GODFATHER: Rudolf Fernandes, son of late Victoria Fernandes, considered himself godfather general of goons until Churchill Alemao was implicated in a case of smuggling gold when he was the acting chief minister of Goa
By Rajan Narayan
Contrary to the claims of Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant, that the crime rate have fallen by 67%, we seem to be back in the early 90s era of gang wars all over Goa. The days when the then Herald chief reporter Anthony Fernandes was assaulted with swords and iron rods in Horseshoe restaurant at Rue-de-Ourem. A gang member was taken out of Samrat Theatre by a rival gang and beaten to death in front of everyone including the police on 18 June road. Indeed, the very next day after the recent shooting incident at Santa Cruz there has been report of another murder from Arpora when a waiter killed one of his colleagues. What we need is an invocation of the National Security Act to lock up criminals and throw the key away….
I PRESUME IG of Goa Police Jaspal Singh meant it as a joke when he claimed that there was a 67% drop in crime in since Covid-19 happened to Goa. What happened on late Saturday night, June 20, 2020, when rival gangs clashed in Santa Cruz belies this boast. Far from crime coming down the gang wars of the 90s have returned. Despite the fact that there was supposed to be a curfew between 9pm and 5am a group of goons attacked the house of Imran Bepari, a history-sheeter.
Ironically, according to the police version, one of the attackers who was Sonu Yadav from Caranzalem, was accidently shot by a member of his own gang. To further add to the absurdity of the situation the newspaper which claims to always tell the truth (satyamev jayete) insisted that the recent shoot-out in Santa Cruz was all over a girl. Apparently, members of both gangs were line-maroing the girl and had clashed over encroachment by one another earlier too.
The only major difference between the gang wars of the 90s and the latest gang war is that both the groups involved are outsiders, though some members of the gang are Goan recruits. Some time ago I needed to meet former Director General of Police Muktesh Chandra over a cybercrime which happened some time ago. The retired SP (Crime) Umesh Gaonkar accompanied me. This is the fearless officer who broke the back of the Rudolf gang in Santa Cruz long ago and introduced me to the DG by telling him that it was my support (as then editor of the Heraldo) that enabled him to stop the gang wars in Santa Cruz and other suburbs in Goa like Merces and Taleigao.
In those days Rudolf Fernandes considered himself the godfather general of goons in Goa and presumably mummy dearest Victoria Fernandes, his mother, who died recently knew about it. I have strong suspicions that it was the Rudolf Gang which was responsible for trying to kill me in a beating up incident inflicted way back in the 1989, when I ended up with severe injuries on my spine. Rudolf was allegedly given a supari (contract) to kill me for forcing the then Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Dayanand Narvekar to resign, for having attempted to molest his 18-year-old secretary in his Legislative Assembly room.
I AM also certain that the Rudolf gang was responsible for the brutal assault on my then colleague and news editor Anthony Fernandes too. Due to some clashes within the Mumbai underworld, the illegal matka lottery that was run by the late Ratan Katri, was disrupted. Matka was the most popular and universal form of gambling in Goa. Agents sitting at tables used to sell matka tickets with numbers on it in the morning and during the day. Late in the evening the booked numbers which were put in a matka were shaken and winners were taken out. Matka was extremely popular partly because of the odds which could even be one is to hundred. There was never a case of the matka kings and their agents not paying up if you won because the gang was ruthless with defaulters.
IN VIEW of the disruption of the matka which everyone played from the peon in my office to other reporters and other editorial staff which the exception of the Editor, Rudolf Fernandes decided to start his own version called the Goan Matka. Anthony Fernandes, one of the reporters Goa has ever produced, came to know of the plans of the Rudolf gang. Some members of the Rudolf gang went to Anthony’s residence and warned him not to publish a word on their matka project. But the fearless Anthony submitted his and we published it the next day.
The next day after office hours a group of us from the Herald were having a drink at the Horseshoe restaurant and bar at Rue de Ourem. Many lawyers also used to frequent the bar which was run by a former Goan commando from Nigeria. A group of Rudolf’s thugs attacked Anthony in front of more than 15 people included not only my then assistant editor Norman Dantes, but several lawyers. They attacked Anthony with swords and iron rods almost – perhaps an action replay of the recent attack by Chinese soldiers on our Indian soldiers at the line of control in Ladakh. Not a single one of the patrons in the bar came to the rescue of Anthony — except for the owner and one of Goa’s famous chefs, Vasco Silveira. A severely injured Anthony was rush to the GMC and some members of the Rudolf gang were arrested.
EARLY 90s gang wars
IN the early 90s the Rudolf gang’s primary source of income was protection money. Anyone who wanted to do any business legal or illegal had to pay hafta (bribe) not to the police but to Rudolf. The biggest customer or patron of Rudolf was allegedly the present Panjim MLA Babush Monseratte. Babush was primarily a money lender approached by builders anxious to make a fast buck. When the builders did not pay the exorbitant interest let alone the principle on the loan allegedly Rudolf collected on Babush’s behalf. Whatever the builder had whether it was his luxury imported car or other possessions were seized by the Rudolf gang. In the majority of the cases Babush allegedly took a full floor in the newly constructed buildings or the entire building if the entire loan taken was not fully paid up.
The gang wars were not limited to the Rudolf gang in Santa Cruz. In neighbouring Merces there was an equally ruthless Rego gang which owns Rego hotel near the Panjim Bus-Stand. There used to be frequent fights between the two gangs using iron rods, cycle chains and even guns on some occasions. I recall the gruesome incident in which a member of one of the gangs was kidnapped from Samrat Theatre, where he was watching a film, and literally beaten to death on the 18 June road in broad daylight, in the presence of all the shopkeepers and tourists crowding the commercial hub of Panjim.
Then there was the alleged contract killer Babuni Shaikh who used to control the Fidalgo taxi-stand. The much feared Babuni was always available to anyone who wanted to get someone merely beaten up or even killed. His very appearance was intimidating. Babuni like the other gangs was involved in extortion. Indeed, the various gangs operating in and around Panjim had to be paid off if you wanted to do any business in the Tiswadi taluka. They divided the taluka into various sections and businesses and there was an unwritten agreement that they would not interfere in each other’s territory.
Despite this gang wars between them would continue to break out. This was because if a builder was attacked by the Babuni or Rego gang they would rush to Rudolf to take revenge. The deadliest of them was a pathological drug addict who used to go by the name of Popat. He was the most dangerous of them all as he was allegedly on drugs most of the time which made him totally unconscious and indifferent to his own violent behaviour. His modus operandi was to break a beer bottle and attack the victim with the sharp edged half bottle.
I recall a gang war which took place in the ferry between Betim and Panjim with Popat fiercely attacking the victim who was defending himself from his own associates. Popat was arrested and I recall we followed him from court to court to see if the police as usual, would frame week charges so that he would be quickly released on bail!
Then as now the police at least in Panjim did not interfere with any of the gangs. On the contrary they were either very friendly with gangs or were afraid of entering into any confrontation with them. The gangs did not fear the police and in fact had total contempt for them. The logic of the police was to instigate the gangs against each other hoping that they would finish each other up. That was not how it worked and the whole of the Tiswadi taluka lived in a state of terror for several years.
There were mini gangs in Taleigao and other suburbs though the main gangs at that time were Rudolf and Rego gangs. Rego gang members seem to have reformed and are now in respectable business. Rudolf, who must now be in his 40s-50s, must be tamed in spirit at least after he was arrested under the National Security Act by the then Chief Minister Ravi Naik.
In 1989 the Rane government was toppled by Churchill Alemao because he was not given the sports ministry. The Churchill ministry which was actually headed by Dr Proto Barbosa was toppled by Dr Wilfred D Souza, who in turn induced Ravi Naik who was a senior leader of the MGP to defect to the Congress on the promise of making him the chief minister.
If gang wars were eliminated not only from Tiswadi but from the whole of Goa the credit should go to Ravi Naik. Ravi Naik invoked the National Security Act under which no bail is available for six months. Ravi arrested not only Rudolf and the other members of the Tiswadi gangs but even the 20-days chief minister Churchill Alemao and moved them all to the Aguada and Reis Magos jails. He did not spare the gangs operating in Karebandar in Margao and in Baina in Vasco. Ravi even went to the extent of arresting the grand old freedom fighter and mother of Rudolf Fernandes, Victoria Fernandes.
ravi invokes nsa
THE only one of them who was released by the review committee of the National Security Act was Victoria Fernandes. Helping Chief Minister Ravi Naik demolish all the gang warfare in Goa to restore law and order was the then honourable PI of Panjim Umesh Gaokar, who recently retired as SP (Crime Branch) and who is considered the bravest, most honest of all police officers.
I would be unfair if I did not include in the honors list the then chief reporter of the Herald, Anthony Fernandes, our crime reporter who vigorously followed up every criminal activity in the Tiswadi taluka. Anthony was given government quarters to live in at Patto as also police security. Allegedly members of the Rudolf gang even tried to harm his three-year- old child. Finally, in disgust and not wanting to invite the shadow of threats on the life of his family, he took up a job in the Gulf.
Anthony is back now and I publically invited him to write about the Herald war against the criminal gangs of the 90s. Unfortunately, we are back to square one with a chief minister who is also the home minister who is totally indifferent to the law and order situation in Goa. Almost by the hour there are reports of assault or a firing or rape and murder taking place, although it is thought to be primarily confined to outsiders and particularly those coming from Uttar Pradesh.
The fact that both the victim and the assailant in the latest shootout incident were a Bepari from Karnataka and a Yadav from UP, would seem to suggest that the new breakdown in law and order and gang wars are limited to the bhaile. They ghar wapasi of several lakh of migrants does not seems to have affected the continued deterioration in the law and order situation. I cannot imagine open attacks with guns and other weapons during curfew hours over the affections of a girl (as a section of the press has reported) has reported!