From Spark to Fire!

An act of mob vandalism, moments of youthful rage and blind obedience to their political leaders, a building set on fire, two bodies beaten and charred to death and most of all a battle between the people of upper-caste and tribals; Adarsh Krishi Co-Operative Society is the spark that will set Goa on fire. GoaChronicle.com brings to you an investigative report on the truth and the lies; the indifference of the government and the growing anger amongst the tribals…

It was past 4.00 pm on May 25, 2011 when the tribals decided to withdraw their agitation for the day and head back to their respective houses in their villages. As the angers died down and many left, few youth decided to return back to what could be considered to be base camp – Adarsh Krishi Co-Operative Society (operated by Prakash Velip) for a cup of tea. The Adarsh building is a significance primarily because this co-operative society was initiated during the BJP reign to provide a business opportunity to tribals to sell their cashews and paddy; thus making it a vital revenue source of not only Prakash Velip, who besides being local politician and erstwhile MLA was also a powerful tribal leader but also to the tribals who sell their produce to the co-operative society and earn some livelihood.

However, when the six youths returned back to Adarsh, they were surprised to find some local hired youth of Balli and Cuncolim waiting for them; and whilst waiting they commenced to set the Adarsh building on fire. Enraged by this act of vandalism, a fight broke out between the tribals and local hired youth of the area; leading to Manguesh Gaonkar being badly beaten up (in fact provisional post-mortem reports say that a arm and feet were missing, but it could not be established whether it was due to injury or because of being burnt) and left to die at the entrance of the building and Dilip Velip was beaten, he however managed to race up to the second floor of the building. While the fight continued some miscreants set the building on fire; and the tribals were pushed into the building and the shutters downed by the miscreants and locked. Tribals who were eye-witness to the incident said, “The building was locked from the outside and set on fire by miscreants in the presence of the police, the youth who were trapped inside were screaming for help. Some of the youth were rescued by the locals with the help of a ladder from the outside but for Manguesh and Dilip to act of rescue was too late.”

Sadly, this act of carnage and killings were done by youth aged between 18 to 25 years of age.

Youth Fanaticism

A GC informer present at Balli during the tribal agitation informed us that the locals were youth from Balli and Cuncolim. In a question as to why be the up in arms against the tribals, the youth replied, “We cannot let these tribals go above us and besides the police have told us to be here and protect our rights and villages. We are only following police orders.”

Yet another youth in a fight of anger also expressed that they were prepared to attack the tribals if they cause any trouble in their villages and the police force and politicians are supporting them.

Many sources that were present at the site of the agitation, confirm that the act of mob vandalism was not started by the tribals but the local youth on the behest of the police, yet the police vented out its anger and frustration on the tribals who then turned aggressive. The local youth that turned violent against the tribals were reportedly from the upper-caste of the area. According to some villagers, who were also part of the mob who attacked the tribals, “Our SP Tony Fernandes had a stone thrown on him by the tribals, how we can keep quite.”

In fact many in the political circle and police circle will tell you tales about the proximity of the SP – South Goa Tony Fernandes with the Alemao clan and his questionable past. Apparently, he too intends to jump into the political fray.

Waiting to cause maximum damage, some of the local youth later that evening proceeded to Adarsh; on being caught in the act of arson, they decided to further vent their ire on the tribals in particular the target were Manguesh Gaonkar, who was a well-educated and qualified and Dilip Velip.

District Collector Missing in Action

While GP Naik continues to remain in the hospital on account of high blood pressure, due to the news that the government is to suspend him, which it has since the official order come-out yesterday – a day before his retirement from government services; the fact remains that post 4.30 pm right up to 6 pm the District Collectors was not traceable and neither was he picking up calls, as per sources who were trying to get in touch with him to apprise him about the situation. In fact, a senior Congress politician completely disappointed about the incident openly stated to GoaChronicle.com that if GP Naik’s phone records were traced, you will find that throughout the day the numerous calls coming to him would be coming from the MLA of Quepem and MLA of Cuncolim; or people associated to that group of ministers in order to dilute and control. It has been reported that the Chief Minister too was instructing GP Naik on the happenings at Balli on a timely basis.

In much the same way police too early in the day were missing in action when the incident happened. In fact only 60-odd policemen from the “striking force” of the Goa police’s — Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) – were present at Balli when violence broke out. Rest of the 500 -plus trained and armed IRB personnel were busy guarding ministers’ houses, doing odd clerical jobs at the police headquarters or manning the traffic.

The ‘Political’ Angle

Highly placed sources in Chandrakant (Babu) Kavlekar camp, mentioned to GoaChronicle.com that the MLA in retrospect is disappointed about the way in which the situation turned out; his instructions to some of the youth of Balli via intermediaries were aimed to intimidate and put fear in the hearts of the tribals who were growing strong, the tribal agitation provided them the moment to retaliate back. Politically too, the tribals leaders owing to the electoral constituency changes were to have an upper hand in the coming assembly elections and this set of people needed to have been brought under control.

On condition of anonymity, a Congress politician expressed, in his time of need, Kavlekar turned to Joaquim Alemao – Cabinet Minister and Cuncolim MLA. In Cuncolim too, the electoral polls pattern were to change with Balli which has a considerable tribal population coming into the Cuncolim constituency. So to Joaquim Alemao the need to aid his colleague was not only an act of camaraderie but tactical, since the tribals across the mining belts were up in arms against his rampant illegal mines, just two days before the Balli incident, a  Rivona anti-mining youth leader came under a mining truck. Putting both Joaquim and his son Yuri Alemao’s votes in jeopardy.

The Congress politician further expressed that while the Chief Minister might not have been directly involved in the deliberate acts of violence by hired local youth, there is no denying that he is shielding the ministers and is playing savior to the politicians concerned; which is why none of the Congress politicians have openly come-out and condemned the issue.

In fact when GoaChronicle.com spoke to the Chief Minister yesterday on why he has not visited the bereaved family of the tribal youth yet, he said that he was waiting for the tempers to cool down. Yet he did find time to meet with GP Naik at the private hospital  – a government officer whose suspension orders he approved in the morning.

Said a political observer, for BJP too, the incident comes up at an opportune time; while there is no denying the intent of the tribal leaders Prakash Velip and Ramesh Tawdakar, there is going to be political mileage extracted from the incident.

The Tribal Revenge

At the onset of this report, we mentioned that Adarsh is a spark and the fire is yet to come. Many tribals whom we have spoken too that were present at the site of both Adarsh and Balli have confided to us saying that even though their political leaders or the government gives the assurances of nabbing the miscreants and killers of the two tribal youth, none of the tribal will come out as witnesses, partly because they are afraid of being targeted but mostly because the plan to not let the sacrifice of the two youth go to waste and will extract their vengeance from the youth of the upper-caste, since many recognize the boys who set the building on fire and can identify then, but will not disclose.

While it is no doubt the entire Adarsh building was a political game, the shocking part is that the politicians concerned played the age old card of divide and rule; and reignited the caste-based politics and violence which was supposedly dead in Goa; since the tribal youth were attacked by upper-caste from Balli and Cuncolim. Sources say the Dessai from the region had something to do with it, until that is confirmed it is hearsay, but the thought cannot be ignored.

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