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.
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.
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.
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“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.
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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.
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“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.
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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.
with inputs from Herald, PTI, UNI & Times of India