At least six complaints of sexual assault have surfaced in Arambol, a beach belt in north Goa, since the last week of September, with several foreign nationals alleging they were “groped or attacked in the dark”.
In two cases, a 78-year-old Ukrainian and a 36-year-old Belarus national, have approached Goa Police and made a complaint at the beach police outpost.
Three others have reported the incidents on Russian social media groups, which have now gone viral on all Arambol community groups on Facebook. One woman left north Goa the same day.
While the early allegations came in the last week of September, at least three cases have reportedly taken place between October 8 and October 19 — with each woman alleging that they were waylaid and groped in the dark. One of the first victims spoke about her case through an expat community group on social media.
North Goa SP Utksriht Prasoon said police teams will probe all the cases.
A Goa Police spokesperson said they have taken the “matter seriously and will be probing”.
Nilesh Shah, president of Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, said, “Tourism is a big industry (here), and safety is the most crucial aspect…. We have to see if the cases are because the crowd is less, and (whether there are) no proper lighting or watch in those areas.”
“I want to warn all the girls and women who are now in Arambol-Mandrem region, or who are planning to come”, reads one of the posts written in Russian and circulated through Telegram groups, in which one victim speaks of an assault “between 7:30 and 8 pm” on October 19 where an “Indian man” tried to allegedly grab her, chased her and assaulted again.
In another instance, a 78-year-old from Ukraine alleged that she was returning to her beach home after watching the sunset when she “felt a shadow behind”, then the man “suddenly grabbing” her from behind, and started “pushing her on the ground and gagging” her. The woman, who has visited Goa for “six seasons”, said in the complaint letter to police that this season she senses a certain sense of “lack of safety” she has never felt before.
When she screamed, the complaint stated, the attacker ran away, as she said the attacker also realised that there was a group of local residents at a distance. Her complaint was taken by the police the following day after she went with a translator to inform the police.
Tatiana Gristsai, 42, a Russian national and trained lawyer, based in Arambol for the last few years, was one of the first to react to these attacks. She said, “This crime (against women) doesn’t see nationalities. Women’s safety is very crucial…”
Gristai has been very vocal about the incidents and is appealing people to come forward for a “civilian patrol” to keep a watch on the seafront and apprehend the attackers. In the last three days she has been assisting the police, translate the victim statements and also assist them in patrol.
On October 10, with “three attacks reported”, Gristai put a face to the suspect – an absconding repeat offender from Colvale Jail – which the police have denied, although they have taken into cognizance the “seriousness of the crime”. Gristai said, “We feel there are at least two such men (attackers), as in testimonies some say the attacker is of short height while in one particular case, the attacker has been (described as) of heavy built and tall.”
On October 19, Sikandar Sharma, 26, a tourist from New Delhi, was at a local shack when he says a victim – “a white woman” – came running, “shivering with fear”. The police was immediately called. “She told them (police) she was returning from the water when a man jumped on her, grabbed her from behind and gagged her mouth. When she started to run, he escaped.” Sharma said.
Shah, from the travel association, said, “These (episodes) are asking for bigger trouble if such serious issues are not addressed urgently. People come to Goa since they feel safe (here). If these safety issues are not addressed, there is a direct impact on the industry. We cannot afford to have any untoward episodes.”