Parents of children and youth, who were unlawfully detained and ferried in a bus by the police on Goa Liberation Day on December 19, demanded an independent judicial inquiry in the case.
At a press meet on Tuesday, the parents said 'no protests' but 'celebration of liberation'. One of the parents, Kenneth Silvera, said that the children were at the church steps, inside the premises, when they were asked to get in the bus and leave. "We still don't know under what law they were taken to the police station," The Indian Express quoted Silvera as saying.
A school teacher, Vishal Rawley, who was frisked along with the students, said the police dragged them in front of the students. "We were explaining to the children the idea of liberty. We were in a circle, playing Goan traditional instruments," he added.
Parents said that they had taken prior permission from the priest to assemble inside the church. The people gathered had planned events including skits, dance and musical performances.
The goa police had detained more than 30 youths, including minors, women and others on Saturday. The police picked up people from over 20 locations, including Vasco, Talegegao, Panaji, Calangute, Navelim, Mapusa, Divar, Agassaim, Porvorim, Ucassaim, Assagao, Bicholim, Najorda, Varca etc.
Some of them were gathered to create awareness around the 'Save Mollem' campaign and stage a programme, while others gathered to celebrate the State Liberation Day.
All this happened a couple of hours before President Ram Nath Kovind launched the year-long 60 Years of Liberation programme in Panjim.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Neola Pereira, an undergraduate student, who was part of the campaign said that she, along with 35 others including minors, was travelling in a private bus from Vasco to Panjim, for a peaceful function. "We started early to reach the location by 2:00 pm so that we can wind up the entire program before the President's program starts."
Before they could even reach the location, the group saw cops waiting for them. The cops stopped and took over the bus. Four male cops and a lady constable accompanied the group.
Many reported having asked the police for a reason behind their detention, and the sections of the IPC they were being detained under, but they received no response. "We were heading towards the extreme north. We had almost reached Perene. Most of us were live on our social media platforms, so we appealed to the viewers to send help."
Later, the bus was stopped after a man parked his bike in the middle of the road. People stuck in traffic congestion also questioned the police about where they were taking the youngsters, especially children.
However, the police did not answer and took the people to the station. The person who blocked the road, followed the bus to ensure the youngsters were being taken to the place where they were picked up from.
The police later took the group to Agha Sahib police station. "None of the cops were answering. Some of our youth were sick during the journey, so we asked for some water, but they did not provide us with anything," Pereira said.
After being driven around in the police bus for several hours, they were later taken to the Ponda police station.
The police let them out after multiple requests. "We were treated like terrorists; we are not terrorists. We were tortured by the kind of treatment we were given."
Many who were detained were not part of the campaign or the group in any location. Advocate Alphy D'Souza was one of them, picked up from Panjim. D'Souza was out with friends near Church Square Panaji and was heading towards Kamat hotel with his friends.
"Suddenly one cop came up to me and started asking me for my identity details. I asked him what is the reason behind my detention and if Sec 144 was active in the area. I gave him my Aadhar card, showed him the details. He suddenly got aggressive towards me and referred to me as a suspect. I asked him if I look like a criminal, am I carrying a gun. He asked me not to talk 'much' else he will be arrested," said D'Souza.
He was then asked to get into the police bus. "I tried to ask them why I was being detained, but they did not answer. I have driven around in the bus for over 5 hours, unlawfully detained."
Even as the department has not released any official statement in response to the episode, a senior police officer told the media that the groups were being taken due to security reasons. The action was initiated against them as a preventive measure to stop them from 'creating law and order issues.'
"We had asked the organisers not to come to Panjim to protest well in advance in view of the heightened security requirements for the President's visit and to carry out protest anywhere else in the Goa. But they came for demonstrations anyway," the senior official added.
The detention, especially of minors, has angered many in the state. The parents now have decided to stage a silent protest at the same place until their police issue an apology.