Caught during a heatwave, Goa appears to be sweltering in the heat of a contentious debate over whether 16th-century Spanish priest St. Francis Xavier or mythical sage Parshuram should be regarded as the patron saint of the land.
Xavier was one of the earliest Catholic missionaries to arrive in the newly conquered Portuguese colony of Goa for the purpose of proselytisation and has been credited with corresponding with the colonial powers to impose the brutal Inquisition on the people of the new territories. He is known as the patron saint of Goa or Goencho Saib in the colloquial language.
Mythical sage Parshuram, according to legend, has been credited with creating the land on which modern-day Goa stands today, by unleashing an arrow that pushed the seas back to the horizon.
The debate over who should be regarded as Goa's patron saint stems from former state Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Subhash Velingkar, who on May 3 is expected to launch the 'Goa Files' campaign during which he would create popular awareness about Xavier's atrocities.
"Parshuram Jayanti is on May 3, when we will be releasing the 'Goa Files'," Velignkar said. "We will be raising this campaign across Goa for 20 days. St. Francis Xavier is not the protector of Goa, Bhagwan Parshuram is. Xavier through the Goa Inquisition committed atrocities on Goans. He is responsible for the atrocities and suppression of the people. We want to bring this before the people of Goa."
Velingkar's comments raised the hackles of the Opposition, the Catholic clergy as well as some BJP leaders of Catholic orientation.
"He (Velingkar) will face the music," said ex-BJP MLA Glenn Ticlo, even as former Tourism Minister Francisco Pacheco filed a police complaint against Velingkar, saying that the ex-state RSS chief should be booked under the National Security Act for his "derogatory" comments against Xavier.
"The bigots do not even spare St. Francis Xavier," said Trinamool Congress spokesperson Trajano D'Mello. "Why is BJP-RSS using a man that was shunted and is so desperate to polarise people in Goa who have lived in harmony?"
Catholic priest Fr. Bolmax Pereira, who has led several social agitations over the last few years, said that there was a need to understand the conspiracy behind Velingkar's statements. "The contents of their statement are not worth discussing and not even worth mentioning but still why they are being made is what we need to understand," Pereira said. "This is a conspiracy to create a divide between Hindus and Catholics in Goa. We know who benefits from all this."
The heated debate about St. Francis Xavier and sage Parshuram comes at a time when Chief Minister Pramod Sawant's proposal to rebuild temples destroyed during the Portuguese colonial era has raised the social temperature in the state.
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