Reporter of local weekly, Goan Observer Gary Azavedo was kidnapped on Tuesday morning by mining operators who later on released him after he was identified to be a journalist and as police were galvanized to rescue him.
Speaking to Goa Chronicle.Com, Gary said he had gone to Caurem village to do a story on the problems faced by the villagers due to the mining activity. From Quepem he hired a motor cycle pilot and travelled to the mining area.
“I stood on the road and took various pictures of mines being operated and also those that have closed down,” recounted Gary. However, as he saw another patch of clear ground amidst a forest, he decided to investigate that.
“As I was walking to the spot, some security staff of a mining firm caught up with me and very rudely questioned me specially about the photographs I took and demanded that I delete the pictures from the office digital camera,” revealed Gary.
As he refused to do so, the security personnel roughed him up and pushed him in a jeep which sped away taking him inside the mining area. Gary did manage to signal the motor cycle pilot to pick up his papers including diary that had fallen down.
He was taken to an office where an official of the mining firm – Fomentos – demanded to know why he did not take their permission to photograph the area and tried to brow beat him about trespassing in their property.
“They tried to grab my mobile which incidentally was in no coverage area and therefore I could not contact anybody and deleted a picture taken by me on the mobile,” recalled Gary.
However, to his good luck, the motor cycle pilot returned to Quepem and contacted Manuel Colaco the former chairperson of Quepem Municipal Council, who on realizing the gravity of the situation immediately contacted South Goa Superintendent of Police Allen D’Sa who directed the Quepem police to secure Gary’s release.
Meanwhile, the mining official on realizing that Gary was a journalist changed his tone and said that he ought to have taken their permission or come to them first and they would have given all the information.
As Gary insisted that he wanted to leave the office they let him off but followed him. Walking away from the mining area, Gary walked towards the village and met some of the protesting villagers and returned to the site from where he was picked up along with the villagers.
At this moment, Quepem Police Inspector Sudesh Narvenkar arrived on the scene and after getting the details from Gary took him for a medical examination and later noted down his complaint at the police station.
“Besides destroying my bag, the security staff also broke the strap of my watch when they roughed me up,” said Gary.