The armed attack on tourists at Merces raises a question that the authorities have been trying to sweep under the carpet: How safe are tourists? The bus was chartered by the Ghodekar joint-family from Vasai-Mumbai for a trip to Kerala. On their return trip they halted at Merces and it was during breakfast that a member of the family got into a verbal altercation with Lawrence Dias. An apology from the family member was not enough for Dias who returned with three goons and attacked the bus. Windows were broken and 17 members of the family were injured in the melee. Three of the goons were overpowered by the male members of the family and locals. They were handed over to the police who arrived on the scene after most of the damage had been done.
This story has ‘disaster’ written all over it and Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar tried to reassure tourists and locals that those responsible for the attack would be brought to book. He also said that in the future police inspectors would be held responsible for disturbances of this sort in their jurisdictions. Perhaps, he should have included politicians as well because more often than not, goons enjoy the patronage of local politicians. The politician-goon nexus needs to be broken before police inspectors can act. It might be recalled that the accused in the rape and murder of an Irish woman in Canacona in March had a history of crime and the local police station had sought his externment from the area. The government sat on the application.
The last time the State experienced a major incident of unrest was when a Nigerian was murdered in 2013, allegedly by a rival drug gang. The murder and reaction by Nigerians staying in Goa turned into a call from locals to get rid of all Nigerians, which was easily said than done. As far as tourists go, the State has had its fair share of murders, rapes, molestations and drug overdose deaths. The State has survived allegations of being soft on prostitution and drugs and turning a blind eye to the underbelly of tourism.
The attack at Merces shows Goa in poor light. The Ghodekar family were in Goa for a day on their return trip from Kerala and the treatment they got from some hot-bloodied locals, who should have accepted the apology given by family members and closed the matter, is something they will remember for a long time to come. If they arrived here with the idea that Goa is peaceful paradise, it was shattered by the attack. What they will take back is bruises, cuts and anger instead of souvenirs. The Chief Minister has called for records of all such trouble makers and there is reason to believe that he will take action to restore the law and order situation and preserve the image of Goa as an island of tranquility.