Talegaon (Pune): Blissfully unaware of the tragedy that has struck his family, Kunal Tupe, 2, was seen clutching on to his red toy car at Sadawalai, 6km away from the Pune-Mumbai Expressway. He did not know that his father Shaymrao Tupe had died in police firing on Tuesday and that his death had caused an uproar in both Houses of Parliament.
Protests by the opposition over firing on farmers in Pune that killed three on Tuesday forced abrupt adjournments in both Houses. While the Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day without transacting any business, the Lok Sabha was adjourned till 2pm. In the lower House, BJP and Shiv Sena members rushed to the well of the House demanding the dismissal of the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra. On Tuesday, farmers belonging to the Maval tehsil of Pune district blocked the old Pune-Mumbai highway as well as the expressway to protest against the construction of a pipeline from Pavana dam to the nearby industrial township of Pimpri-Chinchwad as they fear they won’t get any water after the diversion.
The firing is the second such incident in Maharashtra in the recent past. In April, a protester died in police firing during the agitation against the Jaitapur nuclear project.
Kunal was ignorant of the tragedy but the tension was palpable in Tupe’s home and Sadawalai village. Tupe family’s relatives from adjoining villages had gathered in large numbers to mourn the death of the 29-year-old farmer who owned one acre of land and is survived by his widow Hausa, two-year-old Kunal and his mother.
Villagers, leaders of farmers and local political leaders hold the state’s deputy chief minister and guardian minister of Pune district Ajit Pawar responsible. For Pawar, who controls the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), the pipeline project has become a prestige issue, they said. He wants to demonstrate before the next municipal polls, scheduled for early next year, that substantial work has been done on the 34-km long, Rs 700 crore pipeline project.
Some even allege that Pawar, under the pretext of supplying water to Pimpri-Chinchwad, wants to divert it to his constituency of Baramati. Pawar wanted to make a statement in the state legislature but was not allowed to do so by the Opposition. He could not be immediately reached for comment.
Devkant Chaudhari, nephew of Shyamrao Tupe, said, “For one month this agitation was going on peacefully but as there was no response from the state government, the farmers decided to block the Pune-Mumbai highway. They were doing rasta roko peacefully and planned to disperse after a while but police first resorted to lathi charge and then opened fire without any warning.” Ganesh Taras, a farmer who received a bullet injury and is currently undergoing treatment at the Talegaon General Medical Hospital, alleged that the provocation for the police brutality was the local support for the BJP-Shiv Sena combine. “I own four acres of land and undertake paddy cultivation in kharif season and grow vegetables in remaining part of year but now I am worried what will happen to my paddy crop as I will be out of action for at least the next two to three months,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the state legislature, BJP MLA from Maval Bala Bhegde tabled an adjournment motion. Intervening in the discussion, state home minister R.R. Patil announced a judicial inquiry into the matter by a retired high court judge.
He also gave a new twist to the police firing incident by claiming that the first shot was fired from a car parked near the site of the agitation.
“We have some eyewitness accounts saying there were two to three men sitting in a car and when police approached leaders of agitators, requesting them to vacate the spot, someone from the car shot in the air, which led to stone pelting by the mob on the police and the police opening fire in retaliation,” he said.
He accused BJP-Shiv Sena of having double standards on the issue and said the party’s leadership from Pimpri-Chinchwad supports the pipeline but those from Maval and adjoining areas oppose it.