The chief minister of Goa has confirmed suspicions that the vandalism of at least seven religious symbols in the western Indian state could be part of a plan to create "some sort of tension" between Hindus and Christians in the former Portuguese colony.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar told a media conference July 4 that the incidents in Christian-majority areas could be the work of the same group of people .
Several community leaders have also expressed their concerns that the aim of the aggressors is to destroy Hindu-Christian amity in the state where Christians, almost all of them Catholics, make up 25 percent of the population of 1.8 million people.
"Strong action ought to be taken against those trying to destroy communal harmony in Goa," said Edwin Fonseca, president of the Catholic Association of Goa.
A spokesperson for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Dattaprasad Naik, said, "We all live in harmony" in Goa and "if anyone disturbs the peace and communal harmony, they should be dealt the strictest punishment."
Jose Carmino, a villager and retired government official called for strict action from the government.
"What the government is assuring is hogwash. They have failed to nab those involved in the desecration of the cross on previous occasions," Carmino said.
In the latest incident, two more crosses were found vandalized July 6 by unidentified persons in the Curchorem town in South Goa, a Christian-stronghold, local media reports said.
On July 3, two crosses were vandalized in Curtorim village while an idol inside a Krishna temple was destroyed in Margao village, both in South Goa.
This follows two recent incidents where crosses were found destroyed on the morning of July 2 in Chandor and Paroda villages within the Salcete area of the tiny state. Catholics in the area traditionally set up crosses by the roadside.
BJP legislator Nilesh Cabral also condemned the incidents and said anti-social elements are trying to disturb peace.
"Goans are united and we respect all religions. We live in peace and communal harmony, but if any anti-social element tries to disturb it, we will not tolerate it," he said.