India

Madhya Pradesh-Based Civil, Environmental Rights Activist Shehla Masood Shot Dead

BeyondHeadlines Staff Reporter

New Delhi: Shehla Masood, a Madhya Pradesh-based civil and environmental rights activist, was was shot dead  by an unidentified person in front of her residence in Koh-e-Fiza locality in Bhopal around 11 a.m. on August 16, 2011.

Shehla, known to be working on alleged malpractice in the state’s wildlife conservation, tourism and other departments, had before leaving home updated her Facebook account, urging people to support Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption.

File Photo of Sheela Masood

The police said that 35-year-old Shehla was shot by an unidentified assailant as she sat in her Santro in the Koh-e-Fiza locality of the Madhya Pradesh capital.

“Shahla Masood was shot dead around 11am when she was sitting in her car,” senior superintendent of police (SSP) Adarsh Katiyar said.

The SSP said a massive hunt had been launched to nab the assailant though the motive behind the murder wasn’t clear yet.

Ajay Dubey, a close associate of the slain Right to Information (RTI) campaigner, said that Shehla had “raised questions regarding several tiger deaths” across the state. “People involved in the racket may be responsible,” he added.

A former model, event manager and later a full-time RTI activist, Shehla was feared by many politicians and bureaucrats.

Dubey demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the murder. “We have no faith in the state government, so the matter should be investigated by the CBI.”

The killing of Shehla has again raised questions on the ability of governments to protect whistleblowers or rights activists.

In April this year, Niyamat Ansari, an RTI activist from Latehar, Jharkhand, was killed for exposing embezzlement of National Rural Employment Guarantee Act funds.

“The fact that a lady can be murdered like this in broad daylight outside her own house shows that there is no security worth its name in Bhopal,” leader of Opposition in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly Ajay Singh told India’s premier news agency Press Trust of India (PTI).

State police chief S.K. Raut visited Shahla’s residence, where a police force was deployed.

“I am sure…we will solve the murder soon,” PTI quoted IG Shailendra Shrivastava as saying.

Shahla’s body has been sent for post-mortem. Police have seized the car and locked her room.

Sources said the Bhopal-based activist had stayed up the whole of last night and watched the dramatic scenes of Hazare’s arrest this morning.

They said before leaving home, Shahla had updated her Facebook account, urging people to support Hazare’s movement.

Her last status update on Facebook read “Gandhi: ‘the purpose of civil resistance is provocation.’ Anna has succeeded in provoking the government and the opposition. Hope he wins us freedom from corruption. Meet at 2 p.m. Boat Club Bhopal.”

A PTI report said Shahla’s aunt Rubab Zaidi came down to see why her niece had not driven off even 15 minutes after stepping out of home. When she reached the car, Zaidi saw Shehla slumped inside. She then called Shehla’s father.

The activist was single and her only sister lives in the United States.

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