Around the same time that French President Nicolas Sarkozy set foot in India on Saturday afternoon, 60-year-old Sitabai Gavankar was dragged by her neck and huddled into a state transport bus along with 60 other women. They were detained for protesting against the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Plant at Ratnagiri district that is being set up with light water reactors from France-based Areva at Madban.
Three hours later, protestors from the neighbouring village, Nate, who were prohibited from entering Madban damaged two police jeeps and pelted stones on a state transport bus, shattering its window glasses. A brief lathicharge followed and three police officials were injured.
On Saturday, close to 2000 people not just from the affected villages but from neighbouring areas as well as Mumbai reached the Shri Devi Bhagwati Mandir at Madban by foot, road, rail and even boat to court arrest as a sign of protest against the green clearance that came through a week ago.
"Let us eat bakhri and chutney and live peacefully in our village. We rather stay poor than accept compensation," said Parvati Padwal, 70, inching slowly towards the temple.
Over six hours about 35 state transport buses ferried villagers and detained them at the Aabasaheb Marathe College.
Retired Bombay High Court judge B G Kolse Patil and social activist Vaishali Patil were arrested and taken to Rajapur Police Station because there are prohibitory orders against them to enter the area. They were released late in the night.
"Even before the western ghats panel submits its report to the environment ministry, the nuclear power plant got a clearance," said SK Mayekar, retired principal.
With tight police security and implementation of section 144 that prohibits more than groups of four to move around, protestors adopted various strategies.
While Kolse Patil reached Madban by sea via the neighbouring fishing village of Nate, Vaishali dressed in a burqa travelled by the state transport bus and hoodwinked the police conducting their checks.
President of Janhit Seva Samiti Pravin Gavankar who had gone underground for the last few days turned up disguised as a Muslim sporting a fake beard and a skull cap and walked with villagers from Nate that predominantly comprises Muslim population.
"We will take down each protestors' names and release them in the evening," said a senior police official requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to talk to the media.
When asked about the lathicharge and the protest, district collector M B Gaikwad said, "We have asked for a detail report and only then will I be able to comment."
Late into the evening as the protest continued, villagers irrespective of the communities stood inside the temple premises calling for non-violence. "Don't be emotional and violent. Think before you act lest those on the other side will take advantage," said Amjad Borkar, fisherman. "This is not our last fight."