Ratnagiri (Maharashtra): Nearly 3,000 farmers and fishermen on Wednesday made an unsuccessful attempt to “recapture” their farms and other lands, which have been acquired for the proposed 9,900-MW Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP) coming up here, police said.
The security forces, deployed in huge numbers around the JNPP complex, detained the marchers at various points before they could reach the site and arrested 22 activists, including local Shiv Sena legislator Rajan Salvi among anti-JNPP agitation leaders.
“The situation is under control, we have deployed adequate security and there has been no untoward incident,” an official of Ratnagiri Police Control Room said.
The farmers and fishermen on Wednesday morning started marching from 10 surrounding villages to the JNPP complex in an effort to “recapture” their lands taken over for the nuclear project.
“They wanted to go back to their lands and start sowing rice as the monsoon has just begun,” Pradeep Indulkar, an office-bearer of Konkan Anti-Nuclear Power Project Committee, said.
The marchers were detained on the roads or inside their villages and not allowed to march toward the JNPP site.
No arrest was made, but police detained 22 activists, including Rajan Salvi, MLA, for violating the curfew order.
There was tension in the area throughout the day, even as the protest fizzled out at the actual Jaitapur plant site where only around 100 local farmers, including women, gathered to protest against the forcible land acquisition and to till the land they lost to the project.
Nearly 1,500 fisherfolk protested at Sakhri Nate village to show solidarity with the farmers of Madban and Mithgavane who lost their land to the project.
“The local farmers who lost their land decided to protest by tilling the land in the project area. The protest was marked by farmers taking their cattle and farming implements to the project site and tilling the land. They wanted to protest the forcible acquisition of land by the State government,” Vaishali Patil, an activist from the region who is now facing externment, told The Hindu.
The authorities have acquired around 730 hectares of land for the nuclear power project and another 250 hectares will be acquired for constructing residential and public amenities for the staff which will live and work at the project site.
According to Indulkar, the authorities have constructed a long boundary wall, measuring nearly 40 km on three sides (the fourth side is the Arabian Sea) to protect the JNPP site.
Another prominent activist, Vaishali Patil, described the situation as “tense” with nearly 1,000 security personnel deployed and ban on any gathering of five or more people under the prohibitory orders implemented in the region.
“People along with their cattle and goats are peacefully sitting in ‘dharna’ (sit in) in their respective villages and there has been no violence of any kind. I was not allowed to enter the region by the police,” Patil said.
“The local farmers have now formed a Madban Mithgavane Sangharsh Samiti to do community farming at the project site. We had already issued curfew orders and orders banning unlawful assembly near the plant site. There was heavy police deployment in the area. But the response to the protest was very weak as people decided not to break the law. We have detained 22 persons for not abiding by Section 37(1) (3) of the Police Act,” Pradeep Raskar, Ratnagiri Superintendent of Police, told The Hindu.
Activists said the police also imposed Section 144 of the Bombay Police Act prohibiting unlawful assembly in the area.
“The actual plan was that farmers and fishermen from across the area will come together at the project site. But that did not happen unfortunately,” Ms. Patil said.
There was hardly any participation from other villages such as Niveli, Karel, etc.
The protesters said they planned to launch ‘Chipko movement‘ in the region from next week to block the movement towards the plant site.
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