International Newyork Times
New Delhi

A member of the Indian parliament has been arrested on the charges of conspiring to kill a Right to Information activist in the western state of Gujarat. The arrest on Wednesday took place more than three years after the murder.

Amit Jethwa, 38, an environment activist had used India’s landmark law, the Right to Information Act, to fight against illegal limestone operations carried out with the support from local politicians. The law allows citizens to demand information from the government,

On the evening of his murder in July 2010, Mr. Jethwa had finished a meeting with his lawyer near the Gujarat High Court complex in Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat. Hired killers on a motorbike fired at him. Mr. Jethwa, who received multiple chest wounds, died on the spot.

The Gujarat police initially investigated the case and charged six persons with murder,  including the nephew of Dinubhai Solanki, a first-term member of Parliament. Mr. Solanki belongs to Bharatiya Janata Party, which is the ruling party in Gujarat state. He was elected to represent the Junagarh constituency. Before that he served three terms as member of state legislature.

The family of Mr. Jethwa alleged that Mr. Solanki was directly involved in the murder and that the Gujarat police were shielding him. The slain activist had alleged that Mr. Solanki had a direct interest in illegal mining of limestone in the Gir National Park area. He made several written complaints against Mr. Solanki, accusing him of threatening his life.

On the petition of Bhikubhai Jethwa, the father of the slain activist, the Gujarat high court handed over the further investigation to India’s federal investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation, in September 2012. The C.B.I. collected the evidence, interrogated Mr. Solanki and arrested him Tuesday evening in New Delhi. On Wednesday he was presented in a court, which ordered the police to take him to Gujarat for further investigation.

Mr. Solanki, in an earlier brief interview in 2011, refused to talk about his case and his alleged involvement. He continued his silence as the case proceeded in a court.

Before his murder, Mr. Jethwa had been assaulted once and survived with serious head injuries. He had accused Mr. Solanki and his associates for that assault.

“On 28.06.2010, Shri Amit Jethwa filed PIL (Public Interest litigation) in the Gujarat High Court against illegal mining in the protected Gir forest area in which the accused (Mr. Solanki) and his nephew were impleaded as respondents on 06.07.2010. The RTI (Right To Information) activist was shot dead 14 days later on 20.07.2010,” said a statement from the C.B.I.

“My struggle for justice for last three years is half succeeded now. It will fully succeed after Dinu Solanki’s conviction,” said the older Mr. Jethwa, the slain activist’s father. “For last three years we have not celebrated any festival in our house. After his arrest we have some sense of relief in our minds.”

The Right to Information Act was enacted in India in 2005 and since then at least a dozen activists using it have been killed, said Amitabh Thakur, an activist and a police officer.

“This is a very potent weapon against very powerful people,” Mr. Thakur said. “At times very dangerous information becomes public and people in high offices feel the danger.”

Mr. Jethwa and his subsequent killing has led to decline in illegal mining.

“The large-scale illegal mining has almost stopped in Gir National Park, but small mining still takes place,” his colleague, Balu Bhai Socha, said in a phone interview. After the arrest of Mr. Solanki, the activists said they are determined to carry on their struggle further. “Our morale is high after the arrest of Mr. Solanki. We feel that real killers will be punished.”

Elected politicians with criminal records remain a serious issue in India. The Association of Democratic Reforms, a nonprofit that researches criminal cases against elected representatives, said that 30 percent of the elected members of parliament and state legislatures have criminal cases against them and 14 percent have serious criminal cases against them.

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