On February 6, 2023, Shashikant Warishe, a reporter for Marathi-language local newspaper Mahanagari Times, was hit by an SUV allegedly driven by Pandharinath Amberkar, a land-dealer who was the subject of Warishe’s recent reporting, on a highway in Maharashtra state’s Ratnagiri district, according to news reports and a report by the media watchdog Free Speech Collective. Warishe was dragged under the vehicle for several meters; Amberkar then fled the scene. The journalist was rushed to a local hospital and later transferred to a medical facility in the city of Kolhapur in a comatose state; he died of his injuries February 7.
In a print report in the Mahanagari Times reviewed by CPJ that was published early February 6, prior to the killing, Warishe alleged that Amberkar was involved in illegal land grabs and had threatened locals opposed to the construction of an oil refinery. According to the Indian Express, Warishe had been covering concerns expressed by local residents and environmentalists regarding the refinery for the past two years.
On May 17, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis informed the state legislative assembly that Warishe was killed in a “a deliberately orchestrated accident,” and the police were probing whether the killing was planned, according to news reports. Fadnavis also said that killing was in retaliation to a critical reporting about Amberkar by Warishe.
CPJ was not able to find contact information for Amberkar’s lawyer for comment.
CPJ emailed Dhananjay Kulkarni, the Ratnagiri district superintendent of police, but did not receive any reply.