Cross desecration: Fact-finding team questions arrest
Panaji: A fact-finding team on the desecration of religious structures in Goa suspects the involvement of more than one person.
The team set up by the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) and the Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP) has demanded an impartial probe into the incidents.
A statement from the team says it “strongly feels that the arrest (of Francis Pereira) appears as a familiar script to similar crimes across the country to pacify the civil society and the affected communities and divert attention from the actual perpetrators.”
The Goa police on July 15 arrested Pereira for the desecration of crosses and other religious items in the past several weeks.
CSJP executive secretary Father Savio Fernandes, who issued the statement on July 16, says the extensive damage the fact-finding team witnessed could not have been possibly inflicted by a single person, moreover who is 50 years old. “”The fact finding team demands an impartial investigation into the crimes,” he asserted.
A five member team comprising CSSS Director Adv Irfan Engineer and Neha Dabhade, associated with CSSS; Fernandes, Ranjan Solomon and Roselle Solomon, prominent activists working for rights of minorities associated with CSJP had visited the sites of desecration of religious structures and burial places across South Goa on July 14, 2017 to understand the ground reality.
The team visited the sites of desecration at Curtorim, Chandor, Gudi-Paroda and Curchorem and spoke to the priests of the related churches, members of the Christian community, people’s elected representatives, politicians and people from across various faiths.
However, the team was unable to meet the police officials due to time constraints although appointments were fixed but the team will meet the officials prior to the final report.
The observations pointed out to a possibility that the incidents are a part of a pattern which is planned and executed by the same persons or organisations.
“All the attacks have been executed with heavy steel implements directed at the bases of the structures to cause maximum damage. The team sensed the pain and anguish which was palpable in the shock and fear on the faces of the members of the community. The general perception of the community pointed to certain statements at a Hindu conclave and during the visit of a National office bearer of the political party in government as possibly encouraging such incidents,” the preliminary findings states.
The team further observed that the desecrations are carried out in a form of a campaign to strike fear, insecurity and mistrust among communities in Goa.
“Most of the desecrated crosses visited by the team have been targeted more than once in the past more particularly hinged around political developments in the State. The law and order machinery have failed to solve the cases and apprehend the culprits responsible for such crimes thereby emboldening the perpetrators. The helplessness and fear prevalent in the Christian community is giving rise to a feeling of being treated as second class citizens,” it said.
The fact-finding team has recommended that strict action in accordance with law be taken against individuals/organisations indulging in hate campaigns against minorities in Goa and those responsible for desecration and vandalism.
To ensure transparency it further suggested that it would be appropriate to order a judicial commission to investigate the desecrations. The team also urged civil society organisations to continue their struggle for justice to the citizens of Goa.