Diwali demon-slaying tradition triggered Goa blast?

Panaji, May 28 (Calcutta Tube) Seven months after a blast in Goa killed two people, investigators now say a Diwali tradition that has been consistently opposed by a Hindu right wing group for ‘glorifying a demon’ lay at the heart of the conspiracy.

On Narak Chaturdashi day early in the Diwali season, nearly every town or residential hub worth its salt here hosts a popular parade that depicts exaggerated effigies of the demon Narakasura being slain by Lord Krishna.

The Narakasura effigies are complete with a set of fantastically large canines and bloodied, melon-sized eyes while Lord Krishna’s portrayal is sedate and smaller in comparison.

The Hindu rightwing Sanatan Sanstha, which was blamed for the Oct 16 blast, has been strongly opposed to these celebrations on the ground that over the years, Narakasura Vadh competitions have ended up glorifying the demon rather than the ‘good lord’.

It was to one such competition in Margao, 35 km from here, that Sanstha members Malgonda Patil and Yogesh Naik were ferrying detonator-rigged gelatin sticks Oct 16.

Hence their aim, according to the National Investigation Aagency (NIA), was to ‘create terror in the minds of the viewers, organisers and participants of Narakasura Vadh (slaying) competitions held in Goa’.

The Sanatan Sanstha’s bitter and sustained opposition to the popular tradition and the government’s inability for 10 years to act against the ‘poor depiction of Lord Krishna’ in such parades is the major reason behind the Oct 16 blast, according to the NIA, which is a federal agency tasked with combating terror in India.

‘As part of the competition, the participants make big idols of Narakasuras with decorations, while Lord Krishna’s idols are comparatively smaller in size,’ NIA officials have said in their charge-sheet filed at the Margao district and sessions court last week.

‘The competition and celebration in the name of Narakasura Vadh has been objected (to) by (the) Sanstha since 1999. They complained to the government, the district magistrate and police authorities against this kind of celebration, but no response was shown by the government,’ the chargesheet stated.

It said the Sanstha wanted the government to either ban such celebration/competitions or prevent the very organisation of such competitions.

According to historian Prajal Sakhardande, the slaying of Narakasura during Diwali, is a tradition unique to Goa.

‘Elsewhere in the country, it is Ravana who is slain during Diwali, in Goa it is the Narakasura,’ Sakhardande told IANS.

Narrating the Narkasura myth, the Goa-based historian said that the demon had once captured some 15,000 women and made them slaves, when Lord Krishna slayed him and freed his captives.

‘To express their gratitude, the women lit lamps to symbolise the victory of good over evil, which is what Diwali is about,’ Sakhardande said.

But the Sanstha feels the practice has acquired a different dimension over the years.

‘We are opposed to the celebration of the demon. In some competitions, thousands of rupees are given in reward to those groups who make the biggest or the best looking effigies of Narakasura. That’s what we are opposing,’ a senior Sanstha member told IANS, echoing sentiments often expressed in the Sanatan Prabhat, a daily newspaper run by the Sanstha, during Diwali.

On Oct 16 last year, the improvised explosive devices (IED) that Sanstha members Patil and Naik were carrying with them accidentally exploded, killing both of them even before they reached the competition venue, the NIA says.

Within an hour on the same evening, police found another IED which was placed in a pickup van full of people, who were travelling to see the event in Sancoale and Vasco in south Goa, 35 km from Margao.

While Patil and Naik planned to terrorise Narakasura-Vadh viewers and organisers in Margao, two other accused Vinay Talekar and Vinayak Patil, according to the NIA, also planted the live IEDs in the mini lorry packed with the Diwali revellers at Sancoale,

‘… with an intention to strike terror in the minds of people, who were assembled as viewers, organisers and participants of the Narakasura-Vadh competition’.

An alert mini truck driver Raja Sahab, however, noticed the suspicious bag carrying the IED and threw it into a nearby field, saving the day for his passengers and played the unsung Krishna on Diwali eve!

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

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