Niches, tombstones and granite crosses at a cemetery in south Goa were vandalised in the early hours of Monday, police said. The attack at Guardian Angel Catholic cemetery at Curchorem village comes days after crosses in St Jose de Areal and Gudi Paroda were vandalised.
“Early in the morning our policemen who are stationed outside heard heavy sounds coming from the cemetery. It was like a heavy object crashing and they opened the gates and walked in with torches. They saw a man scaling the wall and escaping. The area which he took to escape was a difficult terrain and the policemen couldn’t match with the advantage the attacker had on the terrain. We are now probing the habitats around the area from where he escaped too,” said DIG Rupinder Kumar.
Goa police said 16 niches, 20 granite crosses on the graves, nine grave tombstone, seven granite name plates were vandalised by a heavy object. An electric light pole was also ripped out.
Before the attack, the CCTV camera in the premise was systematically broken and left on the ground. The police, however, confirmed that the CCTV had not been working for a few months now. Interestingly, the cameras were placed five years ago, when the cemetery suffered its first targeted vandalism. The probe in that case too didn’t yield any arrests.
Since the last attacks, around 120 points were under surveillance with pickets, patrol protocols in place, confirmed Kumar. “This is a deliberate attempt to disrupt social harmony and our assessment is clear on that front. This cemetery was the target last time too,” he added.
According to Kumar, the main gates were locked and the cemetery has only one motorable access road leading from the main gate to the cemetery yard. The pickets were in place outside the cemetery, with a police patrol of six stationed at the outer end of the gate. The next closest patrol was stationed at the Muslim graveyard’s entrance.
The main cross at the gate, symbolic of the cemetery, has also been attacked.
The police are expected to finish their probe report by evening before it’s tabled to the government. “We are looking for the evidence too. We have not found the object used to vandalise these structures. It has to be something heavy as granite name plates and such details have been damaged,” said a policeman at the site.
Earlier, before leaving for USA, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had hinted at a “deliberate attempt to rouse tension” as the trigger behind these attacks. With the bypolls coming, political commentators in Goa have been looking at the attacks as “political” while Parrikar is of the view that they are “targeted to disrupt the harmony” of the state.