A Vasai family’s dream holiday turned into a nightmare after a petty scuffle during breakfast ended in a violent assault with a sword and knives around 2km from Goa’s capital of Panaji. The narrow and usually calm streets of Merces turned into a battleground on Wednesday as the busload of tourists fought off four armed men —all with criminal records.
Cops have arrested three of the accused while the fourth is on the run. An FIR has been registered at Old Goa police station under Indian Penal Code sections for attempted murder, wrongful restraint, endangering life or personal safety of others and criminal intimidation.
At least 20 people were injured, including a five-year-old and one of the accused. While the driver of the Maharashtra-registered vehicle and two other tourists suffered fractures, none of the injuries were critical enough to require hospitalization, said police officials.
Eyewitnesses said trouble began at Hotel Cafe Hoble at 9:50am where three of the Vasai residents were having breakfast, and Lawrence Dias, the prime accused, was seated behind them. When the arm of one of the tourists brushed against Dias, an argument ensued and he slapped 58-year-old Lahu Ghodekar. In retaliation, the tourists shoved and abused Dias.
“The fist fight was resolved by the hotel manager but the goonda threatened to bring his friends,” said a waiter at the cafe. “It was a small issue but he said he would call his friends and show them their place.”
Shaken after the fist fight, the tourists got into their bus and planned to return to Mumbai. But police officials, who were on site, said Dias along with the three other accused came with a sword and choppers to attack the tourists.
The four accused have been identified as Vishal Golatkar, Dias, Suraj Shetye and Sai Kundaikar, who is on the run.
“One of the accused snatched the bus keys from the driver while the others pelted stones on the front glass and windows, causing serious injuries to some of the passengers,” said North Goa SP Kartik Kashyap.
“The driver was pulled out and all four persons assaulted him with the intention of killing him,” said Kashyap.
The women on the bus tried to intervene, prompting the four accused to attack them too. “We had said sorry. Why did he have to slap us? Why hit our women? This was our first visit to Goa with our family and we thought it would be safe,” said Amol Ghodekar, one of the tourists. The 50-member family has left for Vasai under police protection.