Church-backed Goa NGO condemns arrest of tribal protestors

Panaji, April 8 (IANS) A church-backed NGO on Friday condemned the assault and arrest of 38 tribals who were protesting allegedly illegal transportation of iron ore and accusing the BJP-led coalition Goa government of working in tandem with the state’s illegal mining cartels.

In a statement issued here, the Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP), the civil society wing of the influential Roman Catholic Church, also said that the arrest of the tribals, including women, of Cavrem village on Wednesday for protesting illegal transportation of iron ore, amounted to violation of human rights.

“CSJP strongly condemns the terror and alleged human rights violations unleashed by the state government machinery on helpless villagers, more so the tribals, in a bid to shield the transgression of fundamental rights of citizens during the transportation of ore by mining companies,” it said.

“It was exactly such terror employed earlier by the mining cartel with the tacit support of the state that compelled civil society groups to approach the court in a bid to protect the right to life thereafter leading to a ban being imposed on mining,” the statement said, adding that the government appeared to have not learnt any lesson, even after mining was banned for over two years, following a Rs.35,000 crore illegal mining scam, exposed by a judicial commission.

“The removal of the ban on mining by the apex court should in no way be assumed to be a license for the government and mining companies to indulge in violation of human rights,” the CSJP said, adding that the “use of state repression to cover up the gross illegalities and irregularities in the mining activity could only spell doom to the future of mining industry in Goa”.

On Wednesday, 38 tribals protesting transportation of what they claimed was illegally harvested iron ore, were arrested by police in Quepem sub district, 55 km south of Panaji.

The arrest came two weeks after yet another tribal Ravindra Velip, who was arrested for protesting against allegedly illegal ferrying of iron ore, was beaten up in judicial custody. The Goa government has ordered a magisterial enquiry into the assault.

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