Panaji (AsiaNews) – Goa Police have arrested Francis Pereira, a 54-year-old Catholic man, in connection with the destruction of various crosses and the desecration of Christian religious sites in the western Indian state.
The accused reportedly confessed to police saying that he believed that he was “freeing the trapped souls”.
For the authorities, the investigation is over. However, a fact-finding team set up by the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) and the Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP) has doubts about the confession and demands an impartial probe into the incidents.
The team says it “strongly feels that the arrest (of Francis Pereira) appears as a familiar script to similar crimes across the country to pacify civil society and the affected communities and divert attention from the actual perpetrators.”
Francis Pereira was arrested on Saturday in the village of Curtorim. He supposedly destroyed at least 11 crosses across the state and desecrated the Guardian Angel Church cemetery in Curchorem, a town south of the state capital of Panaji.
Goa’s Director General of Police Muktesh Chander said Pereira claimed that he destroyed religious symbols for years.
The authorities note that the accused was planning to desecrate an idol in a village. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said he believed the incidents were an attempt to cause tensions in Goa.
CSJP executive secretary Father Savio Fernandes is not so sure. The extensive damage the fact-finding team found could not have been caused by a single person, in his fifties. For this reason, an impartial investigation is needed.
"All the attacks have been executed with heavy steel implements directed at the bases of the structures to cause maximum damage,” the team’s preliminary report says. The latter “sensed the pain and anguish as well as the shock and fear on the faces of the members of the (Christian) community.”
The report goes on to say that “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 (Bharatiya Janata Party) as possibly encouraging such incidents”.