Panaji, Nov 6 (IANS) After languishing in a state hospital morgue for three years, the mortal remains of a former Roman Catholic priest and activist Bismarque Dias were formally interred in his village of St. Estevam on Tuesday.
The solemn burial ceremony at the St. Estevam island’s St. Stephen church, located 15 km from Panaji, came months after a Bombay High Court-ordered probe by the Crime Branch into the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death, ruled out any foul play in the former priest’s death.
A crowd of villagers, family and friends converged at the church grounds to bid goodbye to the former priest, who in the years leading to his death in mysterious circumstances in 2015, had become a local icon for his protest against rapid concretisation of Goa, as well as the pristine area around his island village.
He also contested the 2012 state assembly polls, but did not win.
Bismarque went missing on November 5, 2015, after he went swimming with some friends at a water body near his home and his body was found subsequently.
His death had sparked a campaign, ‘Justice for Fr. Bismarque’, members of which alleged that powerful politicians and the real estate lobby were behind the murder of the former priest, who had even taken on the influential Roman Catholic Church in Goa for selling its land for commercial consideration.
After the police ruled out any foul play immediately after the post-mortem, members of the campaign filed a petition before the Panaji bench of the Bombay High Court, which later directed that the death be probed by the Crime Branch of the Goa Police.
Earlier this year, the police filed a closure report before a local Court claiming the death was accidental and no foul play was involved.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the funeral, Nestor Rangel, a close associate of the deceased, said while he was sad that his friends had failed to get due justice for Bismarque, he was glad that the mortal remains were finally laid to rest in his own village.
“I think we failed to get justice from the government. I think the time is now right (for the burial),” Rangel said.