BY FLYNN REMEDIOS: The Goa Citizens Action Forum (GCAF) has alleged that the entire conspiracy to create communal unrest in Goa and incite disturbances and riots in the tiny tourist state was hatched and planned by ‘Seekers‘ or followers at the Sanatan Sanstha ashram at Ramnathi, Ponda in North Goa district and was triggered by the high-voltage and sensationalized statements of speakers like Sadhvi Saraswati at the recently held Hindu Rashtra Conclave.
The GCAF which has demanded an immediate ban on the Sanatan Sanstha is in the process of collecting evidence that can stand up to legal scrutiny in a court of law and will approach the concerned authorities with all the evidence within a few days, spokesperson for the GCAF, Josephine Dias told IndiaScribes.com late on Wednesday evening.
The GCAF also accused certain “hardliner, vested interests” from the Goa RSS, VHP and BJP units, of providing logistical support, moral backing and even financial help to the “hired thugs from outside”, particularly Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra who have been brought into Goa for this sinister purpose.
“We have the some of the names of the people involved and we are verifying and confirming it all through a private investigation. We will submit a complete dossier to the police and also move the concerned courts with the information, demanding a ban on the Sanstha soon, the GCAF said.
The GCAF in a press statement echoed Dy Speaker and BJP Calangute MLA Michael Lobo’s assertion that an outside hand is involved in the dastardly acts aimed at creating communal tension and even riots in Goa and that the Goa Police are completely clueless in the matter.
Josephine Dias, spokesperson for the GCAF speaking to IndiaScribes.com said that the Goa Government and Goa Police have taken matters far too lightly or they are protecting and shielding the accused.
The Goa Citizens Action Forum or GCAF has directly accused and held responsible the Ramnathi Ponda-based right-wing Hindu organisation Sanatan Sanstha and henchmen of Sadhvi Saraswati’s group Sanatan Dharma Prachar Seva Samiti of Chhindwara in MP of being the masterminds and perpetrators of the continuous desecration of crosses, cemeteries and religious idols and places of worship in Goa over the last one month.
“Tomorrow if tempers flare up and there are riots in Goa, the Goa CM Manohar Parrikar and the Goa DGP must be held totally responsible, Dias said, adding that the Sanatan Sanstha and the Sanatan Dharma Prachar Seva Samiti have prepared and kept ready a group of over 200 trained volunteers from outside Goa to “handle” any sort of “response” from the minority communities. Some of these out-of-state volunteers are already camping in Goa, but spread out in smaller groups in different parts of the State and others are parked near the Maharashtra border and can be rushed into Goa within hours should the need arise. The Goa Police is completely unprepared to control and handle any sort of communal flare up and the situation can go out of hand in a matter of a couple of days,” Dias stated.
In a direct accusation of interference and stalling of police investigation, the Goa Citizens Action Forum (GCAF) has also squarely blamed Goa CM Manohar Parrikar of mishandling the entire matter of the vandalization of crosses and other religious idols in Goa from day one and called for immediate handing over of the entire case to the CBI.
“The CM should have acted when speakers at the Hindu Rashtra Conclave at Ponda made communal statements. What we are seeing today is a direct result of the vitriolic speeches of the speakers at the conference,” Dias said.
According to Josephine Dias of the GCAF, “Even the Dy Speaker and Calangute BJP MLA Michael Lobo has accused the police of “not having any clue regarding the identity of the culprits” and “not working“.
If the Dy Speaker and senior BJP leader himself says publicly that the police are not working, what does it mean? It means that either the hands of the police are tied and the Goa police who are controlled by the Goa CM – who is also the State Home Minister – are told to go slow and hold back or ‘not investigate efficiently’ or are being restrained so that important clues that could identify the culprits get washed away in the rain. Or maybe the Goa CM does not even want the matter to be investigated at all and is merely putting up a facade to show people that the police are trying to do their best.”
Spokesperson for the GCAF Firoz Ahmed Khan speaking to IndiaScribes.com editor-in-chief Flynn Remedios on phone alleged that the Goa CM has actively interfered and possibly stalled the initial investigation into the desecration of places of worship, as senior BJP leaders were at that time convinced that the events were scattered and rare and according to the BJP top brass were the handiwork of the Congress.
However, since the last three days, when over over 100 religious items were damaged, desecrated and vandalized on a large scale in South Goa, even BJP leaders have begun to ask questions.
Most prominent among the BJP voices was Calangute MLA and Dy Speaker Michael Lobo said Goa police have failed to identify the culprits involved in the incidents of desecration of crosses. If they can’t arrest those involved, the investigation should be handed over to the CBI, he said at a press conference on Monday.
Lobo said he suspects an “outside hand” in the repeated incidents of desecration of crosses over the last few days and this has to be stopped. “Investigation has to be handed over to the CBI if Goa police are unable to nab the culprits. Goa police are not working,” said Lobo.
The Calangute MLA, who has always been vociferous, said he will take up this matter with chief minister Manohar Parrikar once he returns from his trip to the US. Parrikar is scheduled to return from his week-long tour on Wednesday evening.
Saying the people were let down by the police, Lobo said “Somewhere, something is wrong” and suggested that police reintroduce the methods it had adopted a few years ago when similar incidents of vandalism were reported in Goa.
Reacting to the vandalization of about 100 crosses and plaques at a Christian cemetery in Curchorem in South Goa, Curtorim MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco speaking to IndiaScribes.com on phone said that the Parrikar-led government in Goa has failed to maintain law and order in the State of Goa.
“Parrikar is the Home Minister and the custodian of law and order in the State. While some members from Parrikar’s government and his allies are blaming the Congress for the desecration, and claim that they know who is behind the act, why don’t they go out and arrest them, Lourenco asked.
According to a media statement by Curtorim MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco, the BJP in Goa is indirectly supporting criminal elements and particularly those from right wing groups – same like the ones who were involved in the Margao bomb blast case few years ago, try to create communal disharmony and coerce and threaten the minorities into submission. “I am of the opinion that similar extremist elements from these type of organizations are responsible for the vandalism,” said Lourenco, adding that according to the CM if others are involved, they should be arrested immediately.
“The CM is also the Home Minister and the law and order of the state is his responsibility. The CM has failed in his job and I demand that the CM should either resign for his failure or hand over the Home Minister s post to someone very responsible and capable enough to handle the situation in Goa. I feel the Parrikar government or some elements in the Government are shielding the culprits and protecting them or even supporting them indirectly,” Lourenco told IndiaScribes.com in a telephonic interview.
Lourenco squarely placed the blame on what he referred to as a “rightist organisation” from Ponda, which was also being investigated a few years ago for very similar attacks on crosses and cemeteries in different parts of Goa and a bomb blast at Margao near the Grace Church.
Without naming the Sanatan Sanstha, his reference to the “Ponda-based organisation” accuses the latter of complicity in the matter.
The Goa Citizens Action Forum (GCAF) has accused Goa CM Manohar Parrikar of negligence and “not taking things seriously” and not “pushing the police force” to get results in the case pertaining to the desecration of holy crosses and idols in Goa.
According to various media reports including PTI, over 100 crosses, niches and plaques at a Christian cemetery Guardian Angel Cemetery in Curchorem town of South Goa were allegedly vandalised by unknown persons, the police said. According to Curchorem Police Inspector Shivram Vaingankar, the incident took place 3 days ago.
Last week, at least nine holy crosses and a temple were allegedly desecrated by unidentified persons.
“Several gravestones were damaged by miscreants last night at the Guardian Angel Cemetery. The CCTV camera which was installed at the gate of the cemetery was also found broken,” he told PTI.
Goa Minister Alina Saldanha while stating that the police were not doing enough and must work harder has demanded a ban on communal elements like Sadhvi Saraswati.
In the last week alone, the state has witnessed the desecration of over 10 religious structures, Times of India reported. Most of these acts of vandalism have been reported in the Roman Catholic-dominated taluka of Salcette.
On Twitter, Smita Nair, a journalist with the The Indian Express said the state police are still counting the number of crosses vandalised at the cemetery in Churchorem and added that CCTV cameras at the site were found damaged.
While the police have increased patrolling in most areas, an unidentified police official told The Times of India that monitoring Salcette was proving to be a challenge as there is a cross “every 100 metres and in some parts even after every 50 metres”. “We have got leads and are working on them,” an officer said.
Meanwhile in a development on Wednesday, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Nilesh Cabral threatened to sit on a dharna if culprits behind the mass desecration at a cemetery in Curchorem village are not arrested before the end of upcoming Monsoon session of the Goa legislative assembly.
“These desecrations are a threat to my government. Police have to act quickly and arrest those responsible for the desecration or else I will sit on dharna outside the Curchorem police station before the assembly session ends”, said Mr. Cabral, an MLA from Curchorem constituency.
“I will also be raising this issue in the assembly session. Police needs to modernise in order to catch such culprits,” Mr. Cabral, who is also the chairman of State-owned Goa Tourism Corporation Limited said.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had earlier alleged that some people are trying to “create issues and raise tension in the state”. Parrikar has directed the state police to use Google Maps to identify a pattern, if any, in the vandal’s attacks. “We have increased technical surveillance and the process of analysing technical data is underway,” South Goa Superintendent of Police Chandan Chowdhary said.
The Congress has demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the series of acts of vandalism at religious places in the state.
Deputy Inspector General of Police Rupinder Kumar told IANS that the incident occurred at the Guardian Angel Catholic cemetery in Curchorem in south Goa, where a similar attack had occurred five years ago.
“Policemen were posted outside the cemetery. When they heard sounds inside the cemetery, they went in to check. Several Catholic crosses, granite stone plaques and gravestones were damaged. A CCTV camera and an electric light pole also were damaged,” the police officer said.
Initially, officials at the Curchorem police station had estimated the number of damaged crosses, gravestones and plaques at more than 100.
State Congress President Shantaram Naik has demanded a CBI probe into the cemetery vanadalism.
“We are demanding a CBI probe into the serial desecration,” Naik said, adding that Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s government in the state has failed to rein in such vandalism and acts of desecration.
This is the fourth such incident within 45 days, since June, he said.