Every year, when the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) comes to town, the state of Goa is brought out in its ‘Sunday best’. “Manohar Parrikar [the Defence Minister of India] made this possible. In 2004, when I suggested Goa, he was the one who made it happen. We love Goa and we owe a lot to him for helping us bring IFFI here,” said noted filmmaker Shekhar Kapur at the inaugural function of the 46th edition of the IFFI held at Panaji, the state capital.
After the venue was shifted to Goa in 2004, the festival, conducted by the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry, has become an annual event for cinema lovers as well as the film industry, almost making Goa an international platform for cinema. Over the years, the event has drawn flak, praise and a huge fan following. However, this year, in an extension of the BJP-led government’s policy towards dissent, the festival was marred by a series of repressive measures by the State.
The atmosphere in Goa had already been tense days before the inauguration of IFFI. On 6 November, a priest-turned social activist Father Bismarque Dias had gone missing. A few days later, his body was discovered floating on the Mandovi river near St Estevam in north Goa. According to some local newspapers reports and the Old Goa Police, Dias’s death was a result of accidental drowning. However, other news reports and Dias’s family, friends and colleagues allege foul play.
“A few days after the body was discovered, the police found a vest stained with blood,” says Advocate Thalmann Pereira. “No one is sure if this is linked to Dias’s death, but there has to be some investigation into it. My point is, the police authorities started on the premise of it being an accidental drowning. They never thought of it as probable murder so now if they find out that it is murder midway, the whole investigation could get botched since they never cordoned off the area where the body was discovered. I am not saying that it is murder but a proper mode of inquiry into the incident is a must.”
On 21 November, a day after the inauguration of the IFFI, a group of 150 protesters carrying black flags gathered near the IFFI venue. They were protesting against the police lethargy in probing the death of Dias.