Two days after arresting RTI activist, Jharkhand cops take U-turn: He was set up, drugs were planted

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The BDO of Hariharganj was arrested by ACB sleuths on Friday when he was allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 7,000 from a man to allow him to do some construction work, the official said.On Friday, Hazaribagh police arrested five persons for planting the contraband and setting up Mishra. (Representational image)

IN LESS than 48 hours after police in Jharkhand’s Hazaribagh district arrested an RTI activist and extracted a “confessional statement” for carrying contraband in his motorcycle, they extracted another confessional statement from five persons, including two employees of Land and Revenue Department, saying they conspired to set up the activist.

45-year-old RTI activist Rajesh Mishra, a journalist with ‘India-Bol’ news portal, was arrested on March 3 for possessing opium and brown sugar, leading to protests from his family and friends, which reached the Jharkhand Assembly. On Friday, Hazaribagh police arrested five persons for planting the contraband and setting up Mishra.

Hazaribagh Superintendent of Police Karthik S said: “Earlier, we received information that the RTI activist was carrying drugs in the dicky of his bike. After a search, we found opium and brown sugar and we arrested him under the NDPS Act. However, during our investigation we came to know that there may be a possibility that we were wrongly informed and that Mishra was set up by some conspiracy.”

He said a team was constituted and the five people were detained and questioned. “Later, it surfaced in our investigation that the drugs were planted in the motorcycle dicky. We have arrested five persons, including a clerk and a deed writer with the district’s Land and Revenue Department.”

His colleagues at ‘India Bol’ said Singh was working on a series of RTI on how a registration of various parcels of land – which can’t be sold to general population under the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act — were sold in violation of law.

“Vast tracts of land — which is governed under the Tenancy Act — were being sold and the registry of the said land was being done. He had filed an RTI and it had ruffled many persons in the department,” a colleague alleged. “He was being coerced… He had previously exposed various illegalities such as encroachment on various pond areas among others through RTI.”

On March 3, an FIR was registered at the instance of Sub Inspector Nishi Kumari of Police Station Lohsinghna under NDPS Act against Mishra. The FIR said Kumari had been ordered by Sadar DSP Mahesh Prajapati to reach the Collectorate gate and keep an eye on a specific motorcycle after which Kumar was searched and the drugs were found in his possession. He was arrested and sent to judicial custody.

As per the police records, the police also got a “confessional statement” from Mishra, which said: “…without any fear or pressure I am accepting my crime knowing that this will be produced in front of the court against me… On March 3, I was passing by the Collectorate when I saw the police and I ran away. I was apprehended by the police and a search was conducted and drugs were recovered….”

Rajesh Mishra’s sister Nutan Mishra told The Indian Express: “It was a blatant lie and we knew he was set up. After a conversation with him we came to know that a few police personnel had aimed a pistol at him on March 3, seeing which he ran away. Later, he was taken to the police station and his bike was also taken…All of a sudden after two hours he was informed that he being booked for possession of drugs. The police should have investigated before putting him in jail.”

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