Navy is also in trouble with civilians over 1,659 acres of ‘disputed land’ in the barren hilly jungle area near Nevali village of Thane district

Mumbai : In the backdrop of the Navy week, local fishermen have taken up the issue of the May 17 firing incident on a fisherman with the naval authorities. They have demanded an explanation from the Indian Navy as to why  the Navy personnel earlier fired a warning shot into the sea water instead of shooting in the air and have further questioned them as to how the bullet deflected from the sea water and hit an innocent fisherman.

On the evening of May 17, 2015, navy personnel on board an Immediate Support Vessel (ISV) which was deployed for the coastal security and patrol in the Offshore Development Area  of Bombay High, had shot at a fisherman. He was critically injured.

On its part, the Navy claimed that despite repeated warnings when the boat refused to move out of the prohibited area, warning shots were fired into the water. It further justified that one round deflected on hitting the water and accidentally hit a fisherman in the boat.

Fishermen community leader Damodar Tandel said, “I did not understand why they fired a warning shot in the water in the proximity of fisherman, instead of in the air.” He added, “I cannot buy the theory that a bullet fired from a modern high calibre rifle could deflect from the water. They (navy) should justify it.”

Navy is also in trouble with civilians over 1,659 acres of ‘disputed land’ in the barren hilly jungle area near Nevali village of Thane district. The Indian Navy is going through a land crunch and needs some space for new projects and establishments and hence is planning to recover its ‘encroached property’.

The ‘encroached property’ was a base for fighter planes of the British Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Navy officials claimed that after independence, the land was transferred to the Central Government but was solely kept for Defence establishment purposes. Till early 80s, the land was in possession of the Air Force, but later it was transferred to the Navy.

To claim the land, often the navy units go there for exercise or measure the land. As soon as the navy convoy comes, the villagers leave their work and carry out rasta rokos and obstruct the navy commandos.

The villagers claim that the land belongs to their forefathers. They say “Mahatma Gandhi had appealed to the people to support the British during the World War II. With that obligation, our parents gave our land to the British to use for their armed forces, on condition that they will return it to us. However, after Independence, the British left India and we took our land. However on paper, the land still belongs to the government.”

At present, the disputed land issue is subjudice. Despite that, there are still confrontations between locals and navy personnel over the disputed land.

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