A minor spat between tourists and locals in Merces, Goa, turned violent on Wednesday, with at least 20 people including a five-year-old suffering injuries. The incident took place when a 50-member family of tourists, dining at Hotel Cafe Hoble, had an encounter with Lawrence Dias, the prime accused. Dias was angered after one of the tourists allegedly brushed against him, and in retaliation he slapped another tourist — 58-year-old Lahu Ghodekar. A fist fight ensued, but was immediately resolved with the intervention of the hotel manager. However, Dias vowed to return.
“The fist fight was resolved by the hotel manager but the goonda threatened to bring his friends,” a waiter at the cafe said. “It was a small issue but he said he would call his friends and show them their place.”
As the family boarded a Maharashtra plated bus to return to Vasai, Dias and three others arrived with knives and swords and attacked them. The driver of the vehicle was pulled out and beaten with a wooden cane, kicked and hit. Two tourists suffered fractures after being attacked with weapons such as knives and swords, while the others were treated for minor injuries.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, speaking at an event in the city, condemned the incident saying strict action will be taken against the accused. “Law and order is a serious issue for us,” Parrikar said.
Three of the accused — Dias, Vishal Golatkar, and Suraj Shetye — were later arrested by the police, while Sai Kundaikar is absconding. All four have criminal backgrounds. The accused were taken to Goa Medical College where they received treatment for their injuries, before being produced in court.
The family, after receiving treatment, was escorted to Mumbai with police protection.
“The accused, who are all residents of Merces, with the common intention and armed with deadly weapons came in opposite directions and restrained the bus. Further, one of the accused snatched the bus keys from the driver while the others pelted stones on the front glass and windows and thus caused damage due to which some of the passengers from the bus got seriously injured,” North Goa SP Kartik Kashyap was quoted as saying by TOI.
“The driver was pulled out and all four persons assaulted him, causing serious injuries with the intention to kill him and thus, they attempted to commit the murder of the driver,” he added. Local eyewitnesses criticised the police for taking nearly 45 minutes to arrive at the scene.
One of the tourists said, “We had said sorry. Why did he have to slap us? Why hit our women. This is the first time we came to Goa with our family and we thought it would be safe.” “They were drunk. Why should we come here for a holiday? Even women were not spared,” another tourist, Mamta Gandan, reportedly said.