It was 6 April 2005 and Simpreet Singh was being beaten by a policeman at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan. The 25-year-old kept asking: “Why are you hitting me? What have I done? I am only a student and protesting peacefully.” The Mumbai police were lathi-charging a crowd of slum dwellers protesting the proposed demolition of their homes. Activist Medha Patkar, who had helped organize the protest march, was arrested.
Later in the day, Simpreet returned to the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Tiss), where he was doing a postgraduate degree in social work. When he opened his wallet, he found a Rs.10 court fee stamp. It had been given to him by Shailesh Gandhi, a right to information (RTI) activist who had conducted a talk at Tiss some months ago. “Use your right to information,” he had told the students, handing them the stamps that need to be affixed on RTI applications.
Simpreet knew the time had come for him to use it.
The protest march he had been part of was a reaction to the 2004-05 state government campaign to make Mumbai the next Shanghai. Slums and shanties, deemed illegal structures, were being demolished.....................Read more