrogate and investigate suspects in this case and if the criteria for pressing IPC section 306 (abetment to suicide) are fulfilled necessary action will be taken,” said Magar.
Recalling his association with Baravkar, Magar said, “I had known Baravkar for many years. He was a known for his valor. He used to come and meet me as I worked as an appellate authority regarding RTI applications. He’d ensure that cases are registered against erring officials and persons involved in scams. We had also registered such cases especially regarding a cooperative bank. But Baravkar had never complained of any threat to his life recently.”
Magar has also asked his family members to apply for police protection. The decision about providing protection will be taken by SP Manojkumar Lohiya after due consideration,” he said.
Baravkar was found hanging in his room at around 8 am on Tuesday. His family members informed the police and his body was taken to Chakan rural hospital for post-mortem. “Strangulation marks were found on Baravkar’s neck. No other injuries were noticed on his body. The doctors concluded that it is a case of death due to hanging,” said Inspector Kishor Patil of Chakan police station.
Family members, however, refused to take possession of his body for the last rites. “Superintendent of Pune rural police should take cognisance of our complaints and register a case against the individuals whose names are mentioned in the suicide note. Till then we won’t perform last rites,” said Sushil.
The standoff continued for more than six hours and ended only after Additional SP Magar intervened and assured the Baravkars of proper investigations.