Three days after chief minister Prithviraj Chavan met villagers opposing the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant in Ratnagiri district, there was tension in the area as 14 locals were arrested in connection with a two month-old incident of alleged rioting.
“The police investigated the case for two months. The arrests have been made after getting evidence,” said Pradeep Raskar, superintendent of police, Ratnagiri.
Three villagers were arrested on Tuesday afternoon, while 11 were arrested late on Monday night.
All 14, including well-known local activist Dr Milind Desai, have been booked for 14 charges such as rioting, attempt to murder, voluntarily causing hurt, dacoity, assault, rioting with deadly weapons and deterring public servants from carrying out their duty.
The incident occurred last December after the death of Irfan Kazi, 35, who was among those protesting against the nuclear power plant. Kazi, the nephew of Congress secretary for Rajapur taluka, Sarfuddin Kazi, who has been in the forefront of the protest against the plant, was run down by a Tata Sumo while returning home after dropping his daughter to school in neighbouring Nate village.
Alleging that Kazi was murdered, at least 500 angry villagers from Nate, Jaitapur and Madban burnt a police van and damaged three police jeeps and two state transport buses. Five policemen were injured.
Desai had also spoken against the nuclear power plant at the February 26 public meeting held by the government and attended by Chavan. Industries minister Narayan Rane told Desai to curtail his speech after he spoke against the government.
“The mass arrests are intended to suppress the determined resistance of the villagers to the plant, which was recently expressed by a peaceful democratic mass protest during the chief minister’s visit,” said Adwait Pednekar of the Konkan Bachao Samiti.
While Desai will be in police custody until March 4, the others have been remanded into magisterial custody.