Swimmer drowns while participating in symbolic protest against arrest of social activists

Panaji, April 5 (IANS) Two swimmers, late on Sunday, leaped into the Mandovi river to swim its breadth, in symbolic protest against the arrest of “political arrests” of social activists across the country. But only one swimmer, Sudeep Dalvi, organiser of the protest, swam ashore.

On Monday, several hours after the two swimmers plunged into the warm waters of the casino-lined Mandovi river, the body of the other swimmer, 56-year-old Manuel Pereira, was recovered near a fishing jetty on the banks across Panaji.

The Goa Police have filed a case of unnatural death in connection with the death of Pereira, a resident of Candolim beach village in North Goa.

The protest swim ‘Swim for Justice’ was organised by Sudeep Dalvi, a 41-year-old activist, in protest against indiscriminate arrests of activists across India, and also to mark the anniversary of his own arrest by the Goa Police for allegedly promoting hatred and disobeying the orders of a government servant, following a controversial social media post, which Dalvi had uploaded.

“Still, after one year, (the) government hasn’t submitted the case to sessions court, nor filed a charge sheet or initiated the case,” Dalvi claims, adding that the ‘Swim for Justice’ exercise was also aimed to “attract the attention of the current government”.

Dalvi was scheduled to swim across the Mandovi river alone and Pereira joined in at the last minute, according to live videos of the event which were circulated on social media by several supporters who had arrived at the Betim ferry wharf; the starting point of the swimming adventure.

According to Dalvi, Pereira lagged behind him during the swim and was even thrown a buoy by a feeder boat which transport gamblers from the wharf to the many offshore casino vessels which are anchored in the Mandovi river.

“A casino boat saw him, approached him in my presence, threw a lifebuoy at him before he submerged, (believed now) due to the suction generated by its engines. This all, just happened in a radius of 10 to 15 metres around me and I believed he had been taken up…” Dalvi claims.

Dalvi claims, that other persons who had joined in the protest, namely other activists like Avertano Miranda and Kenneth Silveira, had also seen the buoy being flung in the direction of the struggling Pereira.

Dalvi has in the past swum across the Mandovi river, which is around half a km in breadth near Panaji, in solidarity with other causes.

But Pereira’s tragic death has also attracted criticism on social media, with some users questioning why precautionary measures were not taken during the protest swim.

Dalvi, however, claims that he alone was meant to swim across the river as part of the protest and Pereira joined in at the last minute.

According to police inspector in-charge of the Panaji police station Sudesh Naik, a case of unnatural death has been registered and the body has been sent for post mortem.

“We are investigating the matter and if during the course of the investigations we find culpability then we will accordingly register an offence,” the police official also said.

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