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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Goa gangrape case: Statement taken out of context, says CM Pramod Sawant

The chief minister attracted the ire of his political opponents after his statement in the Goa legislative assembly on Wednesday during a calling attention motion when opposition MLAs alleged deterioration of law and order in Goa and pounced on Sawant over the gangrape of two minors in Benaulim in South Goa.

By: Express News Service | Panaji |
Updated: July 30, 2021 11:06:02 am
Goa CM Pramod Sawant. (File)

Early on Friday morning, Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant said that his earlier statement that parents should also take responsibility while sending their children out, following the rape of two minors in Goa on July 25, was taken out of context.

“My statement about the unfortunate incident was taken out of context. Both as head of a responsible Government and as a father of a 14 year old daughter, I was deeply pained and disturbed. The pain of this incident is inexplicable. At no point, I have tried to deny the right to security provided by our law. Goa Police has been a truly professional force especially when it comes to security of women and children. They have already acted swiftly and arrested the accused, and let me assure you that I shall ensure that the culprits get the most stringent punishment under the law,” Sawant said in a statement issued past 1:30 am on Friday.

The chief minister, who holds the home portfolio, attracted the ire of his political opponents after his statement in the Goa legislative assembly on Wednesday during a calling attention motion when opposition MLAs alleged deterioration of law and order in Goa and pounced on Sawant over the gangrape of two minors in Benaulim in South Goa. The opposition was referring to an incident of July 25 in which two teenage girls were allegedly raped by four men who also tried to extort money from them. Of the four arrested the following day, one is a driver in the Goa government’s agriculture department.

“Ten people went to a party on the beach of which six went home and four stayed back on the beach all night – two boys and two girls. They are 14-year-old children. Parents in Goa should also think about this. They also need to take care. You cannot only blame the government and the police. If 14-15 year-olds stay on the beach all night, we need to think about this. Parents are also responsible,” Sawant had said in the assembly on Wednesday.

In his statement issued in the early hours Friday while the Goa legislative assembly was still in session, he said, “Safety of children especially the minor ones has to be a shared responsibility. Our right to security has to be strengthened further with more cautiousness. Children, especially minors, need guidance of their elders.”

“So when I spoke about a shared responsibility for minor children, it was out of concern, care and love for my fellow citizens and our children. We all love our kids. Being the Chief Minister my feeling of concern is extended to all the children of Goa,” Sawant said.

Sawant said he can “never ever directly, indirectly or remotely hurt the sentiments” of Goans.

“I reiterate that in matters that concern the safety and security of our children, there will be no compromise. Let there be no place for misunderstanding,” the statement issued by Sawant said.

On Thursday, Sawant, said that Rajesh Mane, one of the four accused in the gangrape of the two minors in Benaulim, a driver in the agriculture department, had been placed under suspension. Goa Forward Party (GFP) president and Fatorda MLA Vijai Sardesai had alleged that the probe in the matter was being influenced since one of the accused was a government employee.

Sardesai and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) MLA Ramkrishna Dhavalikar said on Wednesdsay that the government must inquire into who was trying to influence the investigation in the case. NCP MLA from Benaulim Churchill Alemao had drawn the attention of the government to strengthen law enforcement in his constituency, a demand backed also by Congress MLAs.

On Thursday Sawant denied that that there was a rise in crimes in Goa, even as another case of rape was reported  in Ponda on Wednesday evening.

“Goa has a crime detection rate of more than 90 percent which is the highest in the country,” Sawant said. He also said on Wednesday that the police had arrested the accused in the Benaulim gangrape case within 24 hours of the incident.

I strongly condemn the statement of Dr Pramod Sawant. So if girls are out in the night, are they inviting men to rape them? What kind of sick mindset is that? Instead of maintaining law and order, the CM of Goa is blaming girls,” tweeted All India Congress Committee Goa desk in-charge Dinesh Gundu Rao on Thursday.

Sardesai, on Thursday, called Sawant’s statement ‘disgraceful’ and ‘unacceptable’ and said, “The Goa CM must be living in stone age but the world has moved on. By harbouring such revolting notions in this day and age, he’s proven that his government is prejudiced and misogynistic. What safety and security can women expect from this government?”

On the evening of July 25, an offence of gangrape and extortion was registered at the Colva police station in South Goa against four men Asif Hateli, Mane, Gajanan Chinchankar and Nitin Yabbal, all residents of Goa. A day later, the men had been produced before a magistrate court in Margao and remanded to police custody for five days. After raping the minor girls, the accused had also tried to extort money from the accused threatening to circulate videos of the incident. The case has now been transferred to the women’s police station in Panaji.

On Wednesday, a truck driver and his aid were arrested by the Goa police for raping a 19-year-old woman in Usgaon, Ponda. The accused, who hail from Kerala, had befriended the woman on social media and called her to meet them and raped her. The incident, that took place in June, came to light after the woman’s family learnt about her pregnancy. The two men, who had also threatened the woman not to disclose the incident to anyone, were arrested and were remanded to a week in police custody on Thursday.

Another incident of rape was reported in Quepem on Thursday. A 25-year-old woman who was brought to Goa from a northeastern state on July 26 under the pretext of giving her a job, was allegedly raped by two men over two days in a residential apartment. Sources said that one of the arrested men, Sudhakar Naik, hails from Goa and the other Shambhunath Singh is a resident of Delhi. Sources said that the victim who had recently lost her job fell prey to the assurances made by Singh and came to Goa in the hope of finding employment. This is the third case of rape reported in South Goa since July 25.

Speaking on the assembly floor on Friday morning, Sawant said, “What I said yesterday was not something I said as CM. I too have a 14 year old daughter. I worry about every child in the state. And I said child, not girl. You can see it again. The government is capable of looking after everyone. We are capable. But I said it as a parent that this is our responsibility too.”

Leader of opposition Digambar Kamat brought up the case of rape reported in Quepem on Thursday.

Sawant said, “The government, police are doing everything they can. I have said that the responsibility is on both sides. We have not thrown our hands up. We are shouldering our responsibility. Goa is not unsafe. It is a safe destination even today. I did not want to hurt anybody’s sentiments and I have not discriminated against anyone.

Boys and girls are equal for me. That’s why I said we need to take care of our children and the government will also do its part. I as CM and my police department are fully capable. Not just this case. You see any case, yesterday a case was registered 8 months later. But we arrested the accused in two days. If a case is registered 8 months later, what will we do? We can only arrest.”

Addressing the Speaker of the assembly, he said that it is also important to educate children. “Based on our culture, we need to inculcate different values in our children. We have to give them that sanskaar (values). If we inculcate these values, we can bring about a change in society. This society needs to change and if we can bring about that change, then there will be a change in various things like crime.”

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