The broken crosses were left on the side of the road. Some 28 niches, five wooden crosses, nine granite crosses, 16 graves and the big entrance cross at the Guardian Angel cemetery were damaged. At a Hindu extremist meeting, a leader said “those who eat cow should be hanged in public,” noted Sajan K George.
Panaji (AsiaNews) – Several acts of vandalism and religious intolerance against Christians have occurred recently in Goa, including the desecration of a cemetery and the destruction of at least 11 crosses, the pieces strewn on the side of the road.
The attacks, which began in June, do not seem to be abating. In the latest incident, two crosses were found broken up on Thursday in Loutolim, a village some 40 km south of the Panaji, Goa’s capital.
Mgr Filipe Neri Ferrao, archbishop of Goa and Daman, described the acts "as designed by vested interests to provoke communal discord and promote religious hatred."
The archbishop appealed to people of “all faith to refrain from taking any retaliatory action or fanning the flame of religious hatred."
Stressing that Goa has a long tradition of "interreligious harmony and peace," the prelate urged his fellow citizens "to keep these sacred values at all costs." He also called on the authorities to act.
The first crosses were vandalised at the end of June in the villages of St Jose de Areal and Gudi Paroda. Then, overnight on 9-10 July, the Guardian Angel cemetery in Curchorem was desecrated, south of the capital. The vandals damaged 28 niches, five wooden crosses and nine granite crosses, 16 graves, and the great cross atop the entrance arch.
Inspector general of police Rupinder Kumar said that the criminals also destroyed surveillance cameras at the entrance, so they did not leave any trace of their vandalism.
All political parties condemned the incidents. The Congress party called for an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s federal police.
Conversely, Vijai Sardesai, leader of the Goa Forward Party, which is allied with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said that the local police were capable of investigating the cases.
Michael Lobo, speaker of the state legislative assembly and member of the BJP, blamed the incidents on "outsiders" and said "There is a strong attempt to divide us."
Both he and Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar believe that the incidents were an attempt to cause tensions in Goa.
For Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), the motivations and origin of the attacks are clear.
"In June, the All India Hindu Convention met in Goa,” he explained. “The result was desecration and insecurity for the minority.”
“During the meeting, Sadhvi Saraswati, president of Sanatan Dharma Prachar Seva Summit, said those who eat cow should be hanged in public,” Mr George noted. “I asked Hindus to take up arms to defend our cow, our mother," said George quoting Sadhvi.
At a press conference in Panaji, the media was told that “a motion was passed to establish a Hindu rashtra (nation). By whom and by what majority has not been revealed," the GCIC president added.
"This is tragic,” he lamented. “India is a secular and democratic republic with constitutional guarantees of religious freedom. These events are allowed to sow hate, suspicion, and communal discord."
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to the article)