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Villagers arrested after protest against nuclear project

The Police have now arrested all those who spoke against the state government during Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan's visit to Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project on February 26.

Anusha Subramanian        Last Updated: April 1, 2011  | 15:35 IST

The Police have now arrested all those who spoke against the state government during Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan's visit to Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project on February 26, 2011.

Dr Milind Desai from Mitgavane village was picked up from his home at two in the morning of March 1, 2011 and arrested. During the CM's recent visit Desai had lashed out at the government, calling it "shameless". In his speech, Desai said the government did not take into account the people's objections to the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project. He said the project was worth Rs 1 lakh crore but the government's package was worth Rs 15 crore. "Isn't the government ashamed," Desai asked. In addition to Desai, ten people have been arrested.

His comments provoked Narayan Rane, the state industries minister, into reacting aggressively. A miffed Rane stopped Dr Desai from speaking in Chavan's presence. Without arguing, Desai quietly left the dais. Another villager affected by the project, Sharad Mayekar, was also arrested this morning at his home in Mithgavane.

Five villages - Madban, Varliwada, Karel, Niveli and Mithgavane - will be affected by the proposed plant. Ever since villagers affected by the project have begun protesting, the police have been slapping charges and chapter cases against them on a regular basis. In the recent arrests, it is understood from other activists that Dr Desai and 10 others have been arrested in connection with a two-month old case. They have been booked for charges such as rioting, attempt to murder, voluntarily causing hurt, deferring public servants from carrying out their duty.  Two months ago, the villagers aggressively protested against the alleged murder of Irfan Kazi, a resident of Nate village and who was at the forefront of the protest against the plant. Villagers alleged that he was run down by a Tata Sumo.Pravin Gavankar of the Janhit Seva Samiti (JSS) of Madban said Madban - which once had 14 freedom fighters - now faces repression.

The situation is similar in other villages that will be affected by the project. So far, these project-affected villages have never had police coming into the village. But, now almost everyday there is police presence here. The villagers say that the police have been coming regularly and questioning them or they are simply taken to the police station and questioned.

The state government and Rane created a great deal of drama during the CM's visit. Earlier that day, Rane had briefed the CM on the Jaitapur nuclear power project and its opponents at the Madban village site. At the public meeting Rane was particularly angered by the presence of Vaishali Patil, an activist from Konkan Vinashkari Prakalpa Vidrohi Samit.  Rane asked Konkan Inspector-General of Police Parambir Singh why outsiders were allowed to attend a public meeting addressed by the chief minister. Patil is from Raigad district and was instrumental in the protest against the Reliance SEZ project.

Rane then ordered the IG to ask Patil to leave. She and the others present at the meeting was also asked to remove their black badges. Patil refused and when the police tried to evict her, women of Sakhari Nate and other project affected villages rose in her support and created a scene. Fearing there could be violence, the police did not act further and Patil stayed through the meeting.

While people did not resort to violent behaviour, they were angry and shouting slogans. The villagers are clear that they do not want the project in Jaitapur and instead of the state government trying to convince them about the merits of the project they should listen to their grievances and respect them for who they are.

At the public meeting in the presence of Chavan, Prakash Waghdare from Madban got on to the dais and asked all those who opposed the project to raise their hands. Almost everyone from the audience had raised their hands in opposition. Waghdare told the government this was indication enough to state what people's feeling was and should respect their feelings and cancel the project.

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