The Indian Navy on Friday cancelled the unfurling of the national flag on the Sao Jacinto island in South Goa after locals said they did not want any authorities from the Central government or the state government to carry out any activities on the island. They, however, made it clear that they were not opposed to unfurling of the flag. They said that the residents of the village would hoist the flag themselves.
In a statement issued Friday, the Navy said, “As part of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ to commemorate 75 years of Independence, Ministry of Defence has planned unfurling of National Flag in Islands across the nation between 13 and 15 August, 2021. A team from Goa Naval Area visited islands of Goa including Sao Jacinto Island as part of this pan India initiative. However, the plan at Jacinto Island had to be cancelled as the same was objected to by the residents. This initiative was taken nationwide to instill a sense of patriotism and celebrate the run up to the 75th year of independence.”
Darrell Dsouza, a resident of Chicalim, who grew up on the island said that traditionally the islanders, about 200 families, have been hoisting the national flag themselves every year and they were anxious about the Navy’s presence on the island in the light of their opposition to the Coastal Zone Management Plan in Goa and the Major Ports Authorities Bill, 2020 passed by the Parliament.
“We are not at all opposed to the hoisting of the flag. In fact, we told the officers of the Navy who came to the island to join us for flag hoisting on August 15,” said Dsouza. He explained that the anxiety among the isalnders, traditional fishermen, stemmed from their fear of the politicial intentions that they believe are against the interest of the island. People fear that the island, brought under port limits, will be taken over by government authorities and handed over to private parties for development, he said.
Captain Viriato Fernandes of Goencho Avaaz, an NGO turned political party, said that the residents of the island had their reasons. The ‘distrust’ that the residents of the island have, comes from the draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) and the Major Port Authority Bill, 2020 passed by the Parliament in which the island has been shown in the jurisdiction of the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT).
“Recently, there were protests against the CZMP. They depicted the port limit and the jurisdiction of Sao Jacinto island has come under the port. We have been opposing these port limits. The island has religious structures dating back to 1731 and we said it cannot come under the port limit. Since then, people have become very vigilant and with this heightened vigilance, the Navy’s presence made them more suspicious. The Bill and CZMP have caused distrust and the people are suspicious about anyone coming to their island. That is the root cause. Otherwise there would have them to panic like this.”