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Slum-crusader teacher killed in Patna

Patna, Dec. 10: A young teacher whose activism earned the wrath of slumlords was gunned down in the heart of Patna this morning, less than a fortnight after an engineer who blew the whistle on corruption in the Prime Ministerís dream highway project was shot dead in Bihar.

Praveen Kumar, a 22-year-old teacher of Delhi Public School, was killed near his house at 6 am as he was on his way to the school in Danapur, 10 km from Patna. The assailants pumped five bullets into his head and chest near Saidpur Nahari, a slum where he lived.

Praveen, a theatre activist, was well known in the slum and he had been running a campaign to create awareness among his neighbours about the need to distance themselves from criminal elements and join the mainstream.

Praveenís brother Indrajit said some of the crime lords in the area resented the teacherís drive and could be behind the murder.

Indrajit had fought the municipal election unsuccessfully against one of the gang leaders, Sukku Paswan. Charged with more than 30 murders, Paswan has been languishing in jail for the past four years. Indrajit did not name any suspects or motive in the first information report.

The teacherís bullet-riddled body was discovered by some residents but no one has claimed to be a witness to the murder.

Police refused to say anything more than that the attack was made with the intention to kill. No motive has been established yet, said deputy superintendent of police R.K. Dubey.

Members of cultural groups in the city will march from Kalidas Rangalaya to the secretariat tomorrow to protest against the murder and hand over a memorandum to chief minister Rabri Devi to speed up investigations.

Praveenís association with theatre had given him the job in the school as drama teacher. He was confirmed three months ago, before which he was a visiting teacher.

Praveen became a fulltime theatre activist in 1990 after he attended a workshop organised by the Union human resource development ministry in collaboration with Nirman Kala Manch, Patna.

For the past four years, he has regularly participated in the Bharat Rang Mahotsav organised by the National School of Drama, Delhi. Praveen also took part in drama festivals in Mumbai, Calcutta, Jaipur and other cities.

The audacious murder coincides with not only a controversy over the ouster of the director-general of police who tried to break the nexus between politicians and criminals but also an uproar over the murder of the engineer, Satyendra Dubey.

Dubey, who had complained to the Prime Ministerís Office about corruption in the Golden Quadrilateral Project, was shot dead on November 27 ó a few days before the 31-year-old IIT alumnus was scheduled to take over as supervisor of a section of the construction.

In Delhi, the BJP today gave a clean chit to the Prime Ministerís Office in the episode. But the party demanded a law to protect the identity of whistle-blowers in corruption cases, adds our special correspondent.

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