It’s the fag end of summer in Goa. The beads of sweat roll down the back and sting the eyes, most people can be found spending their spare moments in their veranda, waiting for the tiny whiffs of breeze that may or may not come by. Most school children are savoring their last few days of holidays. Collecting mangoes from the neighbours yard, helping their parents clean up the garden, stack in the firewood and heading to the village spring for a therapeutic bath.
Most homes are entertaining guests, relatives who have come back to relaxed Goa, for a few days off the treadmill in the city. But this year, the gossip has not been just about the grand old aunties at church, the weddings attended on the weekend or the price of mangoes and salt fish. It is also about a serial killer who over a 15 odd years has confessed to killing 15 women!
The modus operandi. A supposedly unassuming Mahandand Naik from Shiroda befriended women in their 20s and 30s, pretended he was in love with them, after a while suggested he would introduce them to his parents, and on the appointed day asked them to come finely dressed, then waylaid them, strangulated them, often with their own dupatta, robbed them of their jewellery and then dumped their bodied.
The modus operandi seemed to be the same every time, the bodies dumped in rivers, or hung, often the victim was stripped. The police identified some bodies, were unable to unidentify others, and didn’t even manage to find other bodies, as they lay buried in secluded places.
Fifteen women and the number may grow as more confessions tumble out. More and more families that have had their daughters and sisters missing are coming forth to revive old complaints. Some families hoped against hope that their daughter had eloped with her boyfriend and living happily, have now been proved wrong.
The police had closed numerous cases of these women as cases of unnatural death are now reopening them. And while this drama unfolds, not unlike the movie “Perfume: the story of a murder” most people in Goa, who live a relatively sheltered life are obviously shocked and stunned.
Following this case from 500 kilometers, so many questions and issues come to my mind.
Women in Goa even though relatively well educated compared to their counterparts in the rest of the country are still naïve to their safety and can fall prey to murders like Mahandand Naik.
These women were emotionally vulnerable, unmarried, with a desire to love and be loved, and a wicked mind like that of this serial killer was able to identify and take advantage of their vulnerability.
The killer although displaying an unassuming simplicity about him was cold and calculating. Remorseless in implementing a well practiced plan, which refined itself further with each murder.
Could a man have perfected his art so well that he could go undetected for a decade and a half, or did his family fail to ask him and themselves some crucial questions? To what extent did they collude with the serial killer who lived among them?
The families of these women victims did not pursue the search for their daughters and sisters to the legal end. Perhaps the victims came from poor families and the family could not afford the time or monetary resources to pursue the cases.
The police, with all the public resources at their disposal kept doing a shoddy job of investigation. Probably ignoring evidence in their desire to close the case. Perhaps unqualified and so unable to recognize evidence. Perhaps lazy and unmotivated to pursue cases. In their incompetence, the Goa Police have become inadvertent colluders with the serial killer
Do the gruesome murders of fifteen women tell us something about the ‘value of life’ in Goa, does it tell us something about the ‘value of life of women in Goa’.
Do these murders tell us something about the ‘collective conscience’ of a society, that failed to raise an eyebrow about the murders (just like they fail to raise their eyebrows for so many other things) in the state, relegating these victims the place of a number in the statistics for the year.
Or am I reading too much into this whole incident.
Would it be better for all of us to dismiss it as a one off, so we can all go back to our lives and bring closure to the incidents? Or should we as a society spend a few minutes, maybe a few hours grieving the loss of fifteen women and an eroded social conscience.
I am still trying to come up with a response, as my intellect and my emotions tussle to explain the murder of fifteen women, full of potential.