Updated: August 14, 2021 12:43:31 pm
The Navy on Friday cancelled the unfurling of the national flag at Sao Jacinto Island in south Goa after residents said they did not want the Central or state government to carry out any activities on the island due to their distrust of the authorities. Early on Saturday morning, Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant took to Twitter to call this an anti-India activity and said, “These attempts of Anti-India activities shall be dealt with an iron fist. It will always be Nation First.”
He said that he had requested the Indian Navy to go ahead with their original plan and assured full cooperation from the Goa Police.
“It is unfortunate and shameful that some individuals at St Jacinto Island have objected to Hoisting of the National Flag by the Indian Navy on the occasion of India’s Independence Day. I condemn this and want to state on record that my Government will not tolerate such acts,” he tweeted.
The islanders had, 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, 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, who grew up on Sao Jacinto, said traditionally, the islanders 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 (CZMP) in Goa and the Major Ports Authorities Bill, 2020, which has been passed by 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 islanders, traditional fishermen, stemmed from their fear of the political activities 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 the islanders’ distrust is because the draft CZMP and the Major Port Authority Bill, 2020 shows Sao Jacinto falling under 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,” said Fernandes.
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