Why does this newspaper at periodic intervals, and some say ‘out of the blue’, “resurrect” memories of a man whose mortal remains still lie in morgue decaying, with his flesh putrefied. A man – as those who love Goa the way he did, believe – who was done to death, probably because, the idea on which the conscience of Goa pivoted, needed to be done away with, an idea called Father Bismarque.
And then you ask; Why now? Is this the anniversary of his death, or birth, or a green day or a day to protect our mangroves and rivers? Is it a day for martyrs, or soldiers, a day for the valiant and the brave?
And this is the problem with our weak conscience and our propensity to forget and move on. The day the people of Goa need a day in the calendar or a public holiday to remember him, Goa will sink further into the nadir it finds itself in. Bismarque made each day, till he died, a day of remembrance, and belief. He reminded us of the state Goa was in and falling further and kept up the belief that we have the power to halt this plunge into the morass and make our land resurrect, to fight evil in every form.
We bring him back, right into the centre stage of our consciousness because it is so convenient to forget. And we don’t like convenience because truth is never convenient. The ease with which Goa believed that he was drowned, the comfort with which Goa castigated those who were “making an issue” of his death and finality with which the idea of Bismarque was sought to be wiped out, by sections who were just as scared of him in the flesh, as they were about the feistiness of his spirit.
Bismarque reminded us – not because he wanted to be mass leader, but just because he felt it was right – that the fight to protect Goa and its resources cannot be a Facebook or a social media fight. He took himself out of his comfort zone in such a manner that the fields and forests, the rivers and mangroves and the streets of Panjim and the tintos of Benaulim became his comfort zone. He changed the definition of comfort to places where he could fight for the people of Goa.
We therefore do not need a day to resurrect the memory of Bismarque. But we also do so now because there is a matter at hand. The High Court has pronounced, after the petition moved by die-hards who refuse to let his death be treated in any other manner other than a murder – that an FIR has to be registered and this be treated as an unnatural death and the circumstances that led to the death should be probed at rather than just the clinical aspect of the immediate cause of death. The FIR of his death on November 6, 2015, was finally registered on April 24, 2017.
And the circumstances are vital. At around 11.30 pm on November 5, 2015, arguably a few hours before his death, two sets of boys claimed to have seen Bismarque at two different spots at the same time. The two boys who were with Bismarque for the longest stretch of time, Darren and Ganesh, said that they were with him at the mouth of the river at a spot called Babol manos. At the same time, five youth of the village claimed they saw him at a spot called Udiyar not far from the St Estevam church. This crucial contradiction of circumstances has to be in the ambit of investigation.
Some of the extracts of the Court order are important, and more so because these need to be put down in a proper snapshot, for us to get the picture
1 Bismarque’s Death was unnatural
The court of Justices FM Reis and Nutan Sardesai, in response to two petitions, one by Kennedy Afonso, Sudeep Dalvi and Sameer Keleker, and the other by Bismarque’s family members Maria Monteiro e Dias and Mario Francisco Dias stated, “Upon hearing the learned Counsel and considering the rival contentions and on perusal of the records, with the assistance of the learned Counsel, we find that the fact remains that there was an unnatural death of the deceased”
2 Circumstances which led to Bismarque going to the shore which led to drowning not examined
Extract: “Ultimately, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate by an Order dated 21.04.2016 has held that the death of the deceased was due to asphyxia as a result of drowning in water and is considered as accidental death summary which is under challenge in the present petition. But the fact remains that the circumstances which led the deceased to the river shore have not been established during the course of 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.”
3 Interest of victim, his dear ones and the community cannot be alienated
Extract: “The rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India not only recognises both the life and liberty of the accused but also interest of the victim, his near and dear ones as well as of the community at large and therefore it cannot be alienated from each other. The investigation of the crime has to be effective and purposeful besides being fair and objective.”
The court also said that throughout their investigation even a minor contradiction or error may destroy the confidence of the investigation.
The order was passed on April 11, three months ago. It’s time for the investigating agency to hand over the first of its three monthly reports to the High Court. It will be an important report.
Meanwhile, the efforts of Bismarque’s closest friends, well wishers and fellow travellers on the people path, have prevented the investigation as well as the memory of Bismarque, from falling off the radar. The launch of a boat called “Bismarque the unsinkable” on which anyone can ride and listen to tales of Bismarque’s bravery and his struggles has been launched. And yes, there’s no glamour here. The launch wasn’t preceded by a party on board with cheese and wine. The tiny boat runs on Bismarque’s spirit and the never ending songs sung by the die-hards. On carnival day, there was a float in his memory and earlier a human chain of solidarity was formed.
The battle though, is as much about keeping his memory alive as giving rise to a legion of foot-soldiers who will carry this forward. It cannot rest on the three or four activists, who have become synonymous as the torch bearers. And this is so because Goa does not need a Bismarque clone, but it needs the germination and the glorious explosion of the idea of Bismarque which teaches us to challenge the system because we love our land.
The idea of Bismarque is for each one of us to be watchdogs of a Goa which is still ours. We have to watch over, as the new regional plan will be created. We have to watch over to see if the eco sensitive zones are protected or mutilated in future. We have to watch over as the government very rightly, is reviewing some of the clearances of resorts and hotels, by the IPB, including the one at St Estevam.
Let us do this for one simple reason. And that is to remind ourselves that the strength of each civilisation lies in the innate goodness of its people. And while it is important to do well, it’s more important to do good. Bismarque gave his life doing good. And this needs no investigation to determine. Let that goodness not die.