The continuous and mindless vandalism of religious structures across Goa, mainly in and around Curchorem, is clearly a pre-medidated and planned programme and can no longer be passed off as stray incidents of violence aimed to create disturbance. The design though is to spark an outage which will lead to a communal flare-up. And that that must be stopped at all costs.
While restraint is the order of the day, even while reporting the incidents, the mass desecration at the Guardian Angel cemetery at Curchorem, shortly after 3.30 on Sunday night/ Monday dawn, needs a response of the highest order. It is safe to state that the situation is alarming enough to seek more professional help in the form of paramilitary forces.
This also calls for an immediate reassessment of force deployment and additional needs and for the CRPF to move into South Goa, because the attacks seem to be completely focused on the more volatile part of the state. Unfortunately, the response to the attacks, has been built more on hope that these stray incidents will die down rather than on hard investigations and identifying the perpetrators. The frustration at the failure to make even one arrest out of a series of mindless vandalism, has irked even senior ruling party MLA and Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo. He has used extremely strong words like the “Goa police are completely clueless” Lobo’s tone of voice and belligerence was stronger than even the opposition as he said that the police was not working in the right direction and that he would ask for a CBI inquiry, after Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar came back from his trip to the USA.
While long term solutions advocated like community policing, getting elected representatives to form a task force working with local informers, has been mooted, this process has to happen in tandem with hard core investigations to crack this mindless series of attacks on religious structures, especially crosses, chapels, tombs and niches.
Meanwhile some of the main churches, chapels and cemeteries must be secured with functioning CCTV cameras as well as a round the clock force in plain clothes who will keep a watch on all suspicious behaviour.
It is indeed shocking that the CCTV at the ill-fated Guardian Angel Cemetery was not functioning and a pathetic irony that the vandal who damaged 28 niches, 5 wooden crosses, 9 granite crosses, 16 tombs and the big cross atop the entrance arch, damaged the non- functioning CCTV and then proceeded with his shameful acts of desecration.
The longer the police delay in completing the investigation and identifying those responsible as well as their masters, the gap between the people in the villages and the police force will only widen and when the attempt is to prevent any flare up or tension, you need to have trust. That is a commodity in short supply these days, in South Goa with a daily occurrence of some sort of vandalism of religious structures.
A twin-pronged approach of the community becoming a watchdog led by elected representatives, both in the Panchayat and the council areas has to be coupled with specialised paramilitary forces moving in to patrol, investigate, identify and arrest.
Thankfully, the desired objective of tensions being created and a communal divide being carved has not been met The Goan mind and heart is bigger than crass attempts at creating such a divide. However, giving a free run to these miscreants will lead to irritation and anger, that the supreme patience of Goans is being tested, even as they wow never allow the social and secular fabric of Goa to snap.