Glare on journalist Shashikant Warishe’s killing
The killing of journalist Shashikant Warishe, who was mowed down by an SUV allegedly driven by a real estate dealer against whom he had written and whose photograph had recently appeared on posters alongside that of the Prime Minister, has been condemned by journalists and human rights groups.
Mahanagri Times reporter Warishe died at a Kolhapur hospital on Tuesday. He succumbed to injuries suffered when the SUV hit his scooter a day before in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra. The SUV was allegedly driven by Pandharinath Amberkar — who featured in a report in Warishe’s newspaper on Monday headlined “Photo of criminal on banner alongside PM, CM and DCM, claim farmers protesting against refinery”.
The report with a “correspondent” byline was accompanied by pictures of posters that features images of Prime Minister Modi, Maharashtra chief minister Eknath Shinde and deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, and one of Amberkar below the rest.
The posters support the setting up of the Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited, which is being opposed by environmentalists and some residents of Barsu where the project will be based. The posters thank Modi and say “the dream will become a reality, the refinery will open in Konkan”. Ratnagiri is in the Konkan region.
The newspaper report claims that an FIR had been registered against Amberkar for threatening those opposing the project.
The previous Uddhav Thackeray government had shifted the project from Nanar to Barsu after protests by locals who feared that the pollution might ruin the area where alphonso mangoes are grown.
Amberkar has been remanded in police custody till February 14. He was initially booked for culpable homicide, which was upgraded to murder on Wednesday after protests.
Journalist bodies Mantralaya Ani Vidhimandal Vartahar Sangh, Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Patrakar Parish - ad and Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh (MMPS) spoke out against the alleged murder.
The MMPS identified War – is he as the author of the report and Amberkar as a real estate dealer. The group said in a statement: “Mr. Warishe was constantly raising the voice of anti-refinery public opinion…. “The killing of Warishe is a heinous attack on democracy. Such killing of journalists in broad daylight is a stain on the culture of Maharashtra.”
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties said in a statement that “the killing of the journalist is designed to silence and intimidate all those who dare to speak up and to uncover the intimidation and land-grab that has been going on in the name of acquisition of land for the project”.
The union added: “There have been major violations of the civil liberties with the ongoing agitation of residents over the location of the Rat - nagiri Refinery and Petro - chemical Ltd in the ecosensitive zone in Rajapur taluka of Ratnagiri district. Though the project was scrapped in Nanar, it has been shifted to Barsu-Solgaon villages barely 20km 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. “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 (who oppose the project) 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.” Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) MP Vinayak Raut said he would raise the issue in Parliament. NCP MLA Jayant Patil accused the Shinde government of trying to intimidate journalists.