A day after three persons were killed in police firing on a farmers’ rally at Maval in Pune district, the state government on Wednesday ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident and put on hold work on the water diversion project that was the target of the protest.
The situation in Maval (about 120 km away from Mumbai) remained tense on Wednesday and traffic on the Mumbai-Pune expressway, which had been blocked by protestors, was much less than usual.
Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who is the guardian minister for Pune, ordered work to be stopped on a tunnel to divert water from the Pawna dam to Pimpri-Chinchwad, and said a committee headed by the chief minister would meet within the next eight days to arrive at a solution.
On Tuesday, violence had broken out when the police tried to disperse protestors, who had blocked the Mumbai-Pune expressway bringing traffic on a 20-km stretch near Kamshet to a complete halt. The villagers were opposing the tunnel saying they would face a water shortage and lose their land.
Announcing the probe by a retired high court judge, home minister RR Patil told the Assembly that the first shots were fired by a person driving a black car. “A farmer was hit by the bullet and he has filed a complaint with us.”
This triggered stone pelting and the situation got out of control as a mob of 1,200 gathered on the expressway,” said Patil, adding that the police have found particles of the bullet fired by the unknown person and these would be tested in a forensic laboratory.
He also warned Opposition leaders of “serious consequences” if the probe report reveals that they had instigated the mob.
However, the home minister did not defend the police action on Tuesday. “I admit we made certain mistakes. We should have taken preventive measures since we knew that this protest would turn aggressive,” said Patil.