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The Lessons For Police From Desecration Cases

SO far the Special Investigation Team of the Goa Police has arrested one person, the 50-year-old Francis Pereira from Curchorem, for the series of desecrations of crosses, graves and ghumtis. They have not ruled out involvement of others. Pereira has admitted to doing over 100 desecrations. It is surprising that he continued doing it despite police being on the alert across South Goa. Whether he was carrying out the desecrations alone would be known soon. With no cases of vandalisation reported since his arrest, it appears that the sordid campaign going on for a fortnight has come to an end. The police, however, should not lower their guard and continue to probe the possibility of finding if somebody else also was involved in the acts of vandalism. Although Pereira claims he was doing it to “liberate suffering souls” – a bizarre self-assigned mission, indeed – a thorough probe needs to be conducted to find out his (and others’, if any) real motives behind the desecrations. The police need to widen the probe and go into depth to find out whether Pereira was driven by his own eccentric idea or used by any group or elements to disturb the communal harmony.

Pereira could have been apprehended on the night he vandalised the graves at the Guardian Angel Church cemetery had the police been quick. Though a police patrol heard someone ‘damaging’ something at the graveyard and saw someone running away, they decided to alert a second police party, allowing the culprit time to escape. Had the policemen on patrol duty been adequately armed with searchlight and other equipment they could have easily identified the criminal and laid their hands on him.  It is also intriguing that though Pereira had carried out a number of desecrations in the past and been caught, the police failed to keep a tab on him or follow him. Now that the police have arrested him and found that he has fixed deposits of Rs 22 lakh (which he claims are proceeds of sale of property) it needs to be found out whether he derived pecuniary benefit for indulging in desecrations.

The investigations into the case should be completed as soon as possible.  However, measures have to be taken to ensure that occurrence of such cases is prevented. Ruing the absence of CCTV cameras that could have helped police in identifying culprits, the state government has accepted the fact that installation of CCTV cameras would go a long way in solving criminal cases.  CCTVs are essential in law enforcement and funds should be made available to install them at strategic locations. The data on past offenders should be maintained and verified to find out their involvement in fresh cases. As there is possibility of incitement of hatred by provocative speeches by extremist groups all efforts should be made to ensure that hatemongers are not allowed to incite trouble and the rule of law prevails in the state. The Goa police have regained people’s confidence after groping in the dark for a few days about the men behind the desecrations. Policemen being human beings, the public should not expect them to have supernatural powers to solve cases in a jiffy akin to the supermen of Bollywood films. Politicians should refrain from politicizing sensitive cases and calling for a probe by central agencies because these could have a demoralizing effect on the state police.

Unmindful of the flak received from various quarters, the police team led by Superintendent of Police (South Goa) Arvind K Gawas launched systematic investigations which finally bore fruit. They went through the footages from CCTV cameras installed in the concerned areas and also began route mapping of vehicular traffic, especially the vehicles that moved during the nighttime. It was in this particular line of probe that the police noted that the Maruti van owned by Pereira had been moving during night hours. The police also managed to collect Pereira’s handwriting in the process to match with a piece of paper found in the cemetery that was desecrated to carry out a thoroughly professional identification. It was the methodical approach in the midst of rising public criticism on the way the cases of desecration were being handled that helped the police to crack the case and end the unease that had set in about peace and communal harmony being disturbed. However, the police should not rest on a single laurel. They have to develop and use professional expertise in solving all criminal cases. The state government should provide the police help in getting professional training and
equipment.

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