In a shocking incident, journalist Shashikant Warishe was mowed down and crushed by a vehicle allegedly driven by Pandharinath Amberkar, a local land-dealer and accused in several land grab cases in the controversial Barsu refinery in the western Konkan region of Maharashtra, barely a few hours after he published a report in Marathi newspaper Mahanagari Times about his links with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
At around 1p.m., Amberkar, driving a black Thar vehicle, spotted Warise on his two wheeler near a petrol pump on the Rajapur Highway. He allegedly went off the road and rammed the vehicle straight into an unsuspecting Warishe. People rushed to the spot and extricated Warishe. He was shifted to Ratnagiri and later to Kolhapur in a comatose and critical state. He failed to regain consciousness and passed away at 7.00 am on February 7, 2023.
Warishe, aged 46, was working in Mahanagari Times and wrote consistently against the polluting mega projects in Rajapur. On Monday, Feburary 6, 2023, he had published the report and referred to cases lodged against Amberkar. The news report said that Amberkar’s photograph was prominently displayed in banners with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announcing the refinery and captioned “the dream will come true.”
Local environmental activists have been fighting against the refinery as they fear it will cause pollution and destroy the region, dependent on agriculture and famed for the Alphonso mango. Amberkar, they say, is a close associate of Maharashtra Industry Minister Uday Samant.
In a press release, the Refinery Virodhi Sanghtana has condemned the killing of the journalist and demanded that Amberkar, who is reported to be absconding, be arrested immediately.
The mega project was scrapped by the previous MVA government after local residents and environmental groups launched an agitation against it. After the Shiv Sena supported their demands, the project was scrapped from Nanar in Ratnagiri district. The refinery was expected to take up 14,000 acres of land in 14 villages of Ratnagiri and 1,000 acres in two villages in the neighbouring Sindhudurg district. The project was then proposed in Barsu-Salgaon, 20 kms away from Nanar and expected to acquire 6,200 acres of land and an additional 2,144 acres for a crude oil terminus.