A stunning twilight sword attack, a busted eye and a slashed neck could threaten Goa's plans to booze and party till 4 a.m.
The Goa government has been forced to review its recent decision to allow sale of liquor till 4 a.m. in coastal and urban areas after dramatic scenes that played out in the twilight late last month outside a popular night club in the capital, where a young man attacked two youngsters from upscale areas with a sword.
Women's groups in Goa now say: "We told you so". "The increased timings of bars till 4 a.m. will have drunken men coming home in the wee hours, disturbing the sleep of the family and neighbours. Drunken brawls and street fights will cause insecurity as was demonstrated by the sword attack," claimed Sabina Martins of the Bailancho Saad, Goa's most popular women's rights group.
She has now started a "Roll Back Bar Timing Campaign" through which she hopes to bludgeon some sense into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government, which has been repeatedly accused of being liberal to the liquor and casino lobbies operating in Goa, well-known as a party and nightlife destination.
Although a relatively peaceful state, mob attacks near bars and clubs are not unprecedented. But last month's attack, by Zaine Almeida, 23, on Raju Sarin and Rafael da Costa, both aged 37, has shocked the wits out of many city dwellers, especially Rafael's neighbours from Campal, a leafy Portuguese village-style part of Panaji. Campal is habitated by the city's Catholic elite, who form a small but influential vote-bank of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who is also the local legislator.
An eyewitness who has deposed before the police told IANS that the nonchallance of the attacker stunned the dozens of pubbers gathered outside the "Down the Road" outlet. "We were all hanging out when we saw Zaine charge towards Sarin with his sword and slash at his neck. When Rafael tried to intervene, he lashed out at his head too, cutting him across the face. His face was virtually sliced," said the eyewitness, one of the more than 20 people who have testified before the police. While Sarin received a cut on his neck, Rafael was the worst hit and has lost an eye as a result of the attack.
While police claim that Zaine was outraged by a comment made by Sarin about his girlfriend, who was accompanying the accused at the time, Martins said the root of the crime is the manner in which the Goa government is unabashedly promoting alcohol. "Women expressed their protest and concern over the liberal sale of alcohol near schools, educational institutions, workplaces and religious places in total contravention of excise laws in the name of tourism and revenue generation," she said, adding that in the long run, the easy availability of booze did not make "economic sense".
Under pressure from women's groups and civil society from his constituency, Parrikar has been forced to review his decision to allow bars to open until 4 a.m., but not before taking a trademark swipe at the protesting women's groups. "Some of these activists are only interested in media publicity. Before going to the press, they should have approached the government," Parrikar said.
Earlier this week, a group of Panaji residents submitted a memorandum to Parrikar seeking prompt action against the attacker. Speaking to the media last week, Director General of Police (DGP) T.N. Mohan dodged questions about whether there was any linkage between a potential increase in crime and the late-night sale of alcohol. "The issue is already being reviewed by the state government," Mohan said. Last August, the Goa government, citing increasing late-night crimes had slashed bar timings from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Goa is one of India's most sought after beach tourism destinations and is known for its beaches, nightlife, cheap alcohol and easy availability of drugs. The state attracts nearly three million tourists annually.