Goa displayed its stand together on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, with several people’s movements, supported by civic groups, voicing out their unanimous concerns about frightful projects bound to rip away the state’s identity. In unique symbolic participation, a ‘Peace Walk’ was organized that spread across the state, from Mollem in the East to Vasco city in the West.
What began with just 15 people in Mollem, culminated with over hundreds of people in Vasco, as civil society came together to demonstrate their stand with a unique approach in an effort to reclaim democracy.
All this, despite the government’s early morning decision to impose Sec. 144 across South Goa for 24 hours, which many have said was a way to suppress people’s voices.
Several political leaders, cutting across party lines also placed forward their support to this movement. The ‘Shanti Padyatra’ as it is also called, has been a combined effort of many people and organizations – mainly the Goencho Ekvott and Goencho Avaaz – all dedicated to saving Goa from being destructed due to projects that have no resemblance and significance to Goa and its inhabitants.
The peaceful movement that connected the East to the West, spread footprints of peace and hope, covering an exhausting length of nearly 70 kilometers, passing through 16 villages.
The ‘dawn to dusk’ walk, which evoked a strong response from several residents, was completely voluntary. This, as one can see, has sparked flames of community efforts and togetherness, highlighting the several burning issues that Goa is facing – highly neglected by the government.
“This peace march started at 5 in the morning in Mollem, and a lot of people joined in. All Goans across the state had joined in,” said Fr. Bolmax Pereira.
He explained, “This is not a protest but a peace walk. As we walk, we bring to light all the issues affecting Goa. The Mollem issue which people do not want. In Melaulim, the IIT project too is affecting the Western ghats. Our rivers are being nationalized and we want our rivers back,” he said.
The peace walk has sent a strong message to the government that people are against these mega-projects that have no clear and defined benefits to the state of Goa. The walk, which has followed the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, has now rooted a deep sense of promoting peace amid these times ridden with crimes against humanity, against Goa’s legacy, and against fellow human beings.
On a day that marked symbolic meaning to Bapu, a person whose values we today, as a country and as communities have failed to uphold, this peace walk did just that – rekindling the strong-rooted values of peace and togetherness, while placing strong efforts to restore democratic ways of governance taking people’s views in mind for issues that are bound to affect them.
Movements against all these proposed projects have been gaining momentum across the state, with several communities coming together to express their concerns.
Further south, along the quiet village belt of Guirdolim and Chandor, another people’s movement was gaining steam. ‘Goyant Kollso Naka’ – a month-long yatra spreading awareness on the government’s proposed plans to convert Goa into a coal hub – commenced with triumphant support from people cutting across age groups. This, in a way is also helping people build a sense of solidarity towards Goa’s rich lands and its heritage.
And as movements are gaining thrust, locals have realized that awareness, along with a strong understanding of the issues, will help go a long way in fighting to reclaim Goa’s identity.
The peace walk, the silent rallies, and the awareness meets are all positive signs, signs that Goa is standing together; together in a fight to safeguard the rich and pristine state that our political leaderships fail to look at.
The goal yesterday might be achieved, but the battle to save Goa’s forests and its ecosystems, and to maintain Goa’s rich green habitat and surroundings has only started.