GOA’S GOONDAGIRI GANGSTERS!

By Rajan Narayan

GOONDA raj has returned to Goa. The don of Dona Paula, Arshad Khawaja, had reportedly hired more than half-a-dozen bouncers to intimidate the Pradeep Agarwadekar family of Assagao over the demolition of their Assagao bungalow on June 22, 2024. The bouncers included four women bouncers to deal with the wife and son Prince of the Agarwadekar family.
Indeed, during the demolition wife Prinsha and husband were kidnapped by the bouncers and taken to a distant place before being released. The goons hired by Pooja Sharma (Mumbaikar who claims she had bought the bungalow) did not want the Agarwadekar family to resist or stop the demolition operation in full swing that fateful day.
As in all such cases in Goa the goons enjoy the patronage of local politicians and the police. The don told the police who made an attempt to stop the demolition that Goa’s highest police officer, Director General Jaspal Singh himself had allegedly given them permission to demolish the structure. Anjuna police inspector, Prashal Desai, has confirmed in his report to Chief Secretary Puneet Kumar Goel that DG Jaspal Singh had ordered the local police not to interfere with the demolition. The don of Dona Paula had told the police to go away so that he could complete the demolition. This broad daylight demolition marks the return of goondagiri in full swing in Goa.

AFTER STATEHOOD
ALL this makes me recall my own battle with gangsters in the early 1990s in Goa. Goa had achieved statehood in 1987. However, the new government of Pratapsingh Raoji Rane was toppled by “godfather general of the goons” Churchill Alemao. Churchill Alemao had become very powerful during the language agitation. He was then a member of the Congress party.
Churchill Alemao desperately wanted the sport portfolio in the Rane government. He was very angry that Rane gave the sports portfolio to Francisco Monte Cruz. I recall Francisco Monte Cruz inviting me to dinner at his residence at Margao. Monte Cruz opened the door when I reached his bungalow. He was dressed in a white pant suit with matching white shoes much like smugglers in Hindi films. Monte Cruz offered me a Black Label scotch. I asked him whether it was asli or nakli (real or fake)? There was a lot of nakli scotch in Goa in those days.
Monte Cruz had won a reputation for himself for it was he who built the Fatorda football stadium within six months, in time for the Santosh Trophy national tournament. Monte Cruz told me that I was giving too much publicity to Churchill in the OHeraldo which I edited for over 20 years. Monte Cruz insisted that Churchill Alemao was a smuggler.
It is true that the Churchill brothers were caught smuggling electronic items into Goa on a couple of occasions. This was long before they were accused of smuggling gold. I told Monte Cruz that the rumor was that he too was also a smuggler. Monte Cruz admitted that he had been a smuggler but insisted that he retired from smuggling when he joined politics.
Churchill Alemao toppled the Pratapsingh Raoji Rane government. Churchill and six other MLAs revolted against the Rane government. They got the support of Ramakant Khalap who was the president of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party at that time. The speaker Proto Barbosa, who was supposed to be the leader of the rebel group, could not join the government immediately until he quit his speaker’s post.

CHURCHILL ALEMAO
CHURCHILL Alemao appointed himself the chief minister of Goa for three weeks. The chief minister’s official residence was converted into a den for goons. I remember the then SP of Goa, Ranjit Narayan, chasing a group of goons. They entered the chief minister’s residence from where Ranjit could not arrest them. With their “godfather general” in the chief minister’s chair, there was a total breakdown of law and order. The gangs became very bold as they had the protection of the chief minister. The police could not take any action against them.
I remember that there was a battle between two big gangs for the control of Panaji, which included Taleigao and Dona Paula. On the one hand there was the Santa Cruz gang led by Rudolf Fernandes, today a member of the Legislative Assembly. The rival gang was the Rego gang from Merces. The two gangs used to fight each other on the streets of Panaji. A member of the Rego gang had assaulted someone from the Rudolf gang. The person concerned was watching a movie in the Samrat theatre. The Rudolf gang pulled him out of the theatre and beat him to death on 18 June Road. The crowd and shopkeepers on 18 June road who witnessed this killing did not interfere. The police were summoned but they did not come soon, perhaps they thought that it was a good thing that the gangs were finishing each other off.
Both the gangs were involved in extortion. Every business in Panaji had to pay protection money to this gang. The Santa Cruz gang had the protection of Atanasio Babush Monseratte. Babush was always a money lender. If a builder did not repay a loan taken in time Babush would send the Santa Cruz gang to confiscate the builder’s cars and later take over flats in the buildings of the defaulters.

MANY GANGSTERS
BESIDES the Merces and the Santa Cruz gangs, there were other colorful but deadly gangsters in Panaji. There was Babuni Shaikh who provided the taxi stand near the Fidalgo Hotel. He was a 6-foot tall imposing man who looked real tough. The scariest of the goons was the drug addict called Popat. Popat used to break a beer bottle and attack people with its sharp edges. Everyone including the cops was frightened of Popat. On one occasion he terrorized the commuters on a ferry ride between Betim and Panaji. The police arrested him when the ferry reached Panaji. I chased Popat from court to court till a magistrate remanded him to police custody.
There were gangs all across Goa. There were gangs which were very active in Khareband in Margao. Then there was a gang in Vasco with most of the members belonging to Zuari Nagar which was called Fukatnagar. This was the biggest slum in Goa. A number of gangsters in the early days were from Moti Dongor, considered the most loyal vote bank of Margao MLA Digambar Kamat. By the early 90s the situation was so bad that Goa had become unsafe.
It was when I was the editor of oHeraldo I took on the goondagiri gangs. I had no sense of fear and confronted them openly. I used my power of the pen to expose them. I also wanted to take revenge for the attack on me allegedly by the Rudolf gang on September 16, 1989 when I was returning to my basement flat in Dona Paula one late evening. I was assaulted with iron rods and cycle chains soon after I forced the then speaker in the Goa Assembly, Dayanand Narvekar, to resign.

CHIEF MINISTER RAVI NAIK
I MANAGED to persuade Chief Minister Ravi Naik to take action against the goondagiri gangs under the National Security Act. Under the NSA the state government could arrest a gangster and keep him in jail for six months. Ravi Naik who wanted to protect himself from Churchill Alemao began a crackdown on the gangsters of Goa.
Chief Minister Ravi Naik sent Rudolf and even Churchill Alemao to the Reis Magos jail. The gangs of Margao and Moti Dongor in Vasco da Gama were not spared. Churchill absconded and hid in his fishing trawlers and he could not even see his newly born son, the first boy after six girls (although the rumor made the rounds that his son was taken out to sea for his blessings). Churchill Alemao even made a dramatic appearance in the Legislative Assembly as he was still a MLA. Finally, Churchill surrendered and he along with all the major goons was in police custody for almost six months.
The firm action taken by Chief Minister Ravi Naik marked the end of the goondagiri for a long time afterwards in Goa. The goons were not eliminated totally but they lost their bite and most of the gang leaders have now become respectable citizens. Some members of the Kharanad gang have become councilors in the Margao municipality. Popat died of a drug overdose. Rudolf Fernandes has finally become a member of the Legislative Assembly of Goa.
Ironically, Rudolfs is one of the Congress MLAs who defected to the BJP. Churchill is literally out of politics though he tried getting a BJP ticket in the just concluded 2024 parliamentary election. Babuni Shaikh has become religious and is engaged in social work.

POLITICAL PATRONS
GOANS have to be alert because goondagiri is returning to Goa. This time it is the building industry that is extending patronage to the goons. The so-called bouncers are really full-time goonda or thugs. The bouncers are employed by the nightclubs and dance bars in Calangute, Candolim and Anjuna. The bouncers in the beach belt in North Goa have the patronage of politicians and MLAs Michael and Delilah Lobo.
Historically, Goan builders have not taken to goondagiri. It is the builders and buyers of property from outside the state who are encouraging goondagiri in Goa. The don of Dona Paula claims to be a broker who was apparently contacted by Pooja Sharma. What can the police do when the buyer of the property Pooja Sharma is the wife of a senior Mumbai government officer? The DGP in Goa Jaspal Singh tried to protect the goonda demolition squad. The case offers an opportunity to finish the goondagiri gangs of Goa. The people of Goa have to come together to fight the goondagiri. If the people unite the politicians will be forced to act.
I have proved that it is possible to take on goondagiri. I hope editors like Raju Naik and Vijay D’Souza will join the battle against ever new gangs of goondagiri in Goa.

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