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Maharashtra: RTI activist shot dead at his Vakola residence

MUMBAI,FORUM GANDHI : In a daring incident, unknown persons shot dead a 60-year old Right to Information (RTI) activist at point-blank range at his Vakola residence on Saturday night. The police are on the lookout for six persons involved in the crime and are probing if he was targeted for taking on the land mafia.

The deceased, identified as Bhupendra Hirji Vera, stayed with his family in Razzaq Chawl near Kalina Mosque in Santa Cruz (E). Vera was into utensil selling business and was collecting information from the government against the illegal constructions in the locality.

“On Saturday evening, Vera was watching television in one of the rooms when the attacker/s entered the residence. His wife was then in another room. The assailant fired one round, the bullet passed through his right temple… it looks the victim was shot point-blank.” said a police officer adding that the accused fled the spot immediately after the incident.

“We have checked the area for CCTV cameras and have interrogated the neighbours as well, including the person who first spotted him in a pool of blood. A child reportedly had spotted an unknown person near Vera’s house before the incident. We are still verifying the information,” said another police officer.

A neighbour, on condition of anonymity, said, “There is no one else one can suspect for his murder. Last several decades he was here. Never did he get into dispute with anyone other than former corporator Razzaq Khan who had allegedly encroached his property.”

After Vera’s wife came out of the house and cried out for help the neighbours rushed Vera to VN Desai Hospital in Santa Cruz where he was declared dead after 15 minutes of treatment. The body was later taken to JJ Hospital for post-mortem.

The police carried out a panchnama at the crime spot and recovered an empty pellet. A case of murder has been registered under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Indian Arms Act.

According to sources, Vera was into collecting information of illegal constructions through RTIs last several days. He is believed to have filed several RTIs with police and municipal corporation departments, after which the municipal corporation took decision to slap notices to former corporator Razzaq Khan and a land grabber. It has also come to notice that Khan had assaulted Vera’s son over some issue four years ago.

“We hadn’t come to Mumbai ever since we shifted to Goa one-and-a-half years ago. He didn’t want us to come back either. He knew his life was at risk and wanted to keep us away from all this. My younger brother-in-law and his family had also shifted to Madras,” said Sheela Vera, the victim’s daughter-in-law.

Said Khushbu Gala, Vera’s daughter: “My father had on several occasions received death threats over a property dispute. Seven years ago, Khan illegally occupied our steel factory which was in his land. My father took him to court.”

Vera’s wife Ranjan also attested to him receiving threats. “He is gone… he is not going to return,” said Ranjan even as she recalled his last conversations with her. When dna tried to get in touch with Khan, a maid present at the residence said that he was hospitalised and refused to elaborate further.

“Suspects are those with whom Vera had regular disputes. There is no eye-witness to the incident. Police haven’t received any complaints on threat to life from him. The nature of complaints were of civil matters and property disputes. Suspect Razzaq Khan’s location is untraceable,” said Mahadeo Wavale, senior police inspector.

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