NREGA activist Sanjay Sahni’s arrest in Bihar: Cops lathi charge NREGA workers protesting against “false” FIRs
|Sanjay Sahni leading NREGA workers’ march, Muzaffarnagar|
The arrest of Sanjay Sahni, a young social worker who has established a Muzaffarnagar-wide movement in Bihar in order to empower people to access public services under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), public distribution system (PDS) and pension, is all set to snowball into a major controversy.
A collective of about 10,000 rural workers of Muzaffarpur who take up NREGA work for their livelihood, its office bearers say, the organization has been facing “continuous harassment” at the hands of the local administration because of their fight against corruption in government programmes.
An electrician in Janakpuri in Delhi and educated up to class seven, activists say, Sahni’s is a “a remarkable and rare story” of a person who “overcame a series of hurdles to fight corruption, mobilize -violent, non-partisan means.”
“The image of him firing workers and establish a Muzaffarpur-wide movement to empower people to access public services using non up a laptop in his mud-and-brick one-room hut by a cook-stove is both enduring and emblematic of a movement that has embraced technology like few others”, a civil society source insists.
In February 2017 FIR was lodged against Sahni, under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. “The most ludicrous FIR is the one filed on March 31, 2017 in which Sanjay Sahni has been accused of attempting to murder Shambhunath Singh, Panchayat Rozgar Sewak of Ratnauli Gram Panchayat in Kurhani block.Sanjay Sahni was actually in Ranchi that day”, says NREGA Watch.
According to NREGA Watch, an independent team has already conducted a fact-finding mission about the FIRs, presenting “incontrovertible evidence of the false nature of March 31 FIR”, adding, “The others stand on very weak ground, with the incongruent testimonies of a small set of government officials weighed against consistent accounts of a large number of SPSS workers and other local actors.”
Claims NREGA Watch, “The local bureaucracy routinely employs FIRs as a strategic tool to quash and silence people’s voices and struggles for justice and is unabashed about being involved in such acts. The fact finding report was handed in person to the DGP, Bihar, in Patna in July 2017 who had issued a written directive to the DIG Muzaffarpur to follow up.”