Priest, others booked for violence

The Goa police on Monday came out with an explanation of the Saturday night incident at Velim Church in south Goa, in which five police personnel were injured in a mob fury. The local parish priest and some others were booked on Sunday on charges of assault and attempt to murder police personnel.

The Special Branch of Goa police said there was resentment among the villagers of Velim following a raid by Income Tax officials and a flying squad at the residence of Fr. Romano Gonsalves. Certain sections of the villagers had given a call for the boycott of the Assembly election.

Police personnel made a routine visit to the village at 8.30 p.m. on Saturday. In the belief that the best source of information would be the parish priest, they approached him.

Fr. Gonsalves conveyed his anger over the raid and said he had nothing to say about the possible election boycott. He was joined by some local parish council members, one of whom reportedly rang the church bell to gather the villagers.

Soon, a crowd of nearly 1,000 people gathered on the premises. Fr. Gonsalves, sensing that the situation was going out of hand, told the CID officials to remain in the church premises and came out to address the people. His attempt to pacify the crowd was futile and the mob had become uncontrollable. They barged into the church and dragged out the unarmed CID officials and brutally assaulted them.

The Cuncolim police and CRPF jawans rushed to the spot and managed to rescue the officials.

While Sub Inspector Kapil Nayak and constable Kuldeep Dessai are being treated for injuries, head constable Krishnanand Rane is in the ICU of the Apollo Hospital, Margao. In the stone-pelting that followed the rescue operation, two CRPF jawans and Sub-Inspector Sandeep Kesarkar were injured.

The police said they showed remarkable restraint and did not resort to the use of any kind of violence.

Late on Sunday evening, Fr. Lucio Dias, Parish Priest of Assolna Church, south Goa, who was designated to speak on the issue by the Goa Church authorities, blamed the CID team for visiting the Parish Priest at the “wrong time” (late on Saturday evening).

He told The Hindu that the police did not identify themselves properly and asked wrong questions to the priest, who was still upset at the raid. Fr. Dias condemned the violence and assault on the police team, but said the Velim priest and others had tried their best to control the crowd. He said the police reinforcement failed to reach in time to bring the situation under control.

He said the crowd was already upset at the raid, which was seen as humiliating to the priest. It may be recalled that initial reports in the media about “seizure of some cash” had annoyed the Church authorities. Election authorities subsequently stated that no “seizure was made, but a small amount of cash was recovered during the raid, which was handed back to the Priest immediately as he had explained it as collection from the parishioners during mass.” The situation in the village continued to be tense but peaceful on Monday.