Panaji, Oct 31 — Fifty-three Nigerians were arrested after an irate mob of nearly 200 Nigerians held Goa’s lifeline, National Highway-17, ransom for nearly four hours, protesting the murder of their compatriot.
The opposition in the state as well as civil society groups said Goa Police had failed to maintain law and order, and were cowering in the face of the onslaught from the Africans.
The incident forced Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to start a special drive to identify all foreigners illegally staying in Goa, with a view to deporting them.
The bare-torsoed Nigerian nationals, who had blocked the highway, were demanding that the Nigerian ambassador in India be flown to Goa, claiming that Nigerian nationals were being targeted and even murdered with police complicity.
The blockade occurred hours after Obina Paul Obiwesi was founded stabbed to death in Parra, a village adjoining the beach village of Calangute, notorious for being Goa’s narco-tourism industry’s capital.
Chief Minister Parrikar said that the murder was a possible fallout of an inter-drug mafia rivalry.
“It is assumed that the murder was a result of drug dealing. Police are investigating that angle,” Parrikar told a press conference Thursday evening.
Earlier in the day, in a dramatic fashion, 50 Nigerians on two-wheelers intercepted a police van carrying the deceased Obina and smashed the vehicle’s windows. They then dragged the body of their compatriot to the highway, where it was dumped to stop traffic on the busy route.
The number of Nigerians engaged in the blockade of the highway soon swoll to more than 200, and scuffles broke out between local people and police.
The police took more than a couple of hours to clear the road, and the situation worsened as residents of the area brutally beat up two Nigerians, who were admitted to the Goa Medical College Hospital with serious injuries.
Parrikar said the episode came as a reminder of the action that needs to be taken against foreigners staying illegally in Goa.
“Everyone who is staying here illegally will be deported without fail. These are my clear directions to the police,” Parrikar said.
“Anyone who operates a dance floor, discos, pubs or (any other) joints and gives support to foreigners illegally staying here without a visa will be acted against,” Parrikar said.
State Congress president Subhash Shirodkar said: “The police were like dolls in front of the Nigerians. It is a matter of shame. The government needs to pull up its socks.”
Social media went into a tizzy over the incident, and celebrities as well as common people vented their ire on Facebook.
“The police should cancel all their visas and throw them out of India. Disgraceful abuse of a visa. And they have guns too, against our lathi-only police. Make Goa a family destination. Stop all these drug, raves and other adult events in our state,” said ace Goan fashion designer Wendell Rodricks.
Sudeep Dalvi says on Ami Niz Goenkar, a popular Facebook group, that the inability of the police to clear the highway by taking on the rampaging Nigerians exposed the “cordial relations between the police, the politicians, the drug dealers, smugglers” in the tourism-oriented northern parts of Goa.