In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the 5,000-odd voters of Sakhri Nate, a Muslim village, took their day off from fishing activities, sacrificing a day’s earning, to vote for Congress candidate Nilesh Rane.
Deputy Chief minister of maharastra Ajit Pawar with Narayan Rane arrives for the Nilesh rane election campaign at Ratnagiri in Ratnagiri. (Vijayanand Gupta/HT Photo)
Five years later, the story is different. They have dared Congress leader Narayan Rane and his son Nilesh to enter their village.
On Thursday, the Ranes cancelled their scheduled meeting here when they learnt that people had kept black flags and banners ready to drive them away.
The village is tense and local police held an urgent meeting on Saturday to ensure peaceful polls on April 17.
“There are four sensitive booths in Sakhri Nate. They are going to be manned by special forces coming from Nagpur and Jalna,” said Meghna Burande, police inspector of Nate coastal police station.
Sakhri Nate, a fishing village 40 km from Ratnagiri and situated near Jaitapur Nuclear project, has been protesting against the power plant fearing that the heated water and radiation are likely to affect marine life which, in turn, is bound to hit their fishing activity.
The village with 350 boats sees Rs. 100-crore landing of fish annually.
On April 18, 2011, 30-year-old Tabrez Sayekar from Sakhri-Nate lost his life, and several others were injured when police opened fire on a crowd protesting against the project.
The anger over Tabrez’s death is still burning and the events thereafter have hurt villagers even more.
While taking a walk through the village, one is bombarded with messages of protest. They are on the central well, walls and wherever you turn.
“This was a Congress bastion, but Rane lost it because of his own doing. After the firing, he never visited us or Tabrez’s family,” said Abdul Razak Tamke, 65, who earns Rs. 200-300 a day.
Bilal Mirkar, whose son Mushtaq just missed a bullet, said his family would not mind voting for Shiv Sena to teach Congress a lesson.
“We want someone who can understand our issues. Studies in Fukushima and Tarapur show it (the project) affects fishing. We have demanded a three-year marine study, but no one cares,” Mirkar said. Sena has been supporting their protests against Jaitapur plant and this may prove a scoring point for the party in the Lok Sabha election.