Stifling civil society

Two cases of government apathy towards volunteers and activists in Goa

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

it seems that the days of voluntary work and activism might soon be over. Of late the government has become intolerant to such people. Two cases with serious implications have come up in Goa. In one case, an animal rights campaigner was deported out of the country after being "hounded like a criminal". In the other case, an anti-corruption campaigner was implicated in a suicide case and prosecuted for abatement to suicide.

In late May, Sonia Hillidge, a 30-year-old British animal-rights campaigner, who spent the last three years tending to stray dogs and cats in Goa, was forced to leave the country by the government. Hillidge's work was being appreciated in Goa, where she came as a tourist and decided to stay on to work for the cause of the stray animals.She mobilised a handful of international and local supporters, and even got assistance from a British charity International Animal Rescue to back her work.

On April 19, she was abruptly served with a notice from the Union government, asking her to leave India "immediately". She challenged the order in the Goa High Court, but gave up after being made to report to the police station daily. "At one stage, the authorities told the court that my presence was a threat to the national security of India," Hillidge told Down To Earth. "I am upset and heartbroken. But as long as the animals looked after, it's fine," she said, fighting back her emotion.

In another case, anti-corruption campaigners, who had been effectively using Goa's Right to Information Act to dig out dirt and wrongdoing, was charged with driving a local college lecturer to suicide. Goa's local press also joined an intense campaign against M K Jos and Ave Cleto Afonso. Both of them along with Afonso's wife, who is a senior official with the education department, were charged of driving Dhempe College lecturer Naguexa Naique to suicide, following a campaign that led to delays in his pension dues being paid to him.

To Jos goes the credit of unearthing some shocking scams relating to the Goa Board of ssc and hssc Education. Jos also managed to remove the former Goa Board chairperson, Ulhas B Dhuri, from a top and sensitive posting in the state for which he was clearly not qualified, say sources. Perhaps not coincidentally, Dhuri is also related to the then Congress(i) minister of state for education.

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