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Voice of Unheard

Locals of Sao Jacinto Island in Goa protest against Navy’s flag hoisting

Aug 14, 2021
Image of Sao Jacinto island in Goa which opposed the flag hoisting… Image courtesy Grand Goa Islands

On Friday, the Indian Navy cancelled the unfurling of the national flag on the Sao Jacinto island in South Goa after residents raised objections.

According to the reports, the Indian Navy has dropped their plans of hoisting the tricolour on the Sao Jacinto island after the residents said they did not want any authorities from the Central government or the state government to carry out any activities on the island.

The residents have claimed that they are not opposed to unfurling the tricolour, but they would hoist the flag themselves.

In a statement issued Friday, the Navy said that as part of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ to commemorate 75 years of Independence, the Ministry of Defence has planned unfurling of National Flag in Islands across the nation between 13 and 15 August 2021.

“A team from Goa Naval Area visited the islands of Goa, including Sao Jacinto Island, as part of this pan India initiative. However, the plan at Jacinto Island had to be cancelled as the same was objected to by the residents. This initiative was taken nationwide to instil a sense of patriotism and celebrate the run-up to the 75th year of independence,” the Indian Navy said in its statement.

San Jacinto Island, which lies south of Panaji, has mostly Christian residents and houses two churches dedicated to St. Hyacinth of Poland (São Jacinto) and St. Dominic (São Domingo). The residents of the island have put up entry restrictions, and tourists are not allowed to visit.

Darrell Dsouza, who grew up on the island, said that the island consisting of about 200 families who have been hoisting the national flag every year. However, they are apprehensive about the Navy’s presence on the island in the light of their opposition to the Coastal Zone Management Plan in Goa and the Major Ports Authorities Bill, 2020, passed by the Parliament.

“We are not at all opposed to the hoisting of the flag. In fact, we told the officers of the Navy who came to the island to join us for flag hoisting on August 15,” said Dsouza.

He claimed that islanders, traditional fishermen, are anxious about the political intentions, which according to them, are against the interest of the island. Dsouza said that the islanders fear that the island will be taken over by government authorities and handed over to private parties for development once brought under port limits.

Captain Viriato Fernandes of Goencho Avaaz, an NGO turned political party, also defended the islanders saying that they have strong reasons to oppose the Navy’s presence in the islands. He claims that there is a ‘distrust’ among the residents of the island after the passing of the draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) and the Major Port Authority Bill, 2020, in which the island has been included in the jurisdiction of the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT).

“Recently, there were protests against the CZMP. They depicted the port limit, and the jurisdiction of Sao Jacinto island has come under the port. We have been opposing these port limits. The island has religious structures dating back to 1731, and we said it cannot come under the port limit. Since then, people have become very vigilant, and with this heightened vigilance, the Navy’s presence made them more suspicious. The Bill and CZMP have caused distrust, and the people are suspicious about anyone coming to their island. That is the root cause. Otherwise, there would have them to panic like this,” Fernandes added.

The Government of India is planning to celebrate “Amrut Mahotsav” – the 75th anniversary of India’s independence as a “people’s movement”. The Modi government has already started preparations for the 75th-anniversary celebrations and intends to organise several events to commemorate the historic event. The events will be managed by a national implementation committee which will be headed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah

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