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Casualty of callousness

india Updated: Mar 11, 2008 20:31 IST

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The alleged rape and murder of British tourist Scarlette Keeling in Goa is not a one-off case; rather it is symptomatic of a larger malaise that has crept into this popular tourist destination. The 15-year-old resident of Devon, UK, was found dead on February 18 at the popular Anjuna beach. The autopsy report indicated five large bruises on her shins, head and forearm that occurred before she died and suggested sexual intercourse. But instead of investigating, the Goa Police tried to pass it off as an incident of drowning. The second autopsy, however, recommended that police should investigate the death as a case of homicidal murder, thereby confirming what Keeling’s mother had been alleging all along: her daughter was raped and murdered. Under intense pressure and public scrutiny, the police have arrested three people. Meanwhile, a Briton has claimed that he saw Scarlette — high on a cocktail of LSD, Ecstasy and cocaine — being sexually assaulted by the barman, hours before her death.

The fact that the witness refused to come out in the open and testify because he was afraid of recrimination does not speak highly of the state police. In fact, the police’s role in this particular case and its handling of the law and order situation in general should be scrutinised as thoroughly as possible. What is even more shocking than Keeling’s death is the carefully orchestrated silence that was maintained by the government, the tourism industry and the police on the ground situation in the state, which is marred by drug dealing, trafficking and prostitution. Instead of tackling all these problems, Chief Minister Digambar Kamat put the responsibility on the tourists, saying that “foreign women should take greater responsibility for their personal safety and they can’t expect the government to provide police on the beaches after midnight”. True, it is not possible, indeed desirable, to tail each and every tourist, but at least there has to be much greater vigilance and swift action against illegal activities.

Many have blamed, and rightly so, Scarlette’s mother for leaving a teenager with an unknown person in Goa. But that does not in anyway lessen the guilt of the police or the government. Even at this juncture, Mr Kamat maintains that Goa is a safe place and this was a stray incident. We would certainly like to believe you Mr Kamat, but facts indicate otherwise.