SCRIPTED: Francis Pereira seems to a convenient scapegoat, sacrificed at the altar of convenience. He seems to be following his script faithfully and proving the ruling party political leaders right. He apparently claims that he desecrated the Guardian Angel Cemetery at Curchorem as he was against Nilesh Cabral joining the BJP. He also endorsed Vijai Sardesai’s claim that the crosses were being vandalised as voters of South Goa did not like him joining the BJP
In a script for a B grade Hindi horror film, Francis Pereira, a ‘radical intellectual’ according to the Director General of Police of Goa Muktesh Chander, desecrated crosses and burial grounds to release the aatmas of those abandoned in the cemeteries. The screenplay writers are Home Minister Manohar Parrikar, the Curchorem MLA, Nilesh Cabral, and Deputy Chief Minister Vijai Sardesai
By Rajan Narayan
It is not a case of dumb monkeys who cannot see, cannot hear and cannot talk. Our cops have very sharp ears when they choose to listen to their political masters. They have very good eyesight when it comes to locating foreigners on bikes from whom they can extort money. They can talk very eloquently when they want to find an excuse for refusing to register an FIR, as they did in the case of Fr Bismarque.
The police are not disabled or differently-abled, and can not only walk, but run. So why did they not chase the suspect whom they saw climbing over the wall of the cemetery after vandalising the crosses? We can only assume that though they can be seen and heard, and can talk and walk and run, they are being restrained by someone very powerful.
People believe they are refusing to act against those who really are provoking the minority community and destroying Goa’s harmony, because some of their political bosses are preventing them from investigating the crimes and catching these bad elements.
The Goa cops have lived up to their reputation of finding a neck which fits the politically desired noose as they did in the Temple Desecration case. The Goa police in a script apparently written by Home Minister Manohar Parrikar, Goa Forward (GF) boss Vijai Sardesai, and local MLA Nilesh Cabral, have arrested a taxi driver, Francis Pereira, for the mass desecration of crosses and places of burial.
According to the police, the motive for the acts of mass desecration is Pereira’s belief that breaking tombstones sets the souls or aatmas of the dear departed free. The police claim that Pereira, whom Director General of Police Muktesh Chandra calls a radical intellectual, has confessed to desecrating places of worship for over five years.
Pereira has also followed the script dictated to him by our political masters in what seems like the story line of one of the Bollywood bhoot-pret or bhootaatma films. Among the other motives he has cited is that he did not approve of Nilesh Cabral joining the BJP and Vijai Sardesai extending support to Manohar Parrikar to form the government. Chief Minister Parrikar has left the window open by admitting that it is possible that other people were involved.
Not surprisingly, the taxi driver seems to have lots of money in the bank in fixed deposits. Crosses and Catholic burial grounds are desecrated. A radical intellectual Catholic who also hates Nilesh Cabral and Vijai Sardesai is caught. The case is solved the moment Manohar Parrikar returns from United States. All of which, as the fact-finding body of the Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism points out, is a familiar script in similar crimes across the country to pacify civil society and divert attention from a larger conspiracy.
It would seem an action replay of the arrest of Kavesh Gosavi in the case of the mass desecration of temples. Just as there has been a great deal of fear and anxiety among the Catholics of South Goa over the attacks on crosses and burial grounds, there was an uproar in 2009 when a number of temples were damaged including the Mahadev Temple at Paroda.
Unfortunately, the court did not buy the story of the cops. Gosavi was acquitted by the High Court with even the lie detector test conducted on him proving negative. Then, as now, the police had claimed that they had cracked the case of the attack on the temples and that Gosavi, like Pereira, had confessed. The irony is that Gosavi has lodged a complaint against the Crime Branch with the State Police Complaints Authority, which is why few believe the police claim that Pereira is responsible for the mass desecrations.
The biggest joke, of course, is that organisations like the Sanatan Sanstha, who were among the suspects, have demanded an
apology from the state government and the police following the arrest of Pereira. But for the minority community, organisations like the Sanatan which hosted ‘Sadhvi’ Saraswati, are still suspect and they are not willing to accept the police claims on Pereira. Even if Pereira is a member of the sect called Believers which is not in favour with the Church, as they believe in worshipping only Jesus and not all the saints or Mother Mary, we have not known of any instance of violence by the Believers. In fact, it has been the other way round and the Believers have been targeted by Goan Catholics.
Let us reassess the facts that we know. The incidents of desecration of places of worship happened only in South Goa. The overwhelming majority of places of worship or burial belong to the minority Catholic community. There have been very few incidents of attacks on temples compared to attacks on crosses and Christian burial grounds.
Even more interestingly, the incidents are happening mainly in constituencies represented by Catholics elected on BJP tickets. The biggest incident of vandalism took place in the burial ground of the Guardian Angel School in Curchorem which is part of the constituency of Nilesh Cabral, the BJP MLA who is the Chairman of the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC). Even the Ponda taluka, which is now considered a part of South Goa and a Hindutva strong-hold dominated by the Dhavalikar brothers, has not witnessed a single incident of desecration of places of worship.
There are some theories put forth, particularly on Facebook, that these incidents are meant to teach a lesson to the people of South Goa. It is not clear whether the Sangh Parivar is behind the incident, because unlike in the 2012 election, Salcete did not vote for BJP candidates this time. Are they teaching the GF a lesson for betraying the people and joining hands with the BJP out of greed? The GF party had condemned the BJP as a communal and corrupt party before the elections and even during the election campaign.
Are the master minds of the continuing incidents of vandalism trying to punish the Congress and specifically Luzinho Faleiro, the GPCC President, for sabotaging the chances of the Congress forming the government inspite of getting an unexpected 17 seats as against the nine seats they won in the 2012 election?
When similar incidents have happened in other parts of the country there have been demands for the dismissal of the government for the breakdown in law and order. Here there have been demands for the dismissal of the chief minister and the home minister, who in the case of Goa happen to be the same person, Manohar Parrikar. It is not as though Parrikar did not know about the incidents of vandalism of crosses and Catholic burial grounds. They had started long before he left for the United States to attend a convention organised by persons of Maharashtra and Karnataka origin settled in Chicago. Knowing how sensitive the situation is, Parrikar should have at least handed over the Home portfolio to one of his colleagues so that there is some political executive to supervise the police. Parrikar instead has been running the Goa government from Chicago, just as he ran the Defence Ministry from Goa when he was the Raksha Mantri.
The billion dollar question is, who is the master mind behind the epidemic of vandalisms? During the last week alone, following the mass damage to crosses and burial places in the Guardian Angel burial ground in Curchorem, there have been incidents of desecration of crosses in Loutolim. It has been reported that one more cross was found desecrated at Calcondem which is on the boundary of Margao city. More importantly, even almost a month after the incidents of vandalism started, why did the politicians remain silent?
The only BJP politicians to express concern are the two BJP Catholics MLAs Michael Lobo and Nilesh Cabral. Indeed, Nilesh Cabral threatened to go on a fast, as though he could appeal to the conscience of the culprits. Not a single majority community MLA such as Rajendra Arlekar has made a single comment on the desecrations. Even Parrikar’s closest confidant Sidharth Kuncalienker, who has given up his seat for Parrikar, has not condemned the attacks on the minority community’s crosses.
Among the allies of the BJP, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which has been their historical partner, has not made a single comment. We wonder if this is because they are close to the Hindutva fanatics who organised the convention at which ‘Sadhvi’ Saraswati wanted the Catholic MLAs hanged for eating beef. As far as I can recall, the Independent MLAs supporting the BJP like Rohan Khaunte have also not made any comments. The only ally who is making loud noises is Vijai Sardesai who has made himself the president of the GF. Even within the ruling party there are differences, with Michael Lobo demanding that the case be handed to the CBI, while Vijai Sardesai claims to have full confidence in the Goa police.
We would have thought that this is an excellent opportunity for the opposition Congress party to topple the government. In the past, whenever something like this happened, former GPCC President and General Secretary of the AICC Luzinho Faleiro, has screamed and shouted. Perhaps because he could not become the chief minister and has been removed from the post of party president, Luzinho Faleiro remains silent.
He should have led a large morcha to the Chief Minister’s Office or the Secretariat, demanding the resignation of Home Minister Parrikar. But even the other Congress leaders have been silent, including those who have been elected on the Congress ticket. Surprisingly even people like Churchill Alemao, who likes to make use of every opportunity to draw attention to himself, has not said a word. Former Home Minister, Ravi Naik and former Minister of State for Law at the Centre, Ramakanth Kalap, have also been silent. One had hoped that the new GPCC President Shantaram Naik would show some spine and take on the BJP government over the mass vandalism of places of worship of the Catholic community. Not a single press conference has been addressed by any Congress leader on such a sensitive issue.
In crime novels like those written by Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes, the question always asked is cui bono. What could be the motive for the crime? Who benefits from these acts of vandalism? It is sickening that even the dead lying in their graves have not been spared by the vandals. Forget about respecting the living, they have no respect even for the dead. The Catholic community either because it is totally susegad, or because it realises that it is reduced to a small minority now comprising only 20 per cent of the population, has not staged any protest. They have staged protests against MOPA under the banner of ‘Only Dabolim’ led by Fr Emrita Rebello. They have launched protests against the MOI policy, demanding grants for all. They have even protested and have been successful in getting a court order directing the police to file an FIR in the Fr Bismarque case.
Of course their restraint is admirable and should be commended. They have set an example to all the Hindutva fanatics in UP and MP and Jharkhand and Rajasthan — all BJP-ruled States — who have been attacking not only Muslims but Dalits also, in the name of saving the holy cow. Even Archbishop Filipe Neri opened his mouth only as recently as Thursday, a month after the attacks on crosses started. We must salute Governor Mridula Sinha, who has strongly condemned the incidents of sacrilege and has directed the police to stop this attack on the secular tradition of Goa.
These attacks have to be the work of some outsiders as Goans have always lived in communal harmony. From the time of the Portuguese, Hindus, Catholics and Muslims have never had any problems with each other. Since Indian Independence and the Liberation of Goa there has been only one minor communal incident in Goa which does not even qualify to be called a riot. This was again co-incidentally in Curchorem. The Muslim community in a village called Gudum had secured permission from the Director of Panchayats to use a building for running a madrasa and the prayer house.
A section of Hindu fanatics attacked and damaged the religious structure. Following this the local Muslims in Curchorem and Sanvordem took out a procession. Rumours were spread by Hindutva fanatics that a large number of Muslims have come from Hubli with swords and other weapons to attack the Hindus.
The rumour was proved to be wrong. Despite this the Sangh Parivar attacked Muslim shops and vehicles. When some of them
were arrested and taken to the police station in Curchorem a mob led by Manohar Parrikar threatened to burn the police station if those arrested were not released. Pratap Singh Rane, who was the chief minister then, visited the police station but did not take any action. It was left to the then Governor Jamir from Nagaland to take action. The report of the enquiry committee indicted all the BJP leaders. Since 2006 there has been no communal incident in Goa.
Goa has been attracting people from all over the country because of communal harmony. The Muslims in India think that Goa is the safest place for them and there has been migration to Goa from not only Karnataka, but from Gujarat after Godhra, and even from UP and Rajasthan and Orissa. Though there have been some tensions between the Catholic and Muslim community over land and Madrasas and kabristans, there has been no incident or even a minor clash, let alone violence.
The only time Goa has seen violence is during the Konkani movement. So why and who is so obsessed with disturbing the peace and harmony that is the hallmark of Goa? What is their motive in creating a divide between the Catholic and the Hindu community?
Unless the police and political establishment addresses this question, they will not be able to stop the epidemic of attacks on churches. They will resume as Pereira is not alone, if he is the culprit at all. The police have to look both within Goa and across the state for reasons why suddenly the Catholic community is being targeted. Even more importantly the media has to find out who is the master mind, and why the police are unwilling to take action even though they know who is responsible.