The Congress, Shiv Sena (UBT), Bombay Union of Journalists and Peoples Union for Civil Liberties have demanded a probe into the ‘murder’ of Ratnagiri journalist Shashikant Warishe — who succumbed after being knocked down by a vehicle under suspicious circumstances — here on Wednesday.
Warishe, a crusading scribe working for ‘Mahanagri Times’ publication, met with an “accident” late on Monday and succumbed on Tuesday morning, sparking a furore in state media circles.
He had been writing a series of articles campaigning against the proposed Ratnagiri Refinery and petrochemicals mega-complex coming up with foreign collaboration, at Barsu, near the original location of Nanar.
It is alleged that Warishe was run down by a speeding vehicle of one Pandharinath Amberkar, who is a strong supporter of the refinery complex, ostensibly to teach him a lesson.
Congress chief spokesperson Atul Londhe, Sena (UBT) national spokesperson Kishore Tiwari, BUJ’s Indra Kumar Jain and PUCL’s Mihir Desai and Lara Jesani have strongly condemned what they suspect is a ‘well-planned murder’ of the activist-journalist.
Londhe said that even since the government of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis came to power (in June 2022), attacks on the mediapersons doing their jobs are increasing in Maharashtra, undermining the independence of the fourth pillar of Democracy.
“The killing of a journalist like this is an atrocious attack on democracy and a blot on a progressive and tolerant state like Maharashtra. Law and order has deteriorated under the Shinde-Fadnavis regime. Ruling party MLAs fire guns openly, threaten to beat up people, assault officials, beat up principals, etc.,” said Londhe.
Tiwari said that it was indeed a grim scenario with the media being threatened in this manner with attacks for exposing the government or its policies and officials, and called for urgent steps from Fadnavis who holds the home portfolio.
Urgent for a speedy and fair probe, Desai and Jesani demanded compensation and security for Warishe’s family, and stopping all land acquisition work pertaining to the proposed refinery project till the locals’ views are taken into account.
Quoting local reports, Jain said that Warishe was dragged for over 100 metres under Amberkar’s vehicle before he fled the spot, leaving the journalist profusely bleeding on the Rajapur Highway.
“The incident came soon after Warishe had published Amberkar’s photos with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Shinde and Fadnavis. Amberkar has been accused of land-grabbing and intimidating the locals or activists who are opposed to the refinery project,” said Jain.
On Tuesday, the All India Marathi Patrakar Sanghi, Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh, the Mantralay Ani Vidhimandal Vartahar Sangh urged the government to take immediate action in the matter and ensure the most stringent punishment for the guilty.
Media organisations have also submitted a memorandum to the state government condemning the incident and ensuring an impartial probe into the ‘heinous killing’ of Warishe.