The correlation between journalist Shashikant Warishe’s latest article and his untimely death is undeniable. On February 6th, just hours after publishing his piece, Warishe was hit by an SUV while driving his motor-scooter near Rajapur, a city located 385 kilometers south of Mumbai, the state capital. The incident occurred at around 1:30 p.m., and the SUV driver fled the scene after dragging Warishe for about 100 meters. Warishe was rushed to a nearby hospital, but unfortunately, he succumbed to his injuries the following morning.
Daniel Bastard, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) Asia-Pacific desk, expressed his grief over the incident and stated, “The shocking murder of Shashikant Warishe, who had reported receiving death threats, is absolutely intolerable. We salute the swift action by the police and call on the Maharashtra state prosecutor’s office in charge of the case to ensure that the person or persons allegedly responsible are brought to justice. There can be no impunity for such a vile crime.”
Warishe’s article was published on the morning of February 6th in the Mahangari Times, a local Marathi-language daily. The story focused on Pandharinath Amberkar, a local businessman who had been lobbying for the construction of a major oil refinery in Ratnagiri, the district where Warishe was killed. The journalist had been covering the protests of local residents who had their lands illegally seized to make way for the refinery, and he had singled out Amberkar as the one responsible for the intimidation and harassment of targeted residents to get them to submit.
In his final article, Warishe had asked why a man who was a known tout and pro-refinery agent was publicizing photos of himself alongside the prime minister, chief minister, and deputy chief minister. Mahangari Times editor Sadashiv Kerkar claimed that Amberkar may have learned of the story even before its publication, as it had been shared by local residents on several private social media platforms.
After the police established that Amberkar himself was driving the SUV that hit Warishe, he was arrested on February 7th for murder and was remanded in custody until a hearing on February 14th.
Although Maharashtra is regarded as a pioneer in the fight to protect journalists, as it adopted a law to this effect in 2017, its implementation has proven to be largely ineffective. The murder of Warishe, who had received death threats, highlights the flawed legislation’s failure to prevent violence against media personnel.