VELIM: Florencio Gregorio Dias did not see it. But felt each blow and pain both to his body and his soul. For others, you need to see it to believe how a 78-year-old ‘blind man’ was dragged out of his house, shoved aside and his house demolished right in front of him while his wife was in the market in April this year.
By the time wife Rosy got back to the house 45 minutes later, a group of ‘goondas’ in Dias’s words, did their deed, leaving, Dias homeless. All he had was the debris of the home he lived in since the eighties. His father Carlos Piedade Dias is a freedom fighter and World War II veteran.
The only relief, if one can even call it that, was that he didn’t have to see the faces of terror who went to this extent to throw a senior couple out of their property. This is indeed one the most shocking and cruel stories of land grabbing in Goa
“We had just spent money repairing our kitchen in this house. We never expected to be thrown out like this and have the house demolished too. This was not done by any government authority such as the panchayat or the district collector. Can anyone take law into their own hands like this? There was no government issued demolition order either,” said Dias.
This happened in April, three months ago, but the couple were too fatigued and despondent to do anything, after making several calls to the police in absolute vain. Then they heard of Herald’s expose on the land grab pandemic that has uprooted so many daughters and sons of the soil. Deprived of eyesight but not of will, Florencio Dias and his wife came to the Herald office in Margao to meet its reporters, climbing stairs with a simple plea to hear them because the government, including three Chief Ministers Manohar Parrikar, and Pramod Sawant never did and nor did then CM Pratapsingh Rane during whose term the issue was even raised in the assembly.
Assurances from three Chief Ministers but still thrown out of his own home
There is a civil dispute over the ownership of the house but the issue of Dias’s family being harassed, was even raised in the Assembly during the tenure of former Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane. That’s not all, there is written correspondence from former CM (late) Manohar Parrikar that he would look into this, while the present CM Pramod Sawant had assured the Dias family who had met him in person that he would look into it as well.
Incidentally, for the last 40 years, Dias and his family have written so many letters to all the authorities, including the police.
All those promises have come to naught as not only has Florencio been forced to live elsewhere after the house was demolished, he also now faces an uphill battle in his old age to continue fighting this case when all the odds are stacked against him.
“The fact that he is a ‘Person with Disability’ (PwD) seems to have been completely ignored by the authorities who are unaware of these recent developments.
What is more shocking is that this is being done by Goemkars to another Goemkar and this poor man is being taken advantage of thinking that he won't be able to fight in his frail condition,” said a friend of the family.
Florencio, who is 100% blind, is registered as a PwD with the Directorate of Social Welfare. The address and all the other addresses in Florencio’s name is the house that has been demolished. Their ration card, election card and the bills bear the same address.
So why do they find themselves being dealt with such a cruel blow of fate?
The land originally belonged to the (late) Caetano Romao Fernandes and (late) Maria Ida Vaz Fernandes who were living in Nairobi, East Africa.
The registered agreement of sale is between the ‘vendors’, that is the son, daughter-in-law and daughter of the original owners, namely (late) Xavier Jeron Antonio Fernandes, Mary Nuala Fernandes and Julie Diana Carvalho respectively; and the ‘purchasers’ Carlos Piedade Das and his son Sabino Franco Dias (brother of Florencio).
Moreover, there is a declaration from the wife of the late Xavier Fernandes and co-owner, Mary Nuala Fernandes, resident of the UK, where she confirms that in the year 1987, the property including the house was agreed to be sold to Carlos Dias for a total sum of Rs 85,000.
In 1988, Carlos was stunned to find a gift deed of this property registered in the State’s land registration office even though he had power of attorney of the same. He was shocked to find that his signature was forged on this gift deed, which was made in favour of (late) Leocardia Colaco, wherein his name figured as the witness.
It is this gift deed, which the Dias family knows is fake, which became the key for grabbing as the Colacos took over after a 14-year litigation where the Dias family spend defending their land and home on which generations spent their childhood and growing up years, in a Goa which was less greedy and violent. (Tomorrow part 2: On how the deed was done)