“I decided not to give him a byline for the refinery reports as I had some doubts about the backlash, “ said Sadashiv Kerkar, editor of Mahanagari Times, referring to the last story written by Shashikant Warishe before he was mowed down and crushed by a vehicle allegedly driven by land-dealer Pandharinath Amberkar, off the highway in Rajapur, Maharashtra on February 6.
Warishe, who succumbed to his injuries the next morning, was survived by his mother, wife and 18-year-old son.
Warishe had published a report in the newspaper about the manner in which Amberkar, accused in several cases relating to the land acquisition for the Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (RRPCL) project, was projected on banners about the project with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Kerkar is still in a state of shock over his death and mourns the loss of a friend and colleague. He says Warishe was a principled and committed journalist. He wrote about several issues and covered the Konkan for Mahanagari Times for at least ten years.
Kerkar said that Warishe covered local issues, from politics and crime to education and health. “He used to write a lot about the agitation by the locals against the refinery project. He knew how much it would affect their lives,” he added. Warishe had covered the agitation and the MVA government decision to scrap it from Nanar and shift it to Barsu-Salgaon, 20 kms away from Nanar. He was the lone voice covering the manner in which the land acquisition process was going on, the use of threats and intimidation and the resistance of the locals.
“He always had concrete evidence. People would ask me why we are publishing his news reports of the refinery project but I would always reply that he had the evidence and I won’t stop him. Lekin thoda sa doubt tha, so I didn’t give him the byline. I thought that would protect him,” Kerkar said.
Warishe had not shared any threats before and never expressed any apprehensions about his reports. “He was very thorough aur reporter ka calibre tha (he had the calibre as a reporter). So there was no pressure or any fear, “ says Kerkar.
Kerkar plans to closely monitor the case filed against Amberkar (now remanded to 14 days police custody and charged with murder under Sec 302 of the Indian Penal Code). Local residents and the Refinery Virodhi Sanghatna are planning a protest march on February 11, Kerkar said.
Most newspapers in the area shied away from covering the agitation of local residents. Environmental activists, angry at the killing of Warishe, told FSC that local media was sold out or frightened into silence. Not Warishe, who wrote a number of reports on the protests by the local residents in Mahanagari Times.
The newspaper itself is small in comparison to the big media houses that have editions and staff covering the Konkan. Started only 15 years ago with only six pages, it publishes from Mumbai and covers Mumbai, Thane, Raigad, Ratnagiri and Nashik. The newspaper doesn’t even have a website. Kerkar says the website is being made and will be up in a month’s time. It doesn’t publish on Facebook but uses multiple WhatsApp groups to amplify its reports.
But since it was literally the only newspaper that consistently gave news of the agitation, it was popular amongst the people of the Konkan. Warishe was also well-known and respected for his fearlessness and honesty, had contributed to the newspaper’s popularity.