Panaji, Nov. 5, 2018: The mortal remains of Bismarque Dias, an activist priest, will finally be laid to rest three years after he was found murdered under mysterious circumstances in November 2015, even as his family’s campaign for justice, believing he was murdered, remains inconclusive.
Bismarque was initially reported missing, but his body was found floating in the Mandovi river surrounding his native island village of St Estevam, close to Panaji, later, much to the shock of his family and friends.
His family, who had refused to bury his body until criminal proceedings are completed, relented after doctors at the Goa Medical College and Hospital informed that no further tests could be performed on his body. The proceedings were initiated after the family approached the high court.
“We have longed to receive Bismarque’s remains and hold a proper farewell. But we also know that besides being our brother, he was the son and brother of Zua (St Estevam) and Goa. Hence, we waited patiently so that a proper investigation could be carried out and justice could be served. We may lay his earthly remains to rest but our fight for justice continues,” his brother Mario Dias said.
According to the police, Bismarque went for a late night picnic with two boys along the banks of the river. He ventured into the river and “accidentally” died of “asphyxia as a result of drowning in the water.” The two boys, who were questioned by villagers and police alike, claimed Bismarque had gone for a dip and vanished into the murky waters without a trace of sound. His body was found over 24 hours later floating close to the opposite side of the bank.
His family, however, refused to accept a magistrate’s inquiry and challenged it before the high court at Goa, which ordered the state police to investigate the case from a criminal angle.
“The circumstances which led the deceased to the river shore have not been established during the course of the investigation. The state cannot shy away from an impartial and a fair investigation to examine the root cause of an unnatural death to the satisfaction of the family members of the deceased,” the court had said.
Bismarque, who championed many environmental causes, has spoken out against the church’s decision to sell an entire island to a builder. He also campaigned against several large government and private projects, including Goa’s upcoming second airport, a golf project, and large housing projects. He also unsuccessfully contested the 2012 Goa assembly elections as an independent candidate despite the church not allowing it.
Weeks before he died, Bismarque recorded a video message naming some persons who were a threat to his life. The police, as part of their inquiry, recorded the statements of some of the persons named but said they found no evidence to indicate that Bismarque was murdered.
The family delayed the burial fearing that the case would be forgotten once he was interred.
The funeral will be held at St Estevam on November 6.