Fact finding team’s brief report on investigation of the desecration of Holy Crosses and graves in South GoaA five member team visited the sites of desecration of religious structures and burial places across South Goa on 14th July 2017 to understand the ground reality. The members of the fact finding team were Adv. Irfan Engineer, Director, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) and Neha Dabhade associated with CSSS, Fr. Savio Fernandes, Executive Secretary, Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP), Ranjan Solomon and Roselle Solomon, prominent activists working for rights of minorities associated with CSJP.
The team visited the sites of desecration at Curtorim, Chandor, Gudi-Paroda and Curchorem in South Goa. They spoke to the priests of the related Churches, members of the Christian community, people’s elected representatives, politicians and people from across various faiths. Till the time of going to the press the team was unable to meet the police officials due to time constraints although appointments were fixed, however the team will meet the officials prior to the final report.
The observations on ground point to a possibility that the incidents of desecration and vandalism are a part of a pattern which is planned and executed by the same persons or organizations. All the attacks have been executed with heavy steel implements directed at the bases of the structures to cause maximum damage. The team sensed the pain and anguish which was palpable in the shock and fear on the faces of the members of the community.
The general perception of the community pointed to certain statements at a Hindu conclave and during the visit of a National office bearer of the political party in Government as possibly encouraging such incidents.
The desecrations are carried out in a form of a campaign to strike fear, insecurity and mistrust among communities in Goa. Most of the desecrated crosses visited by the team have been targeted more than once in the past more particularly hinged around political developments in the state. The law and order machinery have failed to solve the cases and apprehend the culprits responsible for such crimes thereby emboldening the perpetrators. The helplessness and fear prevalent in the Christian community is giving rise to a feeling of being treated as second class citizens.
The following are the primary findings after the interactions:
The atmosphere in Goa is vitiated and communalized to cause polarization through relentless anti minority narrative. Christians and Muslims are especially targets of demonization through false propaganda. Muslims are portrayed as terrorists and loyal to Pakistan while Christians are portrayed as being agents of Portugal and anti-nationals and seeking to convert members of other religious communities through fraud/ inducement.
The fact finding team recommends that strict action in accordance with law be taken against individuals/ organizations indulging in hate campaigns against minorities in Goa and those responsible for desecration and vandalism. To ensure transparency it would be appropriate to order a judicial commission to investigate the desecrations in a time bound manner. The team also urged the civil society organizations to continue their struggle for justice to the citizens of Goa.
Incidentally, at the time of going to the press, it has been reported that one Mr. Francis Pereira has admitted to have single handedly desecrated and vandalized one hundred and forty odd religious symbols since the last five years. The team strongly feels that the arrest appears as a familiar script to similar crimes across the country to pacify the civil society and the affected communities and divert attention from the actual perpetrators. The extensive damage caused as witnessed by the fact finding team could not have been possibly inflicted by a single person, more over who is 50 years old. The fact finding team demands an impartial investigation into the crimes.