St Francis Xavier or Parshuram, Goa debates over a patron saint

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St Francis Xavier or Parshuram, Goa debates over a patron saint

Panaji: Having elected 40 legislators to the state Assembly in February after a bitter, arduous political campaign, Goa, in the midst of a tropical summer and a heat wave, is now debating which saint should be regarded as the protector of the coastal state.

The debate was triggered after former state Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Subhash Velingkar and now the convenor of a new organisation, Hindu Raksha Maha Aghadi, created a furore over the title of ‘Patron saint of Goa’ or ‘Goencho Saib’ being attributed to 16th century Spanish saint Francis Xavier.

“The first issue is 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 it. People suffered atrocities and were suppressed. We want to bring this before the people of Goa,” Velingkar said.

The former state sarsanghchalak said that his Aghadi would release the ‘Goa Files’ on May 3 and launch a sustained campaign for 20 days about the atrocities inflicted on Goans by the saint.

Born in Spain in 1506, Xavier has been colloquially referred to as ‘Goencho Saib’ or the patron saint of Goa and was one of the earliest missionaries to bring Christianity to this part of the world. Nearly 26 percent of the state’s population today is Catholic in religious orientation.

Xavier is also believed to have been credited with urging the colonial powers to impose the brutal inquisition in Goa, whose objective was to enforce strict observance of Catholic religious practices amongst the Catholics of Goa, especially the new converts, some of whom had continued to follow their ‘pagan’ beliefs.

Sage Parshuram, according to legend, on the other hand, is believed to have carved out the land of Goa by shooting an arrow into the sea, which pushed back the waters to found the landmass where present-day Goa is located.

Velingkar now wants Parshuram to be recognised as the patron saint of the state instead of Xavier.

His comments come at a time when the state has been aggressively debating Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s decision to rebuild temples destroyed by the Portuguese and a clash between two religious groups during a holy procession earlier this month.

The opposition has criticised Velingkar’s comments, and so have some Catholic MLAs who were elected on a BJP ticket.

“You can see tsunamis and a lot of cyclones coming, but we have always (been) taken care of and people even say that the Goencho Saib protects us. So I cannot understand the grounds on which such statements (are made). Finally, he (Velingkar) should know that in Goa we are all loving people, peaceful people who believe in harmony,” former BJP MLA Glen Ticlo said.

“I urge the CM to act strongly against those trying to disturb the peace and create communal disharmony in our peace loving state of Goa,” said Leader of Opposition and Congress MLA Michael Lobo.

Former Tourism Minister Fracisco Pacheco has also filed a police complaint against Velingkar, urging the authorities to invoke the National Security Act against the ex state RSS chief.

Fr. Bolmax Pereira, a Catholic priest, said that Velingkar’s comments are similar to frogs jumping and croaking in the rain amid the first showers.

“This is a conspiracy to create a divide between Hindus and Catholics in Goa. We know who benefits from all this. Our religion has never taught us to fight with each other. Yes we forgive, we understand and we proclaim positivity. But at the same time let us be cautious,” Pereira said.

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