The People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) on Wednesday demanded an impartial investigation into the killing of journalist Shashikant Warishe in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district. Warishe was mowed down by a car allegedly driven by a local land dealer, Pandarinath Amberkar, near the Rajapur highway, on Monday. He sustained grievous injuries and was rushed to a hospital by bystanders. He died at 7 a.m. on Tuesday.
Warishe had written about banners with photographs of a local land dealer with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in a Marathi daily, Mahanagri Times.
The PUCL stated, “Photographic evidence clearly shows the manner in which Warishe’s two-wheeler was crushed under the wheels of the SUV [sports utility vehicle]. While details are awaited on the entire case, it was apparent that Warishe was targeted for his article in the newspaper that said that FIRs [First Information Report] had been lodged against Amberkar for land grab intimidation. There have been major violations of the civil liberties with the ongoing agitation of residents over the location of the Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemical Limited in the eco-sensitive zone in Rajapur taluka of Ratnagiri district. Though the project was scrapped in Nanar, it has been shifted to Barsu-Solgaon villages barely 20 kms away. The local residents have continued to raise a voice against the destruction of the environment and expressed grave apprehensions of pollution due to the mega-crore refinery.”
The PUCL statement also says: “Several FIRs have been filed against residents who have been peacefully protesting against the project. Externment notices have been issued against members of the Refinery Virodhi Sanghatana whereas no action has been taken against the goons engaged by the company. Repression in the area has greatly increased with the locals not even being allowed to hold peaceful meetings. The Gram Panchayats of the area have issued several resolutions protesting against the high handedness of the authorities but to no avail. Local residents who were organised under the banner of the Refinery Virodhi Sanghatana, to oppose the mega-crore Barsu-Salgaon refinery project in Ratnagiri district of Konkan in Western Maharashtra, have issued statements condemning the incident and demanding a thorough investigation, apart from immediate arrest of the accused.”
A statement signed by PUCL president Mihir Desai and general secretary Lara Jesani demanded that the Maharashtra Government announce adequate compensation for the family of deceased journalist; all land acquisition process for the refinery be stopped immediately; criminal action, including FIRs and externment proceedings initiated against the protestors be taken back immediately; and that the government desisted from setting up or allowing polluting industries that endangered the ecosystem of the Konkan area.