Just how did an activist being held in judicial custody get beaten up in Sada sub-jail? That’s a question that this government has to answer right away. The larger question is whether the government is willing to answer this question. Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar says he is awaiting the report from the prison authorities to decide on the course of action. Mormugao police have sought details from the prison authorities to file an FIR. The jail authorities have already rubbished the allegations.
Just watch how events unfolded. Ravindra Velip from Caurem was arrested because he and other villagers of Caurem were protesting the transportation of ore extracted from certain mines. The villagers feared that during the Shigmo season, while they were celebrating elsewhere, ore would be extracted in large quantities and transported before the villagers could learn what was happening. They were assured by the authorities that this would not be allowed to happen, but the villagers claim this indeed did happen and so protested, leading to their arrests. Velip, and others who were arrested, were then remanded to judicial custody and minutes before Velip was released on bail he claims he was assaulted when still lodged in the sub-jail.
The jail authorities claim there was no assault in the sub-jail and said they were waiting for a formal complaint before they launch an investigation. It was only late on Thursday evening that the Inspector General of Prisons visited the jail and ordered an inquiry. That happened after villagers came to Panjim and presented him with a complaint. Before that jail authorities were already making statements wondering how 200 other inmates at the jail did not see the assault happen, if it indeed did occur. The statement makes sense, but why are the authorities, if they are indeed innocent, making it? Are they trying to camouflage something by such statements? If, as they claim, there was no assault they should prove it, not raise doubts over events.
There are already indications that there could be a cover-up being planned. Why does a law enforcement agency have to wait for a ‘formal complaint’ before investigating an assault in a sub-jail? Why are officials already making attempts to poke holes in the claims being made by Velip, when they have not even started investigations? Why do Mormugao police have to wait for a reply from the jail authorities before filing a FIR? There are too many questions and until now too few answers.
The anti-mining activist has alleged the involvement of a mining firm, a member of the Legislative Assembly and others in the attack. The MLA has already denied his involvement. This is beginning to look like a high-profile case, so it doesn’t surprise that the authorities are avoiding direct answers. This case needs to be dealt with seriously and immediately. Its repercussions could be many. If it is indeed proved at a later date that a MLA, law enforcement authorities and a mining firm are involved, then Goa now has a new mafia nexus in place – the politician-police-mining mafia nexus. And there are already fears that the possible involvement of a mining firm could adversely affect the resumption of mining activities in Goa.
Caurem has suffered quite a bit due to mining. This is not the first time that the residents of this village have been attacked in incidents related to the industry. An anti-mining activist Nilesh Gaonkar was assaulted in 2011 and in the same year protesting villagers had been taken to the police station and allegedly manhandled. The National Human Rights Commission had later ordered the government to compensate the villagers for the manner in which they were treated. The government and the various authorities owe this village and its residents a proper investigation without favour to anybody. Can the government do this?