Riza needed to copy the Ten Commandments, so I went to the Net. With
limited literacy skills, the eight-year-old struggled to copy down a
chidlren’s version. “Okay, ‘adultery’ means you should not get married
twice,” I tried knowing how hopeless my attempt was, and hoping that
she’d believe it for now.
And, as I went along, as a game of sorts, I just kept mentally ticking
off how many commandments I was observing myself. Not that it really
mattered, because one doesn’t believe in doing things just because of
a rule. Fear of punishment (divine wrath, or whatever) is not good
enough a reason for good behaviour.
Ruth was in a few minutes early. So, I requested a few minutes delay,
knowing well that eight-year-olds are wont to sometimes take
procastination as a religion.
“Can I see the newspaper?” she asked. Oh good, the male chauvinist in
me thought sub-consciously. In our times, girls in Goa *never* read
papers (and the boys started with the sports page first).
Then, the teenager who helps Riza with lessons, told of the shock that
had hit their friends circle at college. Two of the five boys accused
in the murder of 18-year-old DJ from Vasco, Mandar Surlakar, were from
Bardez. They were people-like-us, the boys from next door. All in
their early twenties or thereabouts, they came from local schools or
colleges, and hung around the hep spots. Everyone knew them.
So what could have led them to commit murder?
Goa was stunned by the crime. A Goa which is quick to blame the
‘outsider’ (for malaria, crime, filth, corruption, communalism,
anything) had not ready-made answers here. The body of the young man
hardly out of his teens was dumped at distant Ponda, not far from
where the controversial Nylon 6,6 project was supposed to come up, at
You can imagine how much more traumatic it was here for the students,
friends and acquaintances of those who stand charged with having
committed the crime. Three of the five boys were law college students,
and published a bulletin ‘Vox Populi’, the newspapers reported. They
came from affluent families, and though aged between 19 to 22, had
access to plush cars. “One even had a mobile phone costing Rs 35,000,”
the police let slip, as they do while explaining such hard-to-explain
cases to journalists.
This story alone dominated 70% of The Navhind Times’ frontpage:
‘Friends kidnapped and killed Mandar’. ‘Money was the motive: police’
‘No business rivalry: Mandar’s father’ ‘Rane expresses shock’.
Gomantak Times had a photo of the five young men, crouching at the
feel of proudly-standing policemen, their heads covered with black
cloth. It said: “Abducted boy’s pals turn killers. Five accused
arrested”. The accused were identified as Rohan Pai Dhungat (19) of
Vasco, Shaikh Nafiyaz Mamlekar (19) of Vasco, Ryan Pinto (20) of
Ucassaim, Al Saleha ‘Sunny’ Baig (20) of Bicholim and Shankar Tiwari
(22) of Housing Board Colony in New Vaddem, Vasco.
Sunaparant in Konkani said: “Mandarank jito marlo tachyach panch
isthanee” (Mandar was killed by his very own five friends). Gomantak
said, “Aphart Mandaracha galaa daboon khoon” and the Gova Doot had
photos of four of the accused. The paper known to be close to the BJP
has Parrikar blaming chief minister Rane for the rise in crimes, and a
photo of Parrikar visiting the Surlakar family in Vasco.
Police claimed credit for solving the crime speedily, but the slain
victim’s father was quoted by the Navhind as saying the police had
“made a mistake by releasing” two of the accused “on the day when
Mandar was kidnapped”.
Like much of the headline-hitting crime in Goa, some things simply
don’t match. Police say the motive of the crime was an attempt to get
a Rs 50,00,000 (yes, a fifty lakh rupee!) ransom from Mandar’s father,
a builder. Even if they got the huge ransom, would they ever hope to
escape with the booty from the family of a friend?
Chief minister Rane went to the police station. There, he “talked to
the five accused” in the kidnapping and murder case. GT reported: “In
a few moments, the five youth were brought in the cabin and he (the
CM) spoke to them separately for a few minutes even as reporters
crowded outside.” A late-evening Thursday SMS from Niraj Naik’s
mobile-based news services says the BJP protest march in Vasco blamed
the police for Mandar’s murder.
At times of crises, everyone wants a quick answer. Rane made a
statement saying something to the effect that Goan parents should
take responsibility of their children and check whether they goes in
“wrong directions”. As this case makes it to the headlines and to
cyberspace, there is a temptation to conduct a trial-by-media and
decide who is the guilty (instead of leaving that job to the courts).
After all the sensation it causes, in a little while, Goa will have
forgotten this issue too. But is it an indicator of a society in
turmoil, unable to cope with change, struggling to cope with
affluence? As we move from our outdated traditional value-system are
we caught in a vacuum till we find new ones? Is this just a story of
who killed whom and why, or a wider one of where our society is going
wrong, where we fail to build the coping mechanisms, and why in the
rush for ‘excellence’ our institutions are failing to take care of the
very people who don’t need to wait till they commit a murder to get
some meaning out of an often meaningless life.