On-road protests to lend new focus to Goa film fest

Last Updated: Nov 22, 2011, 13:44 PM IST

Panaji: While on-screen scores of internationally acclaimed films will scorch the 42nd International Film Festival of India (IFFI) beginning Wednesday, an air of discontent against the state government will ensure an off-screen drama too.

Three civic groups are likely to stage protests on the streets against the Congress-led coalition government`s policies, ranging from its alleged religious insensitivity to its linguistic stance which has evoked popular discontent, to fears of ban on over-eploited mining in the state.

The Save Old Goa Action Committee (SOGAC) has announced it would protest with black flags outside the venue of the inaugural session of the festival in the chief minister`s constituency of Margao.

The 11-day festival is to screen more than 100 films from 68 countries. Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan is scheduled to launch the festival.

"Goa`s biggest feast of St. Francis Xavier is on December 3, when the IFFI also concludes. We had asked the government to ensure that the festival winds up a day early as they do every year, but no one listened to our pleas. The Congress government is ignoring the sentiments of the Catholics in Goa," Peter Viegas, convenor of the SOGAC, told IANS.

The SOGAC is backed by the church, which has vehemently opposed the government`s decision to coincide the last day of the festival with St. Francis Xavier`s feast.

Every year lakhs of believers flock to the old Goa church complex, which houses the scared relics of the 15th century Spanish saint, who is believed to have started Christianity in Goa.

IFFI celebrations will also see protests from the regional language supporters Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Samiti (BBSM), against the government`s decision to offer grants to English medium schools and bring them on par with schools where the regional languages of Marathi and Konkani are the medium of learning.

"Expect innovative protests from us during the IFFI inauguration ceremony. This government only understands the language of protests. We will have writers, poets, youngsters protesting at the inauguration venue on Wednesday. The nature of the protest, we will not disclose right now," said Vishnu Surya Wagh, renowned writer, poet and member of BBSM.

On the eve of the IFFI, pro-mining agitators virtually laid siege to major cities in the state, mining trucks and river barges blocking the roads and waterways.

The bandh has been announced by the South Goa Progressive Truck Owners Association and the mining lobby, who are protesting a possible decision by the union government to ban ore exports in wake of the multi-million dollar mining scam in the state.

"The mining industry, which is 50 years old, has a chain of people dependent on it from truckers, to machine operators, to tea stalls, security guards, petrol pumps and sweepers. If the mining industry crashes, all these families of over three lakh people will have to starve," said Gitanjali Naik, a supporter of the strike.

"The government continues to harass us, but to help us no highway extension, no bypass roads are completed or approved. The bandh is needed to make the government understand our strength," said Sanjay Raiker, a truck owner.