Panaji: The body of Bismarque Dias - who had been protesting against a string of controversial, land intensive projects across Goa - was fished out from Mandovi river near St. Estevam island on Saturday, making opposition and civil society activists demand a probe into the mysterious death.
The body of Dias, a priest with the Roman Catholic order of Blessed Sacrament Fathers until a few years ago, was found more than 24 hours after he was reported missing.
Police inspector in charge of Old Goa police station, Krishna Sinari, said police were looking for Dias since late Thursday when his clothes, mobile phone and other personal effects were found at the river bank.
Police claim to have recorded the statements of two youth, one of them said to be a minor, claiming that they along with Dias were partying by the river bank and drinking beer.
"The Aam Aadmi Party in Goa expects the state government to take every possible step to probe any foul play in the case. The Goa Police must pursue every possible lead in this unexplained tragedy involving an uncompromising activist who challenged very powerful forces in his just fight for Goan issues," party's Goa convenor Rajeshree Nagarsekar said in a statement on Saturday.
In the recent past, Dias participated in a series of civil society protests over land intensive projects ranging from a new greenfield airport, a golf course and an electronic city being conceived by the state government in Tuem, 45 km from Panaji.
Dias also filed a complaint with the National Green Tribunal bench in Pune over the construction of an alleged illegal road in his village.
His friend Sudeep Dalvi said Dias had been threatened in the past. "I have demanded a probe into his death by an Indian Police Service officer," Dalvi said, ruling out accidental drowning.
"He was an excellent swimmer and police theory that he was drunk but went swimming is suspect," Dalvi said.
Congress leader Durgadas Kamat expressed concern over Dias' death and demanded police protection for Dias' kin.
"His immediate family should be given police protection with immediate effect as Dias was taking on the land mafia in the state," Kamat said.