Maharashtra: Police resort to lathicharge as villagers step up anti-refinery stir

The protest against the proposed petrochemical refinery at Barsu-Solgaon villages in Konkan’s Ratnagiri district intensified on Friday after villagers tried to enter the survey site forcibly. The police had to use teargas and resorted to lathicharge to disperse the crowd, injuring several villagers.

Over 200 villagers who entered the site, where soil testing for one of the biggest petrochemical refinery projects of the country is being done, were arrested and taken to Ratnagiri. As many as 201 protesters, including 181 women and 37 men, were arrested by the Ratnagiri police and have been booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for assaulting public servant, rioting, unlawful assembly and molestation, among others.

According to the police, three women police personnel, including a Deputy Superintendent of Police, were injured after they were allegedly attacked by the mob. The police said as women police personnel were injured, the protesters have been booked under Section 353 (assaulting public servant) and as they were attacked by men, they have also been booked under Section 354 (molestation) of IPC.

The villagers will be produced in Ratnagiri court on Saturday.

The situation remains tense in the villages, with police tightening security by putting up checkpoints on all the roads in a 10-km radius of the refinery site and recording details of every vehicle entering or passing the area.

Responding to the state government’s call for dialogue to resolve the issue, the protesters said that they will agree to negotiations only when soil testing at the site is stopped. “We are willing to have a dialogue with the government but soil testing should first stop and the government should come and talk to us,” Suryakant Sodaye, a protester, said.

Deepak Joshi, president of Refinery Virodhi Sanghatna, said that the police resorted to lathicharge against the villagers and even used teargas, which injured several protesters. “Many people were injured. Two of them are serious and hospitalised. The police assaulted everyone including women and children. Over 200 villagers, including women, have been arrested by the police,” Joshi said, adding that the protests will continue.

After talks with the administration failed on Thursday evening, the protesters organised a march at the site and planned to enter the restricted area, where soil testing is on, to press for their demand. As 3,000-odd protesters attempted to enter the site, the police stopped them, which led to confrontation between the police and villagers. To disperse the crowd, the police used force and fired a few teargas canisters.

Earlier in the day, the police also detained Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Vinayak Raut and his supporters while he was on way to join the anti-refinery protesters in their march against the proposed project. When Raut arrived at the site to meet the protesters, he and his supporters were stopped by the police. After that, they sat on a road as a mark of protest, following which they were detained by the police.

The opposition Shiv Sena (UBT), Congress and NCP hit out at the government after the police action and demanded that the soil testing at the site be stopped. “Delhi has ordered that at any cost the refinery should be set up because foreign companies are involved. The government has signed agreements with those companies. Kickbacks have been given. Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has gone to Mauritius after giving orders to use force against the villagers. This is because Delhi (Centre) has given orders and have been keeping an eye on the developments here. Fadnavis has no right to unveil Shivaji Maharaj’s statue, when he is unleashing atrocities on citizens. This is not democracy. Shiv Sena will not tolerate the assault and suppression of the Konkani people,” Raut said.

He also said that the Sena was firmly behind the protesting villagers. “We all will join the protest now. This is not the way to handle the protest. If Chief Minister Eknath Shinde cannot run the government properly then he should immediately resign and go back to Satara to do farming,” Raut said.

The Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana led by farmers’ leader Raju Shetty also came out in support of the protesters and participated in the protests on Friday. “The government is misusing the police force to suppress the protests. They are assaulting the villagers. If this doesn’t stop now, farmers from all over the state will join the protests and will fight with the villagers. I will also visit the site to meet the protesters,” Shetty said.

Shinde, however, denied that force was used against the villagers. “I have spoken to the superintendent of police and district collector of Ratnagiri. They told me that the situation is peaceful there right now. As per information there were a few people who had come from outside. The project will be set up after the consent of all the people. I appeal to the villagers and protesters to maintain peace. There will be no use of force on them by the government and administration,” Shinde said. He said that he was told that there was no lathicharge on the protesters.

State Industries Minister Uday Samant alleged that the villagers are being instigated by some of the opposition parties for political gains and there are many outsiders who have entered the site to protest. “The situation became tense for some time in the area. But everything is peaceful now. I appeal to villagers to maintain peace. We are with the villagers and are willing to have a dialogue with them. The protesters should come and have a dialogue,” Samant said.

The protesters have been demanding the scrapping of the multi-billion dollar refinery project which is proposed to be set up at Barsu-Solgaon, fearing that the refinery would adversely impact the environment and the fragile biodiversity of the coastal Konkan region that would also hit their livelihood which is mostly dependent on cultivation of cashew, Alphonso mango, coconut and fishing.

The anti refinery activists’ committee has decided to keep the protests on hold for two days and resume it on Monday again if their demands are not met. “The government is saying that we should hold a dialogue with them. We are willing to do that but first withdraw the massive police presence and the restrictions imposed at the site and also stop the soil testing. Over 200 of our women and men have been arrested and several others have been injured in the police lathicharge. We will wait for two days and again come with full force if our demands are not met,” said Narendra Joshi, an office-bearer of the committee.


  • Adam Gray

    Adam Gray is an experienced journalist with a passion for breaking news and delivering it to the masses. With over a decade of experience in the field, he has covered everything from local stories to national events, earning a reputation for his accuracy, reliability, and attention to detail. As a reporter, Adam is always on the lookout for the next big story, and his dedication to uncovering the truth has earned him the respect of his peers and readers alike. When he's not chasing down leads, Adam can be found poring over the latest headlines, always on the lookout for the next big scoop. Contact [email protected]

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