PANAJI: The police on Monday lathi-charged mining dependents, who laid siege to the twin bridges across River Mandovi in a bid to march into Panaji city to protest against the Supreme Court order shutting down mining activities in the state.
Since morning, the protestors had gathered near the bridges and the Kadamba Transport Corporation (KTC) bus stand in the city for the agitation.
As the day progressed and traffic began to get more congested and police tried to clear the two bridges. When they could not succeed, they had to resort to lathi charge in retaliation to the pelting of stones by the protestors.
Several protestors were injured in the lathi charge and had to be shifted to hospital. Many protestors were taken into police custody for obstructing roads and blocking vehicular traffic on National Highway.
The protestors, who had come from different villages of the mining belt of north and south Goa districts, blocked the main entry roads to Panaji, including the two bridges leading to heavy traffic snarls and chaos.
Earlier, north Goa Collector Nila Mohanan tried to convince the protestors to leave the KTC bus stand and gather near the Central Library. However, refusing to leave the place, they crowded at the Kranti Circle opposite the KTC bus stand creating chaos and throwing the traffic out of gear.
As the agitators continued to stay put, PWD Minister Ramakrishna ‘Sudin’ Dhavalikar, his cabinet colleagues Vijai Sardesai and Jayesh Salgaoncar, MLAs Nilesh Cabral and Deepak Pauskar rushed to meet the agitators and tried to pacify them. Sardesai asked the protestors to move their agitation to Azad Maidan in the city so that people are not put to inconvenience, but they refused. As the protestors refused to budge, police resorted to lathi charge. Some protestors were relaxing near the Panaji side of the new Mandovi bridge and police officers took the opportunity to open the National Highway for traffic by clearing the hurdles erected by the protestors and subsequently proceeded towards the old Mandovi bridge to clear the road for traffic.
The protestors were shocked to see the police armed with lathis clearing the hurdles while allowing the vehicular traffic to move. Some agitators pelted stones at the police thus annoying the cops. In retaliation, the police lathi-charged the protestors for nearly half an hour. Some agitators and five police personnel, including two woman constables, were injured in the lathi charge, an officer said.
Meanwhile, All India Trade Union Congress leader Christopher Fonseca and Communist Party of India leader Suhas Naik have condemned the use of police force in curbing people’s voice. The lathi charge by the police on the protesting mining dependents in Panaji was uncalled for, they said. The police and administration ought to have shown more restraint and patience and ought to have taken enough precautions to avoid any law and order issue, they said. The CPI and AITUC have demanded a judicial probe into the lathi charge and demanded an immediate assembly session to deliberate on the issue of mining closure.