FATHER BISMARK DIAS

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Fr Bismarck Dias, a graduate from St Xavier College in Mumbai, entered religious service in 1996. Major part of his service had been in Goa. Fr Dias, who took sides with the villagers and criticised the sale of an island, which was owned by the church, to a real estate firm, was asked not to deliver religious discourses or sermons to those attending the church.

Fr Dias however, felt that there is no difference between the service at the church and service to the public. “Mining and regional development projects are damaging the environment of Goa. There is a need to build a clean political culture in the state to stop the state from suffering irreparable environment damage,” he felt

Jan 12 2012
Fr Bismark Dias (47),decided  to contest the  assembly poll scheduled for February , which created embarrassment for the heads of churches. Jagrut Gaonkaracho Ekvot, a socio-political organization, had pledged its support to the priest.

Fr Bismark Dias goes missing mysteriously on Nov 07 2015

Mystery shrouded the missing of priest turned social activist Fr Jose Bismark Dias, who had led several major agitations against the successive governments. Dias had gone missing since Thursday evening prompting a massive search operation by the police to locate his whereabouts.

But the recovery of his mobile phone, motorbike, wallet, sandals and other belongings from a bandh at St Estevam raises a strong suspicion that he could have been a victim of an untoward incident or crime.

The information that a bandh, near the sluice gate of his village – where he was last seen – holds relevance essentially because Dias was in a tussle with a private builder over the construction of a road.

His sudden disappearance has baffled the residents of Old Goa as he had been actively involved in a number of protests against some of the major government projects and policies including Special Economic Zone, Regional Plan and the proposed Mopa airport amongst other local issues.

The activist had also got embroiled in a long feud with Cumbarjua legislator Pandurang Madkaikar against whom he contested the 2012 general assembly elections. The activist priest had contested the State assembly elections as an Independent candidate and had fiercely campaigned for himself on a bicycle. During the code of conduct, his house was also attacked by unknown miscreants.

Before he went missing, Dias along with Sudip Dalvi and other activists of the Musical Warriors group, were supposed to hold a musical protest against Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, on the land of Amarnath Naik whose land was brazenly and illegally taken away by the state as a  part of the land acquisition for the Electronic City project in Tuem. Dalvi was one of the first people to rush to the spot to look for him.

In the recent past, Dias had participated in a series of civil society protests, most notable of which have been a series of musical protests along with a band of musicians, who through their songs, alleged scams and controversies in land-intensive projects ranging from a new greenfield airport, a golf course and an electronic city being conceived by the state government in Tuem, 45 km from Panaji.

Fr Michael Fernandes, An outspoken colleague within the clergy  holds the Church authorities indirectly responsible for the fate of Fr Bismarque Dias, who was found dead in the creek at his St Estevam village.

Fr Michael Fernandes, a fighter himself, has also asked why the Church has officially not come out with a single statement on Fr Bismarque’s death in suspicious circumstances.

“I am not saying that the Church authorities are involved in killing Fr Bismarque. But he was not protected by the Church when he was fighting the sell-out of Goa”, Fr Fernandes said
A practicing lawyer since 1990, Fr Fernandes has also been fighting people’s issues and taking up court cases of the exploited and helpless class of the society in the port town of Vasco.

It all started, according to him, when Fr Bismarque found out that the Church had sold out a gifted land at Vaxim Island to a Bangalore-based party to build a resort and a golf course etc.

As he recalls, Fr Bismarque was at that time living in a rented room and looking after the construction of a building of Blessed Sacrament Society at Alto St Cruz.

As he started mobilising the people against the sell-out of the Church land to the hotelier, the Church of Goa immediately transferred him to the USA in 2010.

As a result, says Fr Fernandes, his fighter colleague had preferred to stop preaching and fighting public issues by living in his St Estevam village rather than going to the USA, obeying the Church order.

After two years, two opposite opinions emerged within the Church when Fr Bismarque decided to contest Assembly election from Cumbarjua as an independent candidate.

Fr Mousinho Ataide, an expert on Canon Law and professor at Rachol Seminary, had ruled that there is no prohibition on a priest contesting Assembly election and Fr Bismarque need not take permission from the Church.

As he recalls, Fr Ataide had also stated that he would require to take permission of the Church only if he gets elected and not to fight election.

Fr Eremito Rebello, convenor of Goa for Dabolim Only, had expressed difference of opinion on Fr Ataide’s view, but could not provide a second opinion, quoting the Canon Law.

He also disclosed that Fr Bismarque was once again getting himself prepared to fight the forthcoming Assembly election in 2017 from the same constituency, with a larger public support.

In fact Fr Fernandes alleges that the priest candidate was defeated by his own senior colleagues within the clergy, who secretly pressurised the priests in Cumbarjua constituency (including Old Goa) to tell the people not to vote for him.

While Fr Bismarque was fighting the real estate barons and the government authorities in his village, Pernem taluka and all over Goa, Fr Fernandes feels the Church did not protect the fighting priest.

According to him, the priests are today supporting the public meetings and candle light vigils at personal level and the Church has not given any official directive to support the public protests, not even through the Council for Social Justice and Peace.

He also alleges that the police are not probing Fr Bismarque’s death case from all the angles when he had been receiving threats to his life.

Fr Fernandes has been transferred to Clergy Home of aged priests with only two inmates by creating a new post – Assistant to the Director.

He has challenged this transfer as well as the creation of this post since the Clergy Home of two inmates is being looked after by two senior priests.

NOV 07 2015

Body found in mangroves off Mandovi River;

The partially decomposed body of priest-turned-social activist and environmentalist Fr Bismark Dias was discovered in the waters off Mandovi River 24 hours after he mysteriously went missing on Thursday evening. A portion of his body, eaten by fish, was found entangled in mangroves by the local residents of St Estevam.

 The angry locals are demanding CBI probe claiming he could have been hacked to death as he was at loggerheads with certain sections of the society and the government over several issues like Special Economic Zone, Regional Plan and the proposed Mopa airport among other controversial projects. They have refused to accept police’s preliminary probe that Fr Dias died due to drowning.

 “We have lost our son and a warrior who fought for the rights of the people, environment and society,”

 The victim was last seen at a bandh, near the sluice gate at St Estevam in the evening where he is said to have been accompanied by two young boys. When he was not traceable till Friday morning, his relative filed a missing persons complaint at the Old Goa police station.

His mobile phone, motorbike, wallet, sandals and other belongings were found from the spot where he was last seen raises a strong suspicion that he could have been a victim of crime.

The body was sent to the Goa medical college and hospital for post-mortem, report of which is awaited that will ascertain the exact cause of death.

Nov 6, 2015

The story in Floriano’s own words: “Two local boys (both Goans) along with Bismark went to the river’s edge or somewhere with a cartoon of beers. The boys, who are being questioned (not arrested both of around 17/18 years) have told that they all had beers and Bismark supposedly had 15 or so beers. He then went into the sea water probably for a dip and never came back. The Inspector told me that he is doing all in his powers to find Bismarks body. I have told him that Bismark having 15 beers is not likely, that these boys should be suspect. ”

Nov, 18 2015

The mortal remains of activist and Roman Catholic priest Fr. Bismarque Dias rest in the icy cavity of a morgue in a government hospital’s morgue.

But outside, under the unusually scorching November sun, last week’s mysterious death of Bismarque, who was in the midst of organising a series of protests against controversial real estate projects here, has inflamed discourse in Goa’s agitated civil society, media and the political space.

The jury is out on how the Roman Catholic priest could have met his end along the muddy fringes of the Mandovi river on 5 November,  This, even as a whole spectrum of theories related to spiked drinks, torture and even ghost-busting leading to Bismarque’s mystery death are being animatedly discussed or just vehemently denied.

According to the police, Bismarque drowned somewhere in the intervening night of 5 and 6 November, when he allegedly went swimming after a bout of drinking with two male acquaintances, one of whom was a minor. The body was discovered on 7 November, washed up near a sluice gate at St Estevam, an island village where the priest hailed from, located 15 km from Panaji.

This police premise, based on statements of the two witnesses and on a post mortem report, . Many claim it is ridden with flaws, while the police insist that the chronology of facts was still being verified.

According to Deputy Inspector General of Police, Bismarque, after drinking beer, had waded into the water to dispel the fear of ghosts, which his two companions had claimed haunt the very area where they had gone drinking.

“They (the companions) said that in that area there is a ghost there and we do not want to go there. But he told them that nothing is there and then he went for swimming and they slept there. In the morning they did not find him and went to their house,”

DIG said, adding that the sequence of events was built on the versions of witnesses, which were only taken on record and were in the process of being verified. “We are approaching the particular matter with an open mind,” he said. Bismarque’s activist colleague Sudeep Dalvi debunks the police account.

A local court had disallowed a police plea to conduct a lie detector test on a juvenile who has been made a key witness in the case of death of priest Fr Bismarck Dias under mysterious circumstances. The Goa Crime branch  probing the death of Dias, whose body was found in a river at his village St Estevam near Panaji on November 7. Dias, who was part of almost all environment protection movements in the coastal state, was last seen with the minor.

The Juvenile Court rejected the application of the Crime Branch to subject the minor witness to a lie detection test even as his parents had given their consent for the same.

“This ghost story is all humbug. Bismarque had better things to do and worry about than ghost-busting. He was also a very good swimmer,”

Dalvi has been Bismarque’s aide for several years and campaigned for the latter in the 2012 state assembly elections, which the priest lost, but not dishonourably.

While Dalvi insists he has seen a scar above Bismarque’s right eye,  first post mortem report has revealed “no ante-mortem injuries”.

On the insistence of the family a second post mortem has already been conducted by the results had been kept under wraps until the receipt of the viscera examination report.

Until then Bismarque’s family has refused to conduct the burial of the mortal remains. “Until we are convinced there is a thorough and fair investigation we will not bury the body,” the deceased priest’s brother Mario Dias toldFirstpost, also demanding a Crime Branch probe.

Nov 19 … Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar has said that the mysterious death case of social activist Fr Bismark Dias would be handed over to crime branch for furtheir investigation

The High Court of Bombay at Goa on Tuesday directed the crime branch of the Goa police to file a murder case in the mysterious death of social activist Bismarque Dias in November 2015. Additionally, the crime branch has also been directed to file a status report every three months, till the investigation is completed.

The court has not set aside the investigation conducted by the crime branch under section 174 of the CrPC, he added.

Bismarque’ friends had approached the court to get the case transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). They had also sought for a FIR to be registered to bring out the truth behind the death.

“This order is the victory of Bismarque’s supporters, disciples, followers and lovers. It is also a tight slap to the police department in particular, and the government in general, who wanted to bury the case under the name of accidental death due to drowning. Our heartiest thanks to the team of advocates, Subodh Kantak, Chaitanya Padgaonkar, Shriniwas Khalap and Ryan Menezes for their tireless efforts, which lead to our victory,” one of the petitioners Sudeep Dalvi said after the court order.

Well -known international medical expert and forensic medicine specialist Dr Wilbert S Gomes (MD) associated with the California Northstate University College of Medicine  threw light on the factors, possibilities and situation that could have existed just before Fr Bismarque Dias‘ death. According to Dr Wilbert S Gomes  it was obvious that the injuries on the person of Fr Bismarque Dias were not caused after death, but could have been caused just before death occurred or at the time of death – implying that Fr Bismarquewas brutally beaten before his death and then dumped into the water in an unconscious state. Or that he was assaulted on his groin and private parts and on the forehead and chest (where the bruise marks are seen by the panchas) and then held under water till he drowned.
Dr Wilbert Gomes, after going through the evidence presented to him – which included the statements of eye-witnesses present during the panchnama of Fr Dias, Facebook and social media posts of Fr Bismarque‘s friends and relatives as well as other circumstantial evidence has suggested without doubt that Fr Bismarque was tortured just before his death. He was beaten brutally on his chest and groin . Fr Bismarque fell unconscious after the beating and then either was thrown into the water or was held under water for some time to make sure that he was dead – and to show that the cause of death was drowning.

Goa police had claimed that the second post-mortem has ruled out any physical injuries on the body of  Bismarque Dias prior to his death. The second post-mortem report according to the Goa police said that the injuries found on Bismarque’s body were all caused after death.

Based on media reports and various inputs of several people, activists and friends of FrBismarque who were present at the panchnama and have shared their observations on Facebook and other social media, Dr Gomes suggested that Fr Bismarque Dias’ death was definitely not a simple “Death by Drowning” as has been alleged by the Goa police.
There are many loopholes and blanks in the entire story put out by the police, based on the version of the 3-4 youth who apparently were the last to see Fr Dias alive. First the boys said he consumed a huge quantity of beer and as per initial media reports Fr Bismarque had consumed over 10 beers. But the viscera report does not show any alcohol in his body. Where did all the beer go. Even the post mortem report shows only 50 ml of urine in his bladder. The boys later on changed their statement saying Fr Bismarque only consumed 2-3 beers while the rest of the bottles were consumed by the two of them.
The police have failed to answer how the beer bottles landed up on the crime scene? Who paid for the beer?

Bismarque had lodged two complaints of threats to his life from two persons. The police complaint was lodged two days before he died. Yet, even without investigation, the police blandly announced it was suicide or death by drowning.
Dr Gomes said it was surprising that Fr Bismarque being a good swimmer and having consumed only 2-3 beers -as is now being made out by the youth would drown. Why would he go swimming a second time?

One of the gentleman who was named in Bismarque’s police complaint actually forced Bismarque’s sister-in-law to apologize to the deity of the sacred area around the manus, on behalf of Bismarque for showing disrespect by drinking beer there. The sister-in-law is believed to have duly apologized. And yet the first autopsy measured just 50 ml of urine in Bismarque’s body. How did the body get rid of all that beer, eight bottles and more, as alleged by the youth?
This does not kill the suspicion that Bismarque could have been hit on the head and then held down under the water until he died. The inquest panchanama according to one of the witnesses, described bruising on Bismarque’s chest and a deep depression on his forehead. That would not show in viscera results. Both the autopsies made no mention of the bruising on the chest. But if the blood on the vest found near the sluice gate matches that of Bismarques’,  then the boys have to be questioned rigorously. There are just too many holes in the story of events leading up to and following Bismarque’s death. Villagers say that one of the boys was missing for two days after Bismarque’s death. The other person named in Bismarque’s police complaint, a former sarpanch of the village was missing for three days. Too much of a coincidence?
Senior Goa police officials were quick to discount the murder theory when the body was discovered. North Goa SP Umesh Gaonkar told media persons almost immediately after the body was found that the first autopsy conducted by the Goa Medical College Hospital has stated the cause of death as ‘asphyxia (suffocation) due to drowning in the water. He also said there are some marks  found on his body, which the autopsy report has stated as ‘marks of aquatic creatures’ or fish bites. However, the persons present at the Panchnama have suggested that the marks on the body, were more like injuries and bruise marks rather than fish bites.

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