People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 18

May 01, 2011




CPI(M) Team Visits Jaitapur

In The Wake of Brutal Police Firing


Kiran Moghe


A state level team of the Maharashtra CPI(M) led by its state secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale, state secretariat member and MLA from Dahanu, Rajaram Ozare, state secretariat member Kiran Moghe and state committee member Dr Vivek Monteiro visited the Jaitapur project area in the Ratnagiri district of Konkan region on April 24, 2011. They were accompanied by Mangesh Chavan, a dedicated local activist of the Janahit Seva Samiti that is leading the struggle against the Jaitapur Nuclear Project.


This is the second CPI(M) delegation to visit the area; it will be recalled that a CPI(M) parliamentary delegation consisting of Khagen Das, MP from Tripura and former MP Subhashini Ali had earlier been to Jaitapur on March 12, 2011 in order to meet the people who are opposed to the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (see People’s Democracy, March 14-20,  2011). The CPI(M) has already called for an immediate halt to the project, an end to state repression and return of land acquired from farmers by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd.


The immediate cause of the second visit was to console the family of the young man, Tabrez Sayekar, who was killed in police firing at Sakhri-Nate village on April 18, 2011, to meet the other youth who were injured in the same police firing, and also to express solidarity with the Janahit Seva Samiti, the local organisation consisting of farmers, fisherpersons, youth and women, all of whom are unitedly and totally opposed to the project.


Accordingly, the CPI(M) team reached Ratnagiri on the morning of April 24 and immediately proceeded to the Ratnagiri Civil Hospital where it met two of the 17 young men who were seriously injured in the police firing and were still recovering in the hospital. One of them Mushtaq Meeerkar is hardly 20 years old. He miraculously survived after a bullet grazed the right side of his head just above the ear, causing a finger deep wound that required several stitches. We also met with Hasina Wadkar, the worried mother of Firoz, another 19 year old whose two teeth were shattered as a bullet entered just above his left lip, and has caused grievous wounds in his mouth cavity. Both Mushtaq and Firoz are daily wage workers on fishing boats earning 200-250 rupees per day. Their families described the feeling of terror that has enveloped the entire village and its surroundings after unprovoked firing by the police, and how it has also affected their livelihood as fishing activity has come to a standstill. The team met the doctors in charge of the treatment and also enquired about the post-mortem report of Tabrez Sayekar. We were informed that it has been sent to the police station at Nate village.


Thereafter, the team went to Nate village. As we entered the village, we came across the houses with shattered window panes and shards of glass lying around. We met Sharmeen Solkar; she is only 21 years old. She described how she clutched on to her 40 day old baby girl and along with her mother hid for several hours in the bathroom when the police entered the house shouting abuses and wielding their lathis. She took us around the house, pointing to the large stones that were lying around, the broken glass panes, the motorcycle that had been damaged. A similar story was heard from houses nearby. It seems the police were simply on a rampage, terrorising the people because they continued with their opposition to the nuclear power plant.


A crowd gathered at the house, and described to the team the chain of events that eventually led to the police firing and the death of Tabrez. It appears that there was some trouble between the police and a set of protestors at the neighbouring village of Madhban. Some young men from Nate also were part of the protest. Rumours started to float that the men had been arrested and a crowd comprising mostly of women started gathering at the police station. Meanwhile some vehicles with SRP personnel entered the village and started entering the houses of Sharmeen Solkar and others and started wielding their lathis on the women. More and more people started gathering and the mob swelled. The leaders of the anti-Jaitapur struggle appealed to the mob to go back.


However, without any warning, firing was ordered. It was not preceded by any lathicharge or tear gas.  The people say that the police went into their vans and fired from the windows, which is why many of the injuries including the fatal ones suffered by Tabrez are all above the waist. (According to the post mortem report, Tabrez suffered internal haemorrhage in the upper part of his body).  The mob then ran helter skelter.  When Tabrez’s wife and others asked for Tabrez to be handed over to them so that they could take him to hospital, the police refused. They put him in a jeep and took him to Ratnagiri. Eye-witnesses say that he was left lying on the floor of the vehicle, and no care was taken to ensure that he reached the hospital in a dignified state. It took the police more than three hours to admit him to the Ratnagiri Civil Hospital, where he was declared dead. There is great anger and anguish about the disrespectful manner in which the body of Tabrez was handled by the police.


In Nate, we visited the home of Tabrez and expressed our deepest condolences to his grieving wife, mother, father and other family members. There we learnt that he was a hard working man, 30 years of age, who had just managed to put together some capital to buy his own boat. His friends told us that he was a quiet personality, never interfering in others’ affairs, and was the last person to pick a fight with anyone. He was the sole child of his parents and the loss has hit them hard, as also his wife.


The team also met a large number of young men who were injured in the police firing. Zuag Kate is hardly 10 years old, studying in the 3rd standard. He was hurt in the head by a large stone thrown by the police. The people say the police came armed with stones stored in their vehicles. Altaf Solkar is studying in the 9th standard and a bullet has gone through his leg. His mother is a poor domestic worker. They all gathered to meet us, recounting the police excesses. They are enraged about the fact that the police initially put out a false story that the mob had burnt down the police station, when this was patently untrue.  We met the leader of Nate village Amjadbhai Borkar who recounted the horrifying events of April 18 and the notorious role of the police and the administration.


But the most heartening aspect was that despite facing these terrible atrocities and police terror, the people are totally united in their opposition to the project and are willing to lay down their lives to prevent it. From Nate the team went to Madhban to meet Rajan Wadekar, one of the leaders of the Janahit Seva Samiti, whose son was mercilessly beaten up by the police. The police did not care that the boy was in his school uniform and left him half-unconscious in the fields behind the shop owned by his family. There we also met Pravin Gavhankar, Manda Wadekar, Dr Milind Desai and other leaders, who discussed the future strategy of the struggle with the CPI(M) team. 


At the end of the day, Dr Ashok Dhawale, Rajaram Ozare and Dr Vivek Monteiro jointly addressed a well-attended press conference wherein they described the details they had gathered from their visit. They said that the police firing was a serious violation of human rights that deserved to be condemned in the severest terms. They called for a judicial enquiry into the entire episode, with the strongest of punishment to be meted out to those who were guilty for loss of life and limb. They also demanded that the SDO of the area, Ajit Pawar, who was responsible for the firing, and about whom a large number of complaints have been made by the local protestors, should be immediately suspended and enquiry proceedings started against him. They asked that he be immediately transferred out of Ratnagiri district. They demanded that all prohibitory and ban orders issued against the participants and leaders of the struggle should be withdrawn immediately.


The CPI(M) team pointed out that the ministry of environment and forests had given conditional permission to the Jaitapur project; among the 35 conditions, one was its compliance with the CRZ regulations and the other was permission from the AERB. The AERB has not yet received any proposal for the EPR to be used in the Jaitapur nuclear power plant. But the NPCIL has already started work and this is patently illegal. The CPI(M) demanded that the work be stopped immediately and that the landholders be allowed to continue with their farming and other activities and allowed to enter their own lands. The CPI(M) has already raised the issue in parliament through its MP Khagen Das ; it has demanded that the project be scrapped and the land acquired illegally be returned to the original owners.


It is necessary to re-examine the entire project especially in the light of the events in the Fukushima nuclear power plant after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The state secretary also informed the press that the CP(M) and the CPI would be jointly observing April 26 “Chernobyl Day” as a day of protest against the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project by holding demonstrations and dharnas all over the state. The CPI(M) will also assist the Janahit Seva Samiti in approaching the National Human Rights Commission and the Minorities Commission about the human rights violations of those who are in the struggle against the project. Another visit by CPI(M) members of parliament and other senior leaders is planned in the coming days.