It is past 1 a.m. on Anjuna beach. And nearly a year after her body was discovered on the sands here, Goa has disgracefully unlearned every lesson the Scarlett Keeling murder taught.
State laws prohibit the playing of loud music after 10 p.m., but at Anjuna beach, the law has been made a mince-meal of, best stuffed in a baked clay chillum with a small lump of hashish and puffed away. Just the way a Japanese youngster in a batik-dyed waistcoat and stained three-quarter trousers lounging at a table is doing it.
After grinding the dark, coarsely sticky sap with a stub of stone into a small, curved, polished, coconut shell, he mixes the ground hashish with the tobacco he's just emptied from a couple of cigarettes.
He then plucks an opaque marble, which also doubles up as a chillum stone, from his leather, hand-crafted waist pouch, drops it into the hard-baked clay chillum and pours the powdered cocktail into an earthen funnel. A moment later, he's torched it and is sucking in vigorously from the chillum's bottom to keep the flame going.
It's ironic, that the stretch of beach where 15-year-old Scarlett's body rested stiff on the fateful morning of Feb 18 last year, pumped with a narcotic cocktail, is the only part of the Anjuna shore that continues to flout law the with gay abandon even today. The hub of activity is a set of half-a-dozen shacks, which play trance and other psychedelic forms of music till the early hours of the morning.
It was at one such shack named Lui's a year ago that British teenager Scarlett, after snorting a line of coke at around 2 a.m. Feb 18 was raped, allegedly by Samson D'Souza, a bartender, and Placido Carvalho, an alleged drug peddler, before her body was discovered at the tide-line.
Both Samson and Placido were arrested by police and subsequently bailed out by the Goa Children's Court for lack of evidence, but Edwin Nunes alias Curly, who runs a shack here, has no qualms flouting the same laws which could have prevented the Scarlett tragedy. Edwin's name was thrown up on several occasions in the Scarlett murder case.
He has been questioned several times over by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officials. Curlies is the last shack at the south Anjuna beach and part of the same cluster of notorious shacks, which police have not been able to regulate despite the Scarlett tragedy, especially when it comes to loud music ban or open consumption of narcotics substances or the intermittent rave parties which are organized at the beach alongside these shacks.
Ask Edwin whether he had any recollection of Scarlett, he said he knew her as she would frequent his shack with her boyfriend Julio. But he supplements this information, with a quick 'moral' summation of her character: "She was dirty girl like...you know. You see her and you know... you don't even think she is a girl... dressing like you know...Looked like she never had a shower...you know," Edwin says in grammatically pulverized English, a common trait in coastal Goa.
Police investigations in the case had come under intense spotlight following allegations of sabotage and gross mishandling. Rising public opinion against police forced the government to hand over the case to CBI which filed its chargesheet in the case a few weeks ago.
Scarlett's e-mail to a friend in Spain, which was submitted to the CBI by her mother recently, states that attempts were made to rape her by hands employed at the Curlies shack, after the 15-year-old was shown hardcore porn clips. There's more to supplement the revelations in Scarlett's e-mail.
Police officials say a child rights NGO had in the past complained to them about suspected pedophile activity at Anjuna beach, near these same shacks. "They had mentioned a few names too. But our hands are tied, especially when it comes to the shacks on the south Anjuna beach," an official said.
At the time the Scarlett Keeling rape occurred, a junior ranked police sub-inspector was in charge of the sensitive Anjuna police station. The sub-inspector was dismissed from service for trying to sabotage the investigations.
But after such kneejerk resolve, Goa Police have miserably failed to mop up their act.
At the popular Arambol beach in north Goa, police appointed a probationer sub-inspector at the height of the December terror scare even though the Pernem police station is authorized to have an official of senior police inspector rank in charge.
And despite proclaimed 24-hour patrolling of beaches all over the state in December, a 45-year-old woman was gang raped at Arambol, a few metres from a police bunker erected along the shore to thwart potential terror attacks. Goa, which has gained remarkable notoriety, as a sex destination in the subcontinent, has not been able to imbibe the lessons, which one of the world's most widely covered sex crime could offer. Perhaps it doesn't want to.
Perhaps, ignorance is bliss for the state's tourism linked economy.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)