While Goa continues lobbying for the justice to one of its Christian priest-turned-social activist Fr Bismarque Dias whose body was found floating in water two-and-half years back, his best friends, did exactly what he would have loved them doing. A year back, they bought a fishing Canoe and started furthering environmental cause around River Mandovi for which Fr Bismarque always stood for.
Sudip Dalvi, a 38-year-old pharma researcher, is a six year long friend of Fr Bismarque, a priest who had dedicated his life for social causes and even unsuccessfully fought 2012 State legislative assembly election from Cumbharjua constituency. He was the first Christian priest to fight any assembly election in the coastal state which has 30 per cent population believing in Catholic faith.
The body of then 51-year-old priest was fished out of Mandovi river waters in November 2015 near his village, triggering statewide protests as his family and friends suspected a foul play considering that he had taken up cudgels against high and mighty in the state for the sake of the environment.
The Crime Branch which investigated the death ruled out any suspicion and terming it was accidental drowning. His corpse is still lying at the Goa medical college and hospital’s morgue near here.
“In all ten friends of Fr Bismarque including me decided that the best way to give tribute to his soul and carry forward his legacy was by creating awareness about River Mandovi which criss-crosses through the length of Goa and even passes through St Estevam village, which is a home town of Fr Bismarque,” Dalvi said.
So it was a year back on March 23, 2017, the birthday of Fr Bismarque, that the Canoe with outboat motor was commissioned and it was named “Fr Bismarque the unsinkable.”
The environmental enthusiasts, photographers and anyone who wants to know about the River Mandovi, mangrove plantation around it, crocodiles in it, can take get into this canoe which is maneuvered by Dalvi.
“The ride is absolutely free of cost but with the condition that anyone who sits in the Canoe before he puts on his lifejacket has to pledge that he will never throw garbage in any water body anytime in life. People happily accept my condition and do take pledge with a smile on their face,” said Dalvi who has taken such promises from hundreds of people during last one year.
The Canoe ferries the people, around picturesque River Mandovi along the twin islands of Chorao and Diwar. “People ask me why we preferred to launch a Canoe. I reply to them that, I feel this is a means for permanent awareness. We would have easily taken up day long river cleaning drive or anything in his memory. But we wanted to have something that is sustained,” he explained.
Dalvi says that the Canoe is like a floating classroom for him where he educates people about the River Mandovi and life surrounding it. “The intoxication of any kind is prohibited while in Canoe. You can get intoxicated with the abundant beauty of nature,” he said.
Almost a year after their first plans, the friends and well wishers of Fr Bismarque have a bigger plan up their sleeve that is “Bismarque the unsinkable II”. “We want to have a bigger boat where we can take a bigger group of people where there will be a small platform for the people to perform, sing and talk about the River,” he said.