Times of India, July 26, 2008
PUNE: The agitation against Dow Chemical’s research centre at the Shinde Vasuli village, about 40 km from here, took a violent turn on Friday, with a mob of about 250 people going on the rampage at the company’s construction site.
The attack resulted in major damage to the construction machinery and other material, including glass panels and air-conditioners. The attackers tried to set on fire the temporary shelter erected by the company comprising two rooms.
Assistant police commissioner Shrikrushna Kokate said, “A mob of 200 to 250 people arrived in vehicles and attacked the centre early in the morning. A criminal offence under sections 395, 427, 435, 436, 317 of IPC 149 was filed by the security men of the centre. Ten people have been detained.”
Nandkumar Sangalikar, public affairs director of Dow Chemical International Pvt Ltd (DCIPL), said, “A mob of 80 people carrying kerosene cans attacked the centre. The attackers used hammers to damage the building. Water tanks, crane and partly constructed rooms were set afire at the site. The company has filed a complaint with the Chakan police station.”
Most of the attackers were outsiders and not villagers. They came in sport utility vehicles and vandalised the centre, Sangalikar alleged.
However, B.G, Kolse-Patil, retired judge of the Bombay high court who stays in Pune and is against Dow’s centre, said, “The action was taken by the villagers and not by outsiders. It’s true that we too are opposing the centre, but villagers indulged in violence.”
On Thursday, officials from the company had visited the centre in the wake of the high court order to the state government to ensure resumption of work at the construction site. Some of the villagers, who are against the centre, had blocked the road. A police force was called in to control the situation.
In a statement, the company strongly condemned the vandalism at its facility. “It pains us to see these acts of vandalism taking place at an upcoming science and technology centre. It is clearly an attack on the growth of science,” the statement said, adding that the company is fully committed to a peaceful resolution of the situation through dialogue.
“We have engaged the village community during the past six months. An overwhelming majority of the local residents are now desirous of the research centre shaping up in their neighbourhood,” the statement added.
The company has been facing strong opposition since January, as critics have alleged that the research centre may create health problems for villagers. The construction work, suspended for some months following protests, had resumed after a committee set up by the state government gave the green signal.