It was 10 minutes to 1pm. As Ratnagiri’s Muslim-dominated Sakhri Nate village echoed with the muezzin’s call for namaaz, an ambulance carrying the body of Tabrez Sayekar drove into the narrow lane that led to his home.
The atmosphere was tense, with 200 policemen standing guard at the Sakhri Nate police station.
Sayekar, 30, had succumbed to bullet injuries on April 18, after police opened fire following violent protests in the village.
His family claimed the body on Wednesday after the district administration accepted two of the three demands his wife Shireen made in an application submitted to MB Gaikwad, the district collector. Shireen had demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident, punishment for the policemen, and scrapping of the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power plant.
The government has ordered a magisterial inquiry and Gaikwad said the guilty will be punished. But regarding the plant, his response read: “Since the plant is a policy decision, I will forward your letter to the chief minister.”
Villagers came in droves for the last rites. Shiv Sena leaders were also present and handed over R2 lakh to the family.
At their home, Sayekar’s father Abdul Sattar (55) recalled: “On the day of the firing, he had gone to the police station but returned soon. Then he had lunch and rushed to the spot again.”
Firmly against the plant, Sattar, who repairs fishing nets and earns Rs250 per day, said: “If fishing is affected by the nuclear plant, who will give us jobs? I don’t even have a son to earn now.”
Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray, meanwhile, criticised the media, irked by reports that he was in Kanha forest photographing tigers as his party fuelled agitations in Ratnagiri.
“Suddenly the media and the ruling parties are looking for me, at least they have realised my importance in Jaitapur agitation,” Thackeray said in a statement, insisting he was keeping an eye on the situation.