Following Panchayat's decision to remove a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj statue installed near Calangute police station, a group of 200 people camped in the panchayat office for around six hours in protest. The group demanded that the panchayat revoke its decision as directed to the concerned authorities to remove the statue causing North Goa’s Calangute area to remain tense on Tuesday.
According to the reports, the protesters also claimed that the decision has hurt Hindu sentiments and thus demanded that the sarpanch issue a public apology.
Reports say that there was a large number of police deployed outside the panchayat office along with the protesters to prevent them from entering the office as the panchayat members were still inside. It is said that some protesters had a scuffle with the police while some pelted stones and broke a window of the panchayat office and two cars were also thrashed by them.
Reportedly Joseph Sequeira the sarpanch of the Calangulate town walked out of the office six hours into the protest and issued an apology. He was escorted by police personnel for safety during the interaction.
Sequeira reportedly said, “The order has been withdrawn. If I have hurt anyone’s sentiments by issuing the notice, I apologise."
The protesters declared 'victory' after listening to Sequeira's apology in the late evening on Tuesday.
The deputy collector of Mapusa, Yashaswini B, informed that the situation was brought under control after the crowd dispersed.
According to the reports, the protesters were part of groups like Shivswarajya Calangute, Karni Sena Sangathan, Bajrang Dal, and Shiv Sena among others.
Who installed the statue?
The panchayat informed the media that a full-size statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji was illegally installed by the Shivswarajya Calangute group which claims to propagate Shivaji's ideologies on June 3 near the Calangute police station. The installation was reportedly done without taking permission.
Joseph Sequeira sent out a signed letter on Monday saying that the panchayat unanimously decided to pass a resolution to declare that the statue was illegal and the concerned authorities should remove it within 10 days. The letter also reportedly mentioned, "failing which the panchayat shall take further action to remove the said statue”. Along with that, the letter said, "the panchayat had made arrangements to install a high mast pole for public convenience at the cross road location near Calangute police station on Saligao-Calangute road" referring to the place where the statue was installed. The Supreme Court had previously made a judgment regarding such installations and this statue went against those rules as well.
Sequeira addressed the letter to Shivswarajya Calangute, the PWD executive engineer and the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation (GSIDC).
On Tuesday the panchayat withdrew the earlier letter by issuing another statement that said that the panchayat would 'discuss and reconsider' their previous decision.
Dnyaneshwar Mathkar, the president of Shivswarajya Calangute told the media that they had written to the panchayat in September 2022 for a no-objection certificate for installing the statue but had not received any reply.
He reportedly said, “There was a small Shivaji statue near that location, but it was not prominent. We wrote to the panchayat with details of the sketch and dimensions of the statue to be installed. We felt that there should be a bigger statue commemorating Shivaji’s life and his sacrifices. People, especially the younger generation, should be aware of his contribution. But the panchayat did not reply to our proposal and requests in the past several months. On June 3, at around 2 am, we, together with the locals, installed the statue.".
Mathkar added, “We do not need permission [to install the statue]…The statue was inaugurated later that same week, but no one raised an objection at the time. Now, after a fortnight, the panchayat has passed this order. This has been done to hurt our sentiments."