Edit Corner

An Open Letter to Goa CM

Dear Mr Kamat,
Let me congratulate you on finally finding time to meet the bereaved family members of Manguesh Gaonkar and Dilip Velip. When my office spoke to you earlier in the week, you told us that in light of the incident and sensitivity of the situation, especially the anger of the tribals, you thought it was prudent to wait for the matter to cool down and then pay your respects to those who expired.

 For the Chief Minister of the Aam Aadmi as you have been portraying yourself for the last couple of years, it comes as a rude shock, that in the Balli incident in particular after what happened at the Adarsh Krishi Co-operative Society where two youth lost their lives, you chose to stay safe at home; are these people not important as the people at Moti Dongor, you found time to go into a higher tension area, some months back, when two rival factions were fighting over personal issues. Many people say that the reason the Chief Minister will run even if a pin falls in Moti Dongor is because that is his vote bank of mostly Non-Goans and I feel sad when I hear that, since I find it hard to believe that a Chief Minister of a state is not concerned about the issues of the original people of the state – in this case the tribals.
Balli incident is a blotch on your party and even more so on your tenure as the CM; what is even more disturbing that your MLAs though it has not yet come out in the probe, were directly involved in inciting, planning and executing this political caste war in that area, which in time will spread to other parts of Goa. The very police-machinery of the state added fuel to the fire and failed miserably in their basic responsibility and this has come out in the probe you have appointed. I fail to understand that even though it was known to all concerned authorities that UTAA will be agitating on May 25, 2011 to force the government to accept their demands; you and your Home Minister did not find the need to be alert and keep additional force to manage the situation; I am not sure whether you would be aware that of the 600 plus personnel of the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) only 60 were present at Balli while the others – who are trained and armed – were busy guarding ministers’ houses, doing odd clerical jobs at the police head quarters or manning the traffic.
Your impulsive reaction to situation surprises me. Initially, when you met the UTAA members at Azad Maidan in Panjim, suspending G P Naik who was to retire from his services in a few days, was not of prime importance, though it was demanded. UTAA’s main concerns were their overall demands and investigations into the deaths of the two tribal youth leaders; yet when the tribals decided to insist on G P Naik’s resignation, you immediately announced his suspension and subsequently followed it up with an official suspension letter. So much for loyalty to G P Naik, who is considered to be one in your camp! Meeting him in the hospital, I suppose was done to pacify him to ensure that your impulsive decision is explained and your friendship is saved.
But in much the same way; shouldn’t the police officer or officers in charge of the area and the overall law and order situation in Goa, including the Home Minister be asked to step down, since they were not able to curb the Balli incident, even though there was information of tribals’ agitations much in advance including the date. And now that your government report says that there was a failure on part of the police will the heads on the top start to roll or will the lower-end officers take the fall for the incompetency of their seniors; or should I say orders of the senior police officers.
In every questionable situation your government faces, it is always a government officer who faces the flak for a minister’s nefarious activity; so while G P Naik is suspended it is difficult to understand the reason behind which the MLA of Quepem – an area in which the incident took place has not been asked for an explanation into the Balli incident, since phone-call records will indicate that besides the Quepem MLA, other MLAs in particular the MLA of Cuncolim had also called G P Naik, even you will feature on those phone records. Unless, the content of the conversations are released we will never know the truth of those conversations. We would have to wait till Crime Branch makes those details known to have a further discussion on it.
Let me say this though, I don’t blame your government solely for the Balli incident; since I am still trying hard to comprehend why would UTAA select Balli as an area of their agitation when most people know that Dessai’s of that area and the tribals do not see eye to eye and a violent confrontation is inevitable. Yet it was selected. So there is some answering to do by UTAA as well as the BJP. But while the situation was at the onset expected to turn violent, the fuel to the fire came from your government’s end and the police being mute spectators is a clear indication.
The tribals and many fellow Goans who are disgusted with what happened at Balli will not forget this incident and in the days to come, I fear owing to frustrations of the people of Goa on the corruption and malpractice in your government, plight of the common man and the fear in the hearts of the people along the mining belt; the situation in Balli will only be a spark. the fire is yet come.
My earnest appeal to you, since I respect your intelligence is for you to bring a stop to the illegal mining in the state, it is going to be the cause of much violence in the days to come; maybe the mining companies think by intimidating the people by police-lathi charge at Caurem or the attack of Nilesh Gaonkar or even worse the death of Francis by a mining truck and the police officer giving the bereaved family Rs 5, 00,000 cheque will calm the storm, then you are mistaken.
I look forward to justice for the people of Balli and peace for the people of Goa; I pray you can ensure that.

Best Regards
Savio Rodrigues

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