Top cops must eliminate gangs to reclaim trust of the people
After almost a year of lull, gang war surfaced in Goa again, which is a matter of very serious concern. In the wee hours of Saturday members of a gang attacked their rivals at Ubodando in the St Cruz village on the outskirts of Panaji. Though the attack was apparently planned to liquidate the kingpin of the rival gang, the attackers ended up killing one of their own as the misfired gunshot from the gang leader hit the victim. However, the attacking gang succeeded in damaging the house and vehicles of their rival. Luckily the attack took place when the village was asleep and casualties among innocent and law-abiding citizens were averted. It is shocking to note that the frightening attack took place when the movement of people has been restricted in view of “night curfew” between 9 pm and 5 am as part of lockdown due to prevalence of coronavirus pandemic. That 10 members of the gang hailing from different localities managed to gather and enter the area shows that there was no deployment of police to enforce the night curfew or the deployed policemen were doing something else and not their duty.
St Cruz and the adjoining areas of Merces, Chimbel, Taleigao and Ribandar have witnessed heinous attacks off and on for over three decades, the last one on July 8 last year in which members of a gang chopped off a rival’s hand at Ribandar. Another such incident, though less lethal, had taken place in the area early in June 2018 in which four members of rival gangs from Merces and Chimbel were injured. Incidentally, the alleged leader of the gang that led the attack, Marcelino Dias, was also involved in the 2018 incident. To the relief of locals, the police rounded up the attackers and seized a country-made revolver from the gang leader. All the members of the gangs involved in the attack, except probably for the minors, had cases registered against them under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. The police top brass has much to explain to the people of St Cruz in particular and people of Goa in general how their men, firstly, failed to get information on the gang’s lethal plan and take preemptive action, and secondly, failed to watch out for violations of the night curfew.
In the 1980s and 1990s a gang enjoying political protection in St Cruz was indulged in extortion and murderous attacks on rivals. However, following stern action taken by the then chief minister Ravi Naik, the gang decided to lie low. However, gang war resurfaced in 2018 when Merces and Chimbel gangs fought pitched battles. Violence between different gangs continued in 2019, which accounted for the life of a person whose hand was severed in a chilling case of violence. The police have failed to deal a death blow to gangs partly owing to political protection and partly owing to their own lack of commitment to create an atmosphere for citizens in which they are totally free from fear. That has emboldened gangs to carry on with their activities such as extortion and illicit trades. As long as two gangs do not collide, there is no violence, and a false sense of peace prevails. But when they collide, they unleash violence against each other as it happened on Saturday at St Cruz.
There are allegations that both the attacking and the target gangs enjoyed political patronage which came in the way of the police proceeding against them. However, the leaders of the police force must not forget that their primary duty is to make sure that nobody makes a mockery of the rule of law. For if the police do not act strongly, the gangs would have a free lethal play on the street and in neighbourhoods. The St Cruz attack is an attack on the authority of the police. The message that came out of the attackers’ gun was straight and simple: “We do not care for the police.” The police top brass must break out of their political shackles and liquidate all the criminal gangs using all the means available to them under law in order not to lose public trust.