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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

PMO’s response offers glimmer of hope for Anjediva island devotee

The Anjediva island off the coast of Karwar, has two historical churches built by the Portuguese who occupied the island in 1506 and surrendered it in 1961.

india Updated: Oct 15, 2019 01:46 IST
Gerard de Souza
Gerard de Souza
Hindustan Times, Panaji
The Anjediva island, off the coast of Karwar in Goa is now under the Indian Navy’s control.
The Anjediva island, off the coast of Karwar in Goa is now under the Indian Navy’s control.(HT PHOTO)
         

Catholic devotees, who have been barred by the Navy since 2005 from visiting the Anjediva island, off the coast of Karwar, to celebrate the feasts of the two churches located there, have sensed a glimmer of hope.

In response to a petition before the Prime Minister, the PMO has directed the Goa Chief Secretary to provide within 15 days details of the issue, including why they have been barred and the status of the churches located there.

“It’s a small victory,” Natividade D’Sa who petitioned the Prime Minister said.

The Anjediva island, a small strip of land off the coast of Karwar, that is part of the state of Goa is currently under the Navy’s control On this island lie two historical churches built by the Portuguese who occupied the island in 1506 and surrendered it in 1961, 48-hours after mainland Goa was surrendered to India.

The people of Goa, especially those from the southernmost taluka bordering Karnataka used to religiously make the pilgrimage by boat to the island twice a year for the feasts until 2004.

From 2005 when the neighbouring Seabird naval base was up and running, the Navy has blocked access to the island, and despite fervent pleas to allow restricted access to the island to celebrate the feast as well as to check on the upkeep of the churches on the island.

“We used to go to the island regularly and I have now written to the Prime Minister to allow us to visit the island twice a year. Now we are old, but want to visit it once again,” Natividade de Sa a septuagenarian.

He was elated when he received a copy of a letter addressed to the Chief Secretary of Goa, who based on his complaint was directed to provide within 15 days details of the issue as well as the two churches that make up the island to the PMO.

“It gives us hope that we can finally access the island at least twice a year.

The Anjediva island, which was the first territory Indian territory to be occupied by the Portuguese in 1502, four year after the arrival of Vasco da Gama and eight years before the conquest of Goa. It was also the last to be surrendered as it was liberated only December 22, 1961 two days after Goa.

Even though the closest shore is Karwar, revenue wise, the island is under the jurisdiction of the South Goa collector.

The island contains one church dedicated to Nossa Senhora das Brotas (Our Lady of Springs), whose feast is celebrated on February 2, every year and a chapel dedicated to St Francis of Assisi, which now lies in ruins. The feast of St Francis of Assisi is celebrated on October 4 each year.

The Church bears the insignia awarded by Rome as the Mother Church. Besides its significance to Christianity being the Island on which the Portuguese built the first Church it has also a monument atop the hill in memory of the seven Indian Army soldiers who were killed on 22nd December,1961 as the Portuguese on the Island were unaware that Goa was liberated two days earlier.

When the South Goa collector signed over the Island to the Indian Navy, one of the conditions was that the navy would allow limited access to the island to devotees.

Another crusader for the cause Godfrey Gonsalves believes that with the required security clearances devotees should be allowed to visit the island.

“Every year, on the occasion of Armed Forces Day, civilians are allowed on the island, they spend the day there after the required security clearances.”

“We are asking for nothing different. Let Indian citizens wishing to celebrate the feast be allowed to attend Mass on the island, with appropriate badges and ensure everybody clears out by 4pm,” he added.

The issue was also raised before former Union Defence Minister late Manohar Parrikar, but to no avail.