The woman, who was known for her activism to protect wildlife and the environment, had complained about receiving threats from a police officer
"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 2pm Boat Club Bhopal." Thus reads the latest note on the Facebook page of Shehla Masood. It was also the last noting by the Bhopal-based activist who was murdered outside her residence in broad daylight on Tuesday.
Ms Masood had just got out of her house to attend the demonstration called to support Anna Hazare when she was shot dead by unidentified attackers.
Shehla Masood, known for her initiatives under the Right to Information (RTI) Act and wildlife activism, had allegedly been harassed and threatened by police officer Pawan Shrivastava and had lodged a complaint, but no action was taken on it.
In a letter dated 19 January 2010, addressed to the director general of police in Madhya Pradesh, Ms Masood wrote, "One and a half year ago, I had filed a complaint against IP officer Pawan Shrivastava for making threatening calls to me while he was on deputation as director cultural department. I had lodged (a complaint) at Maharana Pratap Nagar Police Station in Bhopal. I had also met the then DGP of MP, Mr Puwar, on 27/02/2008. I had provided the evidences, but till now nothing has been done."
Ms Masood was also involved in issues of good governance, police reforms, the environment, 'Save the Tiger', women's and minority rights, and transparency. She was also active on many blogs where she discussed issues like anti-corruption, women's empowerment and progress. Her recent blog updates on scratchmysoul.com are on corruption.
In her letter to the director general of police, Ms Masood had expressed her fear that Shrivastava being a powerful police officer could implicate her in false cases. Interestingly, the Madhya Pradesh home minister had announced that the state would be the first state to treat all complaints as FIRs. However, "nothing has been done on my complaint," Ms Masood wrote in her letter.
Ms Masood's letter also had a note by the inspector general of police, Bhopal, that "legal action or departmental action may be taken as deemed fit."
Reacting to the news of the killing of Ms Masood, noted environment activist Sumaira Abdul Ali, said, "Activists are murdered every now and then. Despite making repeated assurances nothing has changed. The message is clear that the government doesn't mind such things. Shehla was very active in taking up environment issues, particularly mining, which is very risky and a lot of politicians have vested interests in it. It continues to flourish. It is also very clear that we are not safe."
Describing this as a sad incident, Mumbai-based activist Mukta Shrivastava said, "We don't know who is behind her killing. She was very much part of the anti-corruption movement. Her killing has once again raised the issue of safety of activists. In Maharashtra farmers protesting silently have been killed. It's an emergency-like situation and democracy is at stake. Such acts show the reality of state repression and the sorry state of affairs."
Ms Masood is the latest victim in the list of such attacks that also claimed the lives of whistleblowers and RTI activists Satyendra Dubey, Shanmughan Manjunath and Shashidhar Mishra.