30 Jun 2024  |   12:46am IST


With no demolition orders to show, or any legal documents, bulldozers were used to muscle out a Goan occupant family, Agarwadekars, demolish their home, torture and kidnap the ailing man of the house and his son, all under the benign gaze and watch of the Anjuna Police. The Agarwadekar family then allegedly compromised with land owner Pooja Sharma, which left the activists and lawyers in the State, peeved. Subsequently three police officers, including Anjuna police station in-charge, Prashal Dessai, were suspended for alleged dereliction of duty in connection with the Assagao house demolition and kidnapping case. Things turned murkier, when a report in The Times of India stated suspended Anjuna PI Prashal Dessai in his ‘report’ to the Chief Secretary stated that DGP Jaspal Singh ‘pressurised & threatened’ Anjuna Police Station officers to demolish the abode of Goan family, a charge denied by the DGP. As new revelations tumble out of the Pandora’s Box every day, in the weekly Herald TV debate Point-Counterpoint, SUJAY GUPTA analyses the entire course of events and its overall fallout on people of Goa

Goa is once again in national news headlines for wrong reasons. After the infamous land grab case, now a case of forceful partial demolition of a house in Assagao has come to light, which also involves assault and intimidation.

It is an issue of grave criminal acts, ostensibly committed at the behest of or with the support of the powers that be in a Goa, which is getting increasingly caught in the grip of absolute criminalisation, supported and aided  by the very forces that are paid to protect us and follow the rule of the law, namely the police and the bureaucracy. 

The issue that has happened in Assagao and this is something that is known not just all over Goa, but people all over India are talking about this case that happened on the black day of June 22.

A particular house in Assagao was attacked by bulldozers with the purpose of demolishing it, in which a family lived for almost 24 years.

Prinsha Agarwadekar and her husband Pradeep lived there along with their 19-year-old son. One fine day the bulldozers came and started demolishing the building, taking the occupants by surprise.

After the family members went to the police, it initially came and tried to stop the demolition. But very soon bouncers and other “henchmen” came and took the keys of the JCB out of the hands of the police and restarted the JCB.

They started the demolition, while the man of the house and his 19-year-old son were abducted and taken on a merry ride all throughout Mandrem and other coastal areas, before being dumped somewhere in Anjuna, it seems. To cut a long story short, the idea that one needs to assess is that when such a blatant criminal act happens, irrespective of whether that house belonged to the Agarwadekars or the person whose name is there on the sale deed, namely Pooja Sharma, that's not the point.

The point here is that even if illegal occupants of a land are needed to be evicted, there is a due process laid down by law, which needs to be followed. Now the issue is that goondaism cannot take over legal formalities and processes. 

What was happening is there was goondaism happening to throw this family out and hand over the property to a Delhi buyer.

Now, we are not even getting into whether the Delhi buyer was the original owner or not. That is a civil dispute, which should have been fought in a civil way, like filing a litigation in the court and securing eviction order, which was not the case in this matter.

This issue got further blown up when another development happened. On Friday, there was a report in The Times of India, stating that the Anjuna Police PI, who got suspended because of his alleged role as a conspirator in the whole situation and two of his colleagues, filed a report with the Chief Secretary stating, “The DGP Jaspal Singh had instructed the DySP and the PI to help vacate this particular plot on behalf of Pooja Sharma". 

The report explicitly spoke about how the DGP made specific calls to the police to ensure that the demolition continued and didn’t stop. 

And in that particular report which has been quoted, goes on to state that on June 24, the DGP called the PI again and shouted at him and even went to the extent of threatening him. 

According to that particular report, DGP Jaspal Singh said that “what you've done is absolutely wrong. Even if I'm posted outside Goa, I will ensure that NDPS (drugs) case is filed as somebody who is running a drug racket along with these perpetrators,” PI Anjuna as quoted was by another paper, but the document was not signed. Literally, everybody in Goa right now has a copy.

The Crime Branch turned around and said "we've not received any such report, but the report has been sent to the Chief Secretary."

The Chief Minister has been silent on it up till now. The Chief Secretary is silent on it. But this report is in the public domain and nobody has denied its existence.

“One very interesting thing is that as we have been discussing, the issue is not about the ownership of the land or whom the land belongs to, because that is something the court has to decide. Neither the political parties,  media nor the contesting parties can decide about it. 

The entire issue started as a house demolished without the permission of authorities and when they reached the police, who were supposed to protect them and their rights, were seen to be a part of the entire nexus which was involved in demolishing the house,” said, Sunil Kawthankar, Vice President, Congress Party, Goa.

Now, as the things passed, as the media took up the issue, the politicians got involved and accused the government of inaction, it suddenly woke up from the slumber.

“The local MLA, Delilah Lobo, who was ignorant of all these things, suddenly came up at that place and demanded justice for the occupants of the house and then what we saw was the chief minister came to the place and promised that the house would be rebuilt by the PWD. This was very surprising, because it is unprecedented that any private premises getting demolished in any controversial circumstance or any matter, the government intervening so fast and offering to rebuild a house at the cost of taxpayers money, was very shocking,” Kawthankar said.

“It shows that the chief minister wanted to cover up something. Then came the next step: the local PI, along with the two PSIs, got suspended, which is okay because it was their primary role to protect the family, which they failed to do. What we come to know is that the PI was pressured by the highest officer of the police department, the Director General of Police. Now the interesting thing is that this entire incident of demolition took place on June 22. At the same evening, the DGP tweets saying that police teams have already been dispatched, people need not worry.

Surprisingly, if we go through the report, the PI submitted to the Chief Secretary, who is investigating this entire matter, that on June 24, the DGP called the PI and threatened him to help the accused, failing which he threatened the PI of getting him entangled in some drugs matter, which is very shocking as this has completely shaken people's faith on the police department and this is an eye opener, wherein we see that a highest ranking officer of the police department is an IPS officer, who is acting as a broker of land mafia. 

Now the ball lies in the court of the Chief Minister, as he is the Home Minister also,” Kawthankar said.

“We have demanded that the DGP should immediately be relieved of his post, be placed under suspension and then he should also be named as a co-accused in the FIR because of his misconduct. 

If you see from the reports that are publicly available and the overall circumstantial evidence, then I feel that DGP looks like one of the major players in this entire episode,” he said.

“But we are also sure that just like suspending the PI got him to take the name of DGP, similarly, suspending the DGP will reveal the name of the kingpin or the mastermind behind this entire episode,” the Congress leader said.

But there are two things. One is as far as the people who came with the bulldozers are concerned, have been arrested. The bouncers were all there. Why did Prinsha Agarwadekar and her lawyer suddenly say that they were going for a compromise and suddenly why did they start giving a clean chit to Pooja Sharma or whoever be the case and saying she's not completely involved in the matter?

They are also not pressing for the kidnapping charges. So what is the matter?

“On Saturday, I received a call from Pradip Agarwadekar at around 5pm. I was on another call. After a while, I called him back, but the phone was not reachable. In the meantime, a panch member named Rajoba Kamble called and informed me that the Agarwadekars’ house was being demolished. I told him that I was trying to call him, but was not getting through to his phone,” Sarpanch of Assagao Village Panchayat, Hanumant Naik, said.

“Then, I contacted Pradip’s wife, Prinsha Agarwadekar. At that time, she was at the Anjuna police station. I told her that Pradip was not reachable on the phone and asked her what happened. She said that her daughter informed them that Pradip and their son Price were dragged into a car by some bouncers and wasn’t aware of their whereabouts."

"She asked me to go to her house. I reached there and saw an earthmover at the site,” Naik said.

One of the daughters of the Agarwadekar family was at the site with relatives. She narrated the entire incident.

“Prinsha called me and said there was darkness at her place as the power got disconnected. She requested me to get the power restored. I then called up the Junior Engineer of the Electricity Department and asked whether they had received any notice to disconnect the power supply. He replied in negative. I then requested him to reconnect the power and within half-an-hour, the power was back,” he said.

After that, he went home for some work. Thereafter, she called up Prinsha. She was still at the police station.

“When I asked whether she could contact her husband, she said that he hadn’t reached home, but he told her that he was dumped at some place in Anjuna and the family was proceeding to fetch him. I asked her if she needed any help,” Naik said.

Next day, Siolim MLA, Delilah Lobo contacted Naik at around 10am and told him that she, along with the Assagao village panchayat members, would proceed to the site and assess the situation.

“We all arrived at the spot. The Agarwadekar family informed Lobo about the incident. They informed me that the police did not care about them. The family called the police, stopped the earthmover and took away the keys. They loaded it on a truck and went away. When we reached the police station, the JCB had returned and started demolishing the house again,” Naik said.

“One of her daughters informed that the JCB had started demolishing the house again. Her family members arrived and stopped the demolition. The Siolim MLA, along with the panchayat members and Agarwadekar family, went to the Anuja police station. But, the station in-charge, PI Prashal Dessai wasn’t there. But PSI Sanket Pokhare was present. Our MLA then asked whether any FIR was filed? There was no clear answer to the question.

When asked why the compromise happened after all these incidents, Naik said, “After all the controversies that rocked our village, I was also surprised to see the family backing off, whereas we had raised the voice on their behalf. Prinsha Agarwadekar had promised to file an FIR. The CM also assured that the government will help in rebuilding the house. Pooja Sharma was to bear the cost. But we were shocked to hear that Pranisha made a statement that she had compromised with Sharma.”

In a matter like this, when there is a dispute over a particular property and if there is a demolition that needs to be done, what are the rules and regulations that need to be followed for a legal demolition? Was this demolition done legally? What are the steps that need to be taken for a proper legal demolition?

“For conducting any demolition legally, one has to approach the concerned authority, which is the Deputy Collector or the Magistrate, where the FIR has been sent. Whereas, it is now seen that this fell wanted to take a shortcut and do the demolition with dadagiri and see if it succeeds. Here, it did not succeed,” former Superintendent of Police (SP), Alex Rasquinha said.

 But the point here is that also the Anjuna police were compelled to do it. But on the face of it, they did not stop the bulldozers from demolishing the house. Initially they went after it. Then their hands were completely tied. The point here is that, what should the police have ideally done ideally? Shouldn't they have arrested those people who were demolishing the house right at the spot?

“The primary duty of the police was to arrest those people who were involved in this act, which they have failed to do because of ulterior motives, which is now quite evident,” the former SP said.

What was actually played out and what were the self-interests, because this has shocked a lot of people in Goa, especially the blatant manner in which the whole exercise was carried out, as if our law and order machinery was in the pocket of those people who are controlling the JCBs or in the pockets of bouncers and ultimately in the larger pockets of those who are controlling these people?

Irrespective of the names and people and that the investigations will say who's wrong and who's right, but the whole act of non-state actors taking over the entire theatre of demolition, with the police becoming absolutely helpless silent spectators, who are either helpless or completely coning, is a larger issue.

It's not just about the Agarwadekars’ house demolition, it’s a larger issue of the complete collapse of the entire law and order system, which has led to the confidence that is there in the people like them to completely take over and do what they want.

“Who is good and who is bad has to be decided by the courts later and they can defend themselves. If they are not the wrong persons, then it means there there is a nexus. Honestly, I am not surprised. But I'm happy that it has happened for the reason that as activists, we have been highlighting these issues for many years. It is not a today's issue,” said Roshan Mathias, Director, MOG Foundation

Having seen all this, from a completely legal standpoint, what should be done right now? Which way should the investigation go and what legal steps can be taken to stop this? Will the investigation by the Crime Branch be fair when the Director General of Police is sitting on top?

Responding to the question, advocate Joseph Vaz said, “First thing that the government should do is relieve the DGP immediately. He cannot be suspended because he belongs to the Central government. And if the double engine sakar is really working, then they can do it immediately. Apparently, it seems that the DGP is the mastermind in this and I'm shocked that he was trying to fix the PI and the PSIs. When I was the CBI counsel, such fixing was done by implicating innocent people in drug cases by Goa police.”

In this case also, I'm not surprised that the Director General of Police has threatened his own PI of fixing him in a drug case. It shows that this man has no character. I'm sorry to say this, he should not remain in Goa. He is not fit to be in the police force. So, this investigation will not go very far with this man sitting there.”


Idhar Udhar