Family of dead Indian activist press for murder investigation

November 9, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

Panaji, November 9, 2016: The family of an environmentalist and former priest, who was found dead under suspicious circumstances in the Indian state of Goa, has refused to hold last rights until authorities launch a murder investigation.

A crowd of about 300 gathered Nov. 5 and 6 to mark the first anniversary of the death of Bismarque Dias, a former priest with the Blessed Sacrament congregation, whose body was found floating in a river on Nov. 7, two days after he was reported missing.

The activist, who left the priesthood to contest the state elections, used music and meetings to encourage people to protect the environment and oppose unplanned developments. His supporters believe that he was murdered because of his campaign against property developers and mining companies.

Police have called his death “accidental” and have closed investigations. But activists dispute this, pointing to injuries to his body.

His supporters, who gathered at the island village of Santa Estevam, marked the anniversary with speeches, musical performances and original compositions extolling Dias’ passion for the environment.

All aspects of human life “will be affected if the environment is destroyed but the government does not care because personal profit is more important to them,” said Judith Almeida, who worked with Dias.

On Nov. 5 singer Hema Sardessai released her personal tribute, My Brother on Youtube. It includes a speech by the dead activist.

Dais’ supporters have approached the court with their case.

“It has been over six months but the courts are dilly-dallying, perhaps because the case will eventually tighten the noose on the perpetrators of the crime,” said Nicoletta Fernandes, a close friend of the Dias family.

Fernandes said the former priest’s family have petitioned the court to file a case of suspected murder and hand over a copy of the original police report. “This is a must for us to proceed further,” she added.

Police Inspector Virendra Veluskar, who was part of the original investigation, told on Nov. 8 that the police had probed all allegations of murder and questioned nearly 60 witnesses before concluding that Dias accidentally drowned.

“We have concluded it to be a case of accidental drowning based on two post mortem reports, viscera, DNA and diatom tests,” he said.

Dias unsuccessfully contested the 2012 elections as an independent candidate under his “kindness manifesto” that stressed love for nature, simple things in life and his appreciation of the fragility of our ecosystem.

He fought against illegal mining and opposed land projects such as hotels, golf courses and an airport on the grounds that such projects irreversibly destroy land, trees, water sources and the environment.

– ucan

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