tainted politicians

A brief survey of the controversial career of Babush Monserrate, the Goan MLA arrested for rape

The politician has swung like a pendulum between the Congress and the BJP, and was jockeying to be a key player in 2017 state polls.

Controversy is no stranger to Atanasio “Babush” Monserrate, the independent legislator from Goa, who was arrested on Thursday after a 16-year-old Nepali girl alleged that he raped her a month ago.

The teenager alleged that the MLA from Santa Cruz had bought her from her stepmother and another woman known to her for Rs 50 lakh. He allegedly spiked her drink. "The next morning, I woke up without my clothes, covered in blood," she told the authorities. "He was sitting without his clothes on."

Monserrate told journalists that the allegations are a frame-up. He claimed that the teenager had been a staffer at a lifestyle store he owned. The politician said that had employed the girl at the request of her mother, but she had been sacked for allegedly misappropriating funds from the store.

Earlier this week, newspapers reported that the girl, who landed up in the state reformation home, told child welfare authorities that she had been sexually assaulted by the legislator. This triggered a speedy investigation in Goa’s heated political climate in which Monserrate was manoeuvering to be a key player.

Eye on 2017

Despite being an unaffiliated legislator, Monserrate is no political lightweight. In March, Monserrate upstaged the Bharatiya Janata Party on its home turf in Goa’s capital city of Panjim, as his panel swept the municipal polls. The flamboyant politician was set to take over a dormant regional party later this month, with the view to contesting the 2017 state polls.

During the last state elections in 2012, he had prevailed upon the Congress to give both him and his wife tickets; they won in neighboring segments. But the Congress expelled him in 2015 for helping the BJP during the Panjim bypoll, a seat that Manohar Parrikar gave up when he moved to the Centre to become defence minister. In recent months, Monserrate had signalled his desire to contest the Panjim assembly seat in 2017, which is now held by the BJP.

In political circles it was widely known that he was aiming to net in several more seats in the Tiswadi taluk, which could damage both the Congress and the BJP.

Monserrate’s 14-year political career has seen him flit between the Congress and the BJP, adroitly steering between both, to keep his political and economic enterprises going. His rise in politics has been synchronous with the growing urbanisation in the state and the construction boom in and around prized Panjim suburbs. Property rates in this peninsular seafront area are the highest in Goa. In this time, several luxury hotels and gated residences have emerged in the area that has come to be called the Beverly Hill of Goa.

Real-estate deals

The politician hails from one of the larger land owning families in the Taleigao area here, and has been especially enterprising in his property dealings.

Monserrate’s political rise was as meteoric as his economic one. In 2002, ousting his Congress mentor from the Taleigao seat, the first-time legislator ran under the banner of the regional United Goan Democratic Party. He supported the Bharatiya Janata Party's effort to form a government and landed the critical Town and Country Planning portfolio under Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. The politician joined the BJP in 2004, but departed in 2005 and brought down the government.

Since then, he has acquired something of a notorious reputation in Goa’s political games, which are often linked to internecine turf wars over real-estate projects since a great many of the state’s legislators are involved in property development.

In 2007, Monserrate was the target of a citizens' agitation that protested against a Regional Plan that, critics claimed, would grey the green state, and give the construction industry carte blanche in many ecologically fragile areas. As the head of the critical Town and Country Planning department, he was in a position to supervise plans, grant licenses and allow conversions of green zone areas to commercial use. He protested that though many other legislators were involved in the Regional Plan, he had been singled out to take the rap.

Stormy relationship

After this, he began to nurture a strong voter base in slum, tribal and fishing village pockets in his constituency and beyond. His relationship with the Congress was always stormy. In 2007, he had accepted a Congress nomination, but filed his papers under the banner of of the United Goans Democratic Party at the last minute, leaving the Congress without a candidate.

When he joined the Congress later in exchange for a ministerial berth as education minister, his educational qualifications became the subject of a controversy raised by a local RTI activist.

In an earlier brush with the law in 2008, he, his wife and his sons were picked up and beaten in police custody, after a rally he had led turned violent and stoned the Panjim police station.

Later that year, Monserrate’s eldest son Rohit was booked for statutory rape of a German teenager. However, Rohit Monserrate was acquitted in 2011 for lack of evidence when the survivor and her mother refused to testify.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.