Police stop Christmas eve ball at midnight in Goa, state Congress cries communal

Panaji: The Congress on Wednesday accused the BJP-led coalition government in Goa of being “communal”, after police, early on Christmas eve, stopped a traditional Christmas eve gala dance at Nuvem village, citing absence of permission.

Addressing a press conference in South Goa’s Margao town on Wednesday, state Congress president Girish Chodankar said that traditional dances and Christmas eve balls have been a common practice for generations and that it was for the first time that the police, allegedly on the instructions of Agriculture Minister Vijai Sardesai, had cracked down on an event linked to one of the state’s most popular festivals.

“There is no rule of law in Goa. Worse still, this was a communal act to stop a traditional dance on Christmas eve. Our party condemns this. Sardesai is responsible for pressurising the police and district administration to stop the event,” Chodankar said.

Christmas eve balls are commonplace in Goa, which has a 26 per cent Catholic population, where folks head to after the midnight mass to usher in Christmas.

Over 500 guests were present on Christmas eve at the traditional ball at Nuvem, located 30 km from Panaji, when police stopped the event.

Chodankar said that the office of the South Goa District Collector had failed to give any reason for stopping the traditional dance event.

“Such dances are a part of our custom. The Collector first sat on the request for permission for several days, before rejecting it without citing any reason,” Chodankar said.

Rejecting the charge, Sardesai said that he had no role in the decision taken by the district administration to halt the dance and also questioned the Congress’ concern about a commercial event, with ticketed entry.

“When the organiser of the event is not complaining, why is the Congress taking up an issue related to a commercial event, with ticketed entry? The oldest party in the country has come down to the level of taking up cudgels on behalf of a commercial event!” Sardesai said, while accusing Chodankar of unnecessarily targeting him.

While South Goa District Collector Tariq Thomas was unavailable for comment, an official requesting anonymity said that the police were forced to stop the event because it had no formal permission from the district administration, and there was opposition from the local community residing near the venue.