After 16 months in morgue, Goa priest’s body to be buried

April 3, 2017 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Panaji, April 3, 2017: Sixteen months after former Catholic priest and activist Bismarque Dias was found dead under mysterious circumstances, the state Human Rights Commission on Monday directed that his remains be formally laid to rest.

The direction from the Goa Human Rights Commission Chairperson A.D. Salkar followed a petition by a city lawyer, who had prayed that the last rites should be performed on the remains of Dias, which are currently stored in the malfunctioning morgue of the Goa Medical College, near Panaji.

“The Collector and District Magistrate North Goa shall issue directives to the authorities concerned to liaise with parish priest St. Estevam (village) and to arrange last rites of the deceased,” Salkar said in his order on Monday.

Dias, who was protesting against rampant and reportedly illegal real estate development near his village of St. Estevam, was found dead in a water body near the Mandovi river in November 2015.

Activists as well as opposition parties alleged that the priest could have been killed for opposing illegal real estate deals in the ecologically fragile parts of the Tiswadi sub-district, which is crisscrossed by the Mandovi river and its tributaries.

The Congress had also demanded a judicial probe into Dias’s death, even as the Crime Branch, which was probing the incident, claimed that Dias died due to drowning and there was no mischief.

Incidentally, Bismarque had also taken on the Roman Catholic Church in Goa for facilitating the sale of an island to a hospitality firm, through a well-known real estate agent.

For nearly a year, the family of the former priest had said that they would not claim the body until Dias’s alleged killers were caught.

After a video shot some time before his death surfaced last year that showed Dias naming local politicians as well as real-estate developers as those to be held responsible in case of his death, his friends and activist colleagues filed a petition with the Panaji bench of Bombay High Court demanding a fair probe.

They claimed that the Crime Branch of Goa Police had conducted a shoddy probe.

One of the petitioners Sudeep Dalvi told IANS on Monday that it was up to the immediate family of Dias to decide on whether to perform the last rites or not.

“It is up to the family to take this decision. We will continue with our quest for justice for Bismarque (Dias). Whether the body is kept in the morgue or buried is immaterial. Our battle continues,” Dalvi said.

– ians

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