On the face of it, the crime doesn’t appear to be a major one and the police will probably investigate it cursorily. It was an argument between two business rivals, owners of poultry farms that led to one shooting at the other on the hand. Even the cause of the argument is somewhat veiled, early investigations lead to it being possibly over labourers. But, there is a difference, a gun has been fired. When one juxtaposes this incident with various others that have occurred over the past months – 10 months to be precise – there is a worrying pattern of use of firearms with frightening frequency that Goa has not seen in the past.
Here’s a quick recap of what all has occurred in recent times. The first such incident was in June 2020, when a dispute between two gangs led to a shooting in the middle of the night in a residential area at St Cruz. The use of firearms led to one member of a gang being killed. This occurred during the pandemic restrictions of night curfew, giving rise to questions of how the gang managed to evade the police and get to St Cruz during the curfew hours. Soon after, in September 2020, Margao was rocked out of its seeming security when a prominent jeweller Swapnil Walke was shot and stabbed multiple times by a group of robbers in daylight. He died, while the criminals escaped. CCTV footage and a massive hunt led to their arrests. This year in February, again in Margao, notorious criminal Shaikh Anwar alias Tiger was shot by a rival gang in the middle of a busy road at Fatorda. Anwar survived the attack as he was rushed to the hospital. The police thereafter recovered the deadly weapons at the instance of the arrested accused. And now we have the incident in Merces.
Are these or are these not indications of a collapse of the law and order situation in the State? A pertinent question to be asked is how do these persons get possession of guns or pistols that are used in the crimes? It does not end there. A day before this, two activists in what can only be termed a stunt decided to swim across the River Mandovi for justice. No permissions were taken, no safety measures were put in place. One of the swimmers drowned. What’s worse, this swim had been announced on social media, so why didn’t the authorities stop it from happening? Is there no fear of the law? The questions are many, but the answers are few.
Goa Police may take solace from statistics showing that the crime detection rate is improving. Statistics may also show that the crime rate is not increasing. But Goa is witnessing heinous crimes and herein lies the difference. Shootings, gang wars, arson are crimes that the State has been experiencing only of late. The odd shooting occurring in the past cannot be denied, but the frequency now is much higher and unless the authorities take serious action, they may not be able to control it.
Can the government assure its citizens that they are safe in the State? Goa needs a response to this. Goans have to be told that their safety is the highest priority of the government and that it will be ensured. More has to be done on the part of the law enforcers and of the government to ensure that criminal elements do not have a free rein in the State. Arrests have been made in all the cases of the use of guns, but this appears to have not deterred others from using such weapons. It is not easy to own a gun in India, so how come there are so many instances of use of firearms in crimes?