Goa group protests detention of writer-activist

October 27th, 2008 - 8:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, Oct 27 (IANS) The Goa Bachao Abhiyaan (GBA - Save Goa Campaign), fighting against unplanned and rampant construction of mega projects in Goa - has criticised the police detention of writer-activist Venita Coelho after she questioned the village head about a long pending project.On Sunday, the police detained Coelho immediately after she questioned the village sarpanch (head) at a gram sabha (village meeting) about the status of the 20-year development plan of her village, Moira.

Immediately after she raised her query, a boisterous group surrounded Coelho and started heckling and threatening her. However, the police instead of controlling the mob took Coelho to the Mapusa police station, where she was detained for three hours.

Coelho, who has written screenplays for several Bollywood films, is a member of the Moira Action Committee (MAC) and the GBA, which have been protesting the rampant illegal construction in the state.

“The police pulled me forcibly out of my chair and dragged me to the police jeep. I was driven straight to the police station and held for three hours. When friends asked if they could accompany me, they were pushed away from the police van,” Coelho told IANS.

When contacted C.L. Patil, in-charge of the Mapusa police station where Coelho was detained, claimed that the police acted on the directions of the village head. “Venita Coelho was detained at the police station in order to avoid any untoward incident at the gram sabha,” Patil told the media.

Coelho claims she is a legitimate member of the gram sabha and was well within her rights to question the panchayat.

The GBA in an official statement has condemned the use of police force to intimidate and overpower law-abiding citizens.

“Venita Coelho is a valid electoral card-holder, who was removed from Sunday’s Moira gram sabha by the police. We see this as an assault on democracy and an erosion of rights. It is high time the elected government acts and restore confidence,” the press note adds.

Vociferous protests against large-scale construction projects and mining leases have become a consistent feature in Goan gram sabhas in the last couple of years. After village heads started becoming targets of public ire, the grams sabhas are now being conducted in police presence.

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