Nate residents say police fired inside homes and threw stones

At the entrance to Nate village, on the left is the police station, which was allegedly burnt down by a violent mob protesting the Jaitapur nuclear power plant on Monday.

But contrary to reports, the station remains intact, surrounded by a litter of half-burnt files and documents which policemen are trying to retrieve. Burnt motorcycles and files lie around and some policemen are clearing the inside of the station which is full of paper, half-eaten food and junk.

A little ahead, a burnt van lies topsy-turvy and next to it are a few houses with gaping windows, their glass panes shattered by firing and stone-throwing.

Afreen Phadnis says this was the first time she saw such violence. “The police fired inside homes and threw stones. They abused the women and we had to run and hide,” she said.

The first house was Miraj Mirkar's where you can still see a police lathi and two fired cases (of bullets) on the floor. A 40-day-old infant was on the bed when the firing happened and the family had to flee with her, Ms. Phadnis explained.

Opposite, Shaira Sajjad opens her house to show that her lunch was uneaten and things have been left untouched for examination by a judicial probe which the people are demanding.

The road from Nate winds down to the thickly populated village on the edge of the creek. In one of its narrow lanes, a slow lament can be heard from the house of Tabrez Sayekar, 30, who was killed in police firing on Monday. His wife Shireen, 26, lies on the floor weeping, surrounded by family and friends. In the next room Sayekar's mother wails loudly for her only son. Sayekar was married a few years ago and has no children. Like his father, his main trade was fishing.

Shoaib, a neighbour, had a bullet graze past his chin. After Sayekar was shot, he helped carry him to the police vehicle. “They beat up the women who were protesting against the lathi-charge in Madban in which some of the Nate people were injured,” he said. Majid Mirkar said the police fired for over an hour near the police station.

Even 13-year-old children like Juhak Kate were not spared. His head bandaged after being hit by a stone, Juhak claims he was a bystander at the site of the violence. Jamila Shirgaonkar and other women claimed they saw the police beat up women when they went to protest against the Madban violence at the police station.

Monday's protest started at the nuclear power plant project site at Madban and when the police arrested some 30 people, including Shiv Sena MLA Rajan Salvi, police jeeps passed through Nate. Some women went to the police station to inquire and they alleged that the police beat them up. More people came and attacked the police station. Till this point there was no arson, says Mansur Solkar who is in hospital with an injury. In the afternoon, the police came with reinforcements and attacked houses and beat up people, he said.

At the Ratnagiri civil hospital, 16-year-old Nasiruddin Borkar said he had left school after his examination in personal development when the firing took place. “I went to see what happened and I got shot.” Police entered homes and fired inside, he said.

Sixty-four-year-old Devidas Mayekar from Madban village was injured when five or six policemen beat him up. He can barely move his legs now. Mayekar is losing four acres to the nuclear power project. His wife Sunita said Mayekar was suffering from diabetes and high blood pressure and his condition had worsened.

Determined lot

The firing has left a deep mark on the people of Nate and their determination to oppose the project has only been strengthened after this incident. At the project site at Madban, policemen guard the area. No one is allowed here, they tell visitors. Evidence of Monday's arson can be seen in the form of burnt fields. Madban village is empty and most people have gone to Ratnagiri to join the protests there or have chosen to stay indoors. For now at least things are quiet.