Questions remain over implementation, whether security agencies have the logistics
There was mixed reactions over the advisory issued for St Francis Xavier’s Novena and Feast in which those participating have been asked to carry ID cards and also have been advised against carrying any bags.
However, questions have been raised whether such an exercise of physically conducting checks is actually possible with thousands of footfalls for every mass and whether the security agencies are equipped with the required logistics to deal with the enormous task.
Speaking exclusively to The Goan, Cathedral Chapter president Fr Alfred Vaz stated that the advisory is a bad idea as it appears to be an attempt to harass the people.
“How would they check ID cards of thousands of people who attend the masses in the very limited time that is available between two masses? The queue of people coming for the masses would go beyond the Cathedral,” Fr Vaz opined.
Then, Fr Vaz questioned whether such an advisory is an attempt to target the Christian community as it is given only for the Old Goa feast.
“Are such restrictions imposed for other festivals?” the priest posed.
Questioning the logic behind the advisory, former bureaucrat and Congress leader Elvis Gomes chided the authorities over the timing of the same.
“One just cannot understand the issuing of an advisory on the eve of the Novena and Feast as it should have been done well in advance and by taking all stakeholders into confidence, which was not the case,” Gomes stated while condemning the imposition of the decision.
“If there are security issues, then what types? Are these internal or external? Is the decision taken because of the Palestine conflict? If that is so, then the places frequented by Israelis are elsewhere,” Gomes pointed out while questioning whether the threat an internal one involving communal elements which had tried to create disharmony in religious places like Sancoale.
“The security personnel could randomly conduct checks on suspicious elements and ask for identity cards. Also, there should be hawk eyes and adequate number of CCTVs. This is called security management,” he opined while further stating that physically checking ID cards of all and sending back those who do not carry ID cards, doesn’t augur well as these are matter of faiths, which under Article 21 of the Constitution pertains to matter of life.
Activist Mariano Ferrao from Corlim also questioned the purpose behind such advisory which was never issued before.
“The security agencies should explain why such advisory is issued? Is there a specific threat to the Basilica Church or is there a threat to the pilgrims and from whom?” he posed.
Ferrao then questioned how would it be possible to conduct physical checks of thousands of people who attend on a daily basis while stating that the decision will definitely create panic in the minds of the people.
Another activist Anthony D’Silva from Assolna, however, said that as far as asking for ID is concerned, it appears to be a good concept in terms of security threat.
However, in the same tone D’Silva said that it depends on the security agencies whether they will be able to implement the same and conduct checks of thousands of people who attend within 15 minutes available between two masses.
He then raised the question of those entering with fake ID cards. “How will these be detected?” he posed.
Further, D’Silva said that there will be some people who come from other States and who may not be aware of the advisory.
An Old Goa local Glen Cabral welcomed the move by stating that at least there would be some sort of security check which was not implemented earlier.
“Since there is a security threat, then at least asking for ID cards will help to a certain extent. However, it should not be implemented for those attending in the pandal but only those entering the Basilica,” Cabral added.
Further, Cabral stated that the authorities should go for advanced technologies like scanners for luggage, facial recognition devices, CCTVs, etc.
Chicalim Parish Priest poses several queries
PANAJI: Chicalim Parish Priest Fr Bolmax Pereira felt that while the police advisory and the security concerns regarding the Novena and Feast of St Francis Xavier are to be appreciated, a number of questions have arisen over this advisory.
“Is the Goa police really prepared to implement this advisory? How many personnel will be deployed to verify the ID cards of thousands attending the Novenas?”
“Considering the 10 days and the movement of the people all the time, it might put extreme pressure on the police force. Tokenism will not help meet the security concerns raised as no one knows when the dangerous elements will enter.”
Fr Pereira also sought to know if the church was taken into consideration when this advisory was being prepared.
“The initiative for security is really wonderful. But should the main organiser not be part of this decision? And how effective is checking the IDs of devotees going to be? Hope there’s a proposal to keep the records of all the ID holders.”
“Instead, installing high-tech sensors for effective screening of all those who enter the certain sensitive, crowded, and vulnerable places would have been better.”
The Chicalim parish priest also raised other queries. “What happens to the people who queue up without IDs? Hope that doesn’t lead to crowding at the entrances. What about entry to the fair? Will we require IDs there, too? In fact, those areas are more vulnerable to security threats,” said Fr Pereira.
Fr Pereira also wondered if this police advisory would be the norm for all religious functions or only specific to the St Francis Xavier Novena and Feast.