Two days after three protesters died in police firing on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the finger-pointing continues.
Questions are being raised over the death of Moreshwar Sathe, 45, a farmer, and Shyam Tupe, 25, a driver, who were among the hundreds who blocked the expressway at Bour, 128 km from Mumbai, on Tuesday. The third person who died in the police firing was Kanta Thakar, 40.
They were protesting against a water tunnel project, which they feared would divert their water and force them to give up land.
On Thursday, relatives of Sathe questioned how he could be killed in police custody. “Whatever I got to know from villagers at the site suggests my brother was killed by police,” said Sathe’s brother Kisan.
Sada Khot of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, a farmers’ body, said: “Many saw Sathe in the custody of police. This hints at encounter by them.”
Tupe’s relatives had alleged on Wednesday that he was pulled out of the multi-utility vehicle which he was driving and shot from close range.
Following ruckus created by the Opposition parties on the issue, Maharashtra home minister Patil announced in Mumbai any policeman found guilty of wrongdoing would be booked for murder.
Denying the allegations at a hurriedly called press conference, Pune (rural) superintendent of police Sandeep Karnik distributed compact discs showing video clips of Sathe first being picked by police, and then walking towards the crowd — apparently before being killed by a police bullet.
“It shows that the victim was released from detention when he escaped and joined the protesters near Kamshet tunnel. Exactly how he died will be known in the investigations and judicial inquiry,” said Karnik.
Regarding Tupe’s death, Karnik said: “I cannot comment…I don’t have details.”
Meanwhile, Navnath Vitthal Pangare, 29, a resident of Khed Shivapur in Bhor village, who had earlier told police he was shot at by an unidentified person from a private car, backtracked on Thursday. Pangare’s complaint formed Patil's defence that there was a conspiracy behind the violence.