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16 Jul 2017 05:36am IST

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16 Jul 2017 05:36am IST

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VIBHA VERMA was virtually on a hot chase with the cops till the first arrest was made in the recent Cross desecration cases

With the arrest of 50-year-old Francis Pereira, the State police can now, for the time being,  breathe easy. For the last one month, it was left staring at blind cases with around 100 religious structures and plagues coming under the attack. Neither the motive nor miscreants was known as the daring spate of desecrations gave the Men in Khakis sleepless nights. Deployment of five platoons of IRB, district police conducting a joint probe with ATS, Cyber Cell and other specialized units besides night patrolling and combing operations proved a doom but not until in the wee hours of Saturday. Pereira was arrested after a hot chase by the police just before he attempted to deface another shrine in Curtorim.   

Over 300 desecrations reported in the last over a decade posed an open challenge to the vast police force to crackdown on such miscreants. Barely a few arrests of Kavesh Gosavi, Allabaksh and partially impaired Fenny Britto were made by the former special investigation team (SIT) and Cuncolim police.   

While largely creating the communal discord was read as the motive behind such attacks, Pereira’s video confession reveals he wanted ‘to released trapped souls from Alma Kuris.’ After hitting a dead end, disclosure that he vandalized around 150 roadside crosses in the last 15 years has given the police a big sigh of relief. With this, several past cases would be reopened for investigation. 

Right from the roadside Holy Crosses, Gravestones and Temples have been coming under the attack in what seemed to be the most organized crime and handiwork of more than one person. South Goa has been the hotspot of such activities even during the past. 

Deputy Inspector General of Police Rupinder Kumar, who has been rushing to the crime sites with a set of teams for probe, had denied police failure. “Police is doing its best. We have found leads and are very close to arresting the miscreants,” he told Herald on the eve of cracking the case.

The State has a history of such cases. This month, over 100 crosses and plaques at Guardian Angel Catholic cemetery in Curchorem were desecrated in the wee hours. The CCTV camera was damaged the before the vandal(s) went around indiscriminately desecrating crosses and plaques fixed atop graves. The incident took the Goenkars to a flashback when in 2012 a similar incident was reported yet again in Curchorem besides Panjim, Verna and Mapusa wherein 100-odd tombstones in Cemetery and Kabrasthan were vandalized during the intervening night.

The then Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, also holding the reins in the current tenure, had assured to invoke stringent National Security Act against the culprits and use all the power of the law against all those who tried to hurt people’s sentiments. 

During the first half of the 2009 when nearly 30 desecrations, including those vandalized in the temple premises were reported, the BJP - then in the Opposition - had alleged that Indian Mujahideen (IM) was behind the spate of temple desecrations taking place in rural parts of the State.

“We have said in the past that the IM or the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) or whatever they choose to call it now, are one of our chief suspects. The motive in desecrations is not gain but to create communal disturbance,” Parrikar had then said.

In 2008, Parrikar had warned the then ruling Congress against pushing Hindus in Goa to the brink by its “lack of seriousness” in pursuing the desecration of temples. His remark came following vandalization of a Shiva temple right in the heart of Panjim. He had even feared religious upheaval and spontaneous outburst of anger by the people. The police formed SIT and announced reward of Rs one lakh for anyone who could provide information to help crack the case; but ironically nearly half a dozen more desecrations occurred thereafter. 

Similar was the situation this month too when the alleged vandal, until identified and caught, virtually threw an open challenge to the police – that formed special teams - to bring an end to the desecrations. 

Going back to 2005, four crosses were desecrated within a period of one week at Mount Carmel Chapel, at a private property, Farmagudi and Opa. 

Between 2006 and 2011, around 50 idols in 35 temples besides some crosses were vandalized whereas in 2009, the 17th century Church of St Anthony situated within Cabo De Rama fort had come under the attack of the miscreants. In 2006, a roadside cross at Kursawaddo in Carona-Aldona was damaged and sacred tabernacle was pulled out from St Cosmos and Damian Church at Bogmalo. It was flung in the nearby hillock. A Hindu Talwarda idol at Cuncolim was defaced in May 2009. Once again in 2010 a cross at Veroda in Cuncolim was desecrated and the window panes of the church were damaged. Though the police managed to arrest an allegedly mentally unsound person, there was no further arrest in other cases. 

In 2014, statue of Jain Tirthankar Bhagwan Mahavir was vandalized while earlier, another statue of Bhagwan Mahavir in the wildlife sanctuary was damaged.

While Gosavi’s arrest in 2008 and in the subsequent months was a major hype with the police claiming a big success. However, his acquittal in two cases was a major setback to the police. 

With an aim to nab the culprits in the present cases, South Goa SP Arvind Gawas had stated they were monitoring the movements of all the accused arrested and convicted in the past cases whereas Crime Branch SP Kartik Kashyap had said the police were pulling in all its resources keeping these cases on priority. 
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