Ratnagiri: An indefinite curfew has been imposed in Ratnagiri town in the Konkan region of Maharashtra as the situation turned violent yesterday, a day after a local fisherman, who was part of a protest against the nuclear power project in Jaitapur, was shot dead by the police.
Tabrez Tehekar of Nate Village was killed in the gun fire on April 18. Justifying their act, the police yesterday said that they had no option but to open fire at the mob, which was trying to burn down the Nate police station and could have looted weapons and ammunition.
Fresh trouble started yesterday in Ratnagiri, the district headquarters about 450 km south of Mumbai, when the Shiv Sena, which has been opposing the project, had called for a district closure to protest Tehekar’s killing and villagers from the project area villages of Madban, Nate and Jaitapur had gathered near the district civil hospital in Ratnagiri where the autopsy was to be conducted.
The protesters were demanding that the government immediately announce the cancellation of the project, and that the autopsy be conducted in the presence of human rights activists. They also wanted Deputy District Collector Ajit Pawar to be suspended, saying he had ordered that day’s firing.
With the district administration refusing to budge, the crowd starting pelting the hospital building, located in the heart of the town, close to the Mumbai-Goa highway, with stones. They used burning tyres to block roads at several places, forcing the police to cane them.
The mob assaulted a ward boy and manhandled a doctor at the hospital, following which hospital authorities refused to conduct the autopsy. District authorities then clamped an indefinite curfew in the town.
Following consultations with senior state government officials in Mumbai, the district authorities agreed to conduct the autopsy in the presence of a private doctor chosen by the protesters, and videotape the procedure. Peace returned to the scene around 6 pm.
“Some of the demands were beyond our purview. We allowed them to shoot the autopsy process in the presence of a private doctor of their choice. The CD will later be handed over to the State Human Rights Commission,” Ratnagiri District Collector Madhukar Gaikwad said.
District civil surgeon Angad Chate told The Indian Express that he hoped that the body would be taken by the family for last rites by late evening. But some locals said there were differences among the protesters about accepting the body.
“No policeman was injured on Tuesday. We are yet to make any arrest in the case. The district administration and state police will review the situation and take a decision on the curfew accordingly,” said Parambir Singh, Inspector-General of Police, Konkan Range.
Residents from five villages adjoining the proposed 9,900-MW project have been protesting, fearing radiation and ill-effects on health, mango farms and fishing. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), along with AREVA, plans to set up six nuclear units in Jaitapur.