BY FLYNN REMEDIOS: In what can be termed a direct accusation of interference and stalling of police investigation, the Goa Citizens Action Forum (GCAF) – a body of concerned individuals, has 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.
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 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 either told to go slow and hold back and ‘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.
ALSO READ: “Goa Police are clueless,” shouts BJP MLA Michael Lobo, even as DGP swears that all possible measures being taken to find people behind desecration
The Goa Citizens Action Forum (GCAF) has accused Goa CM Manohar Parrikar of “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.
Meanwhile, the Goa Church has expressed a “deep pain” over the recent incidents of desecration of holy crosses and vandalism of a Christian cemetery in South Goa and has decided to initiate a fact-finding on these incidents. The Church feels the motive behind these incidents was to fan communal passions in the state known for the religious tolerance.
“The Church in Goa is deeply pained with the recent spate of desecration of religious structures and burial places of the Christian community, along with a stray incident targeting the Hindu community as well in the state,” Archbishop of Goa and Daman Filipe Neri Ferrao said in a statement.
He stated these “violent incidents” seem to be designed by vested interests to provoke communal discord and promote religious hatred.
“While we strongly condemn the same, I personally appeal to our brothers and sisters of all faiths to refrain from taking any retaliatory action or even fanning the flame of religious hatred in their hearts,” the Archbishop said.
Our state has been known for its traditional inter-religious harmony and peace. Let us keep these sacred values at all costs, especially in these troubled times, when violence seems to have become the order of the day, he said.
“At the same time, we urge the government authorities to thoroughly investigate these acts of vandalism and to bring
the perpetrators to book,” he demanded.
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Savio Fernandes, Executive Secretary, Council for Social Justice and Peace, a wing of Goa Church, said they have decided to initiate a fact-finding on these incidents.
“National-level organisations would be arriving in Goa on 13 July. They will visit all the places on 14 July, where holy crosses were desecrated,” he told PTI.
Fernandes said the desecration was disturbing and the cause and culprits behind such incidents should be found out.
“A fact-finding team (comprising members of a national organisation) will prepare a detailed report after visiting the places and speaking to the people. The report would be then made public,” the priest said.
The Goa Citizens Action Forum or GCAF had in a press release 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.
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” who have been brought into Goa for this sinister purpose.
ALSO READ: Rightist Ponda group behind desecration of crosses, cemeteries, Parrikar must resign as he has failed, demands Curtorim MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco
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 from Mumbai said that the Goa Government and Goa Police have taken matters far too lightly.
“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.
According to various media reports including PTI, over 100 crosses, niches and plaques at a Christian 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 last night.
Last week, at least nine holy crosses and a temple were allegedly desecrated by unidentified persons.
Several gravestones were damaged by miscreants at the Guardian Angel Cemetery. The CCTV camera which was installed at the gate of the cemetery was also found broken.
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.
According to media reports, an estimated 100 crosses and and plaques have been vandalised at Curchorem’s Guardian Angel Cemetery in South Goa, The Hindu reported. Incidents of vandalism of religious structures, including crosses and a temple, have prompted the state police to seek public cooperation for leads.
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.
ALSO READ: Cross, idol desecrators must be treated like terrorists and shot on sight: Vijai Sardesai
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.
Kumar said that careful inspection of the site revealed that more than 40 pieces have been damaged, and these include more than 20 Catholic crosses.
“We are working on some leads,” Kumar said.
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 since June, he said.
The Goa Police have already formed a special team to crack these cases. Parrikar has said the attacks were being carried out by people with vested interest to disturb the communal harmony in the state.
In 2012, around 50 gravestones and 100 graves at an adjoining Muslim graveyard were vandalised. The place is about 45 km from Panaji.
So far, police have failed to make any breakthrough in the nine desecration incidents, all from South Goa.
According to a Times of India report, a team from the Goa archdiocese’s social work wing, the council for social justice and peace, along with representatives of national organizations working for social harmony, will undertake a fact-finding mission to uncover the facts behind the recent spate of desecration of religious statues and crosses in Goa.
“The council has invited these organizations and is partnering with them as they have experience in fact-finding in other states,” executive secretary of the council for social justice and peace, Fr Savio Fernandes told TOI.
The team will meet on July 13 and set out on July 14, visiting various sites where the desecrations have been reported.
The team will take photographs and interact with parish priests and residents in the area to try and find out the facts behind these acts. The group will also meet officials and investigating officers to find out the progress in investigations.
“A report on the findings will be prepared and made public. We will decide on the future course of action depending on the outcome of the report. We cannot conclude anything until then,” executive secretary of the council for social justice and peace, Fernandes said.
Urban development minister Francis D’Souza said all the incidents involving desecration and vandalisation of holy crosses have occurred in South Goa and whoever is involved is doing it on purpose.
D’Souza told TOI on Monday, “Not one such incident has been reported in North Goa ,” indicating that this angle also needs to be investigated. D’Souza said he feels those who are involved are doing it with the only purpose of disturbing communal harmony of the state.