Mumbai: Police in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district have arrested realty agent Pandharinath Amberkar in connection with the death of a Marathi journalist Shashikant Warishe, officials said here on Wednesday.
Following an uproar from the media, the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi, and civil rights groups, the police have slapped murder charges against Amberkar.
Warishe, working with the “Mahanagri Times”, was knocked down when he was riding his bike by the SUV of Amberkar and dragged for some distance on the Rajapur Highway on Monday before Amberkar fled the scene.
Warishe, 46, succumbed to his grievous injuries on Wednesday, creating a furore in media and political circles.
Initially arrested on minor charges, Amberkar, 42, was slapped with the charge of Warishe’s murder. He was produced before a District Court which sent him to police custody till February 13.
Earlier, the MVA, the Bombay Union of Journalists, and the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties demanded a probe into the “murder” of Warishe.
A crusading scribe, Warishe 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 was alleged that Warishe was run down by the speeding vehice of Amberkar, who is a strong supporter of the refinery complex, ostensibly to teach him a lesson.
Congress chief spokesperson Atul Londhe, Shiv 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 media persons 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,” he said.
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, the Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh, and the Mantralay Ani Vidhimandal Vartahar Sangh had urged the government to take immediate action in the matter and ensure the most stringent punishment to 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.