6,000 PANAJI KIDS LIVE IN FEAR!

A video grab of three youths who entered the Cujira school complex on April 3 and got into a fight, with one of them wielding the knife.

By Rajan Narayan

SINCE April 3, 2024 6,000 kids studying in the Cujira Educational Complex just off Bambolim plateau have been living in fear. Cujira is a former garbage dump of Panaji which has been rehabilated. Some of the major schools in Panjim including the Dempo higher secondary, the Mushtifund School, Green Rosary, Hegdewar School and the People’s High School have been relocated in the Cujira educational complex. Many schools have their primary to higher secondary in this complex where they were allotted sites by the Goa government. This was done to de-congest Panjim.
On April 3 three young goons, one of them wielding a knife, unleashed terror in the Cujira educational complex. For over an hour the young goons held the 6,000 students, parents of primary school students, to ransom. The incident happened at 11am when it was the closing time for the primary section. But parents of the tiny tots were not allowed into the school by security to pick up their children. It was a very tense situation for the 6,000 students on the campus and parents of the primary school kids.

SHAMEFUL SECURITY
THOUGH parents were not permitted into the school complex the security allowed all kinds of goons to enter the complex. The fact that one of the goons had a knife made everybody wary of approaching them. It is shameful that none of the 1,000 odd teachers or the principals or the parents tried to disarm the goons. It was later claimed that three students of the Dempo higher secondary were hurt. The police have still not clarified whether the attack was due to previous enmity or a “supari” on the parents of some of the kids.
Both the attackers and the students who were victims were teenagers. Just by a coincidence, the knife-wielding young adult goon had a Muslim name. The other members of the gang were niz Goenkar from Caranzalem. While none of the teachers or parents were brave enough to intervene they all clicked photographs of the scene on their mobile phones. Everyone nowadays is expert in shooting other people with their mobile phone camera.
THE police came way beyond noon after the goons had varnished. They are known to the police as they are notorious members of a gang from Caranzalem. The young goons were arrested on a simple charge of assault which is a bailable offence. The Narendra Modi government only believes in arresting its opponents like Arvind Kejriwal under the Public Money Laundering Act under which no bail is permitted. The young goons are well connected to a ruling party minister from Taleigao.
Given the code of conduct is in place the police could have referred the case to the collector. The collector could have deported them from Goa. But no political party wants to chase away the goons, they are very useful during elections coming up. Their muscle power is needed to fight the elections.

GOONS IN DEMAND!
SUCH gangs of goons or thugs are in great demand at election time. This brings us to the larger issue of the security of the 6,000 students and 1,000 teachers in the Cujira educational complex. The classrooms are all very posh. They have smart blackboards and computer workshops. They have ultra modern facilities. The higher secondary classes of the Mushtifund which is a passport to the IIT is located in this Cujira complex. All the 20 students who got into the IIT studied at the Mushtifund in Cujira.
The schools have good playgrounds and open spaces. Perhaps because the complex is shared by five schools nobody is concerned about the entry and exit points of the educational complex. There are CCTV cameras which are useless as nobody monitors them. There is security office in the complex to regulate entry into the student area. The security staff hired even by the schools are migrant labor in uniform.

EXEMPLARY SHARADA MANDIR
IF the schools had the kind of security that Sharada Mandir provides, no goons would have been able to enter the complex. Even parents have to provide identity cards issued by the school to enter Sharada Mandir. On the other hand the Cujira educational complex is an invitation to trouble and anyone can get in to cause mischief.
Interestingly, the police and school authorities are silent about the motive behind the entry of the goons and attack on Demphe college students. Philanthropist Pallavi Dempo who looks after the Dempo educational institutions is busy campaigning in south Goa for a south Goa parliamentary seat. There is no word from the Dempo group on the incident where three students were attacked. There is enough money with the promoters of the schools to provide full proof security to students and teachers.
While the Dempo higher secondary is funded by Shrinivas Dempo, the chairperson of the Mushtifund school is Anil Counto of the Anil Counto Group of companies. The Anil Counto Group has the dealership of the Mercedes and other business interests in cement factories and hospitality. The Hegdeware school is run by the RSS. All the schools could have come together to coordinate security. But it is everyone for themselves with no one concerned for the common good.
It is shocking that there is not a word of protest from parents and siblings of the children studying at Cujira. The terror attack on the educational complex in broad daylight at 11 am in the mid-morning within the school complex reminds us of the days when Panjim was in the grip of gang warfare in the 1990s. The Rudolf gang from Santa Cruz and the Rego gang from Merces used to have open fights on the streets of Panjim.

GANG WARS OF 1990s
WE recall the occasion when a gang member was pulled out of the Ashok theatre in St Inez and killed on the streets. There was a psychopath called Popat who used to use a broken beer bottle to terrify people. The police did nothing as the goons enjoyed the patronage of the powerful politicians. It is the builders and the finance companies which offer bikes and high end mobiles on instalments which patronize these goon gangs. All of them need an enforcement agency to take possession of the bikes or the phones if the person concerned does not pay the equated monthly instalments. You can get an Iphone if you are willing to pay Rs3,000 or Rs4,000 a month over two years. Bikes have to be paid for over a maximum of five years. The goon gangs act as enforcers for the finance companies. They are paid a lot of money and are addicted to alcohol and drugs and other vices. They are a law unto themselves.
As dramatized by the Cujira incident. Nobody wants to argue with a goon holding a knife. So much so terror goes unchallenged. In my days I used to openly confront the goons. I recall Police Inspector Umesh Gaunkar acknowledging my support against containing goons in Goa. At one point when Ravi Naik was the chief minister all the goons including Rudolph Fernandes and Churchill Alemao were arrested under the National Security Act and they were not given bail for over six months. We thought that the gangs had been disbanded.
Apparently, new gangs have taken the place of the old gangs and the members are dropouts from schools and colleges. They are homegrown and not migrant gangsters. There should be pressure from society to arrest and contain the building up of these gangs, let them cool their heels in jail to think it over. Parents of the students schooling at the Cujira Educational Complex should approach the Election Commission of India security. The Election Commissioner can direct the Collector to provide adequate security in the school complex.

CM TAKE ACTION
THE police department must take cognizance as must Chief Minister Pramod Sawant who should crack down on goons growing from strength to strength and provide security for the students. Shrinivas Dempo and Anil Counto should take the lead in providing security to the Cujira complex. They have the money and the expertise. There is no point in waiting for the Education Department to act.

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