Panaji, Jan 13: A US national's death in a remote north Goa village rocked the state assembly on Wednesday, with the government saying he choked on mud while the opposition 'technically' dubbed him a murder victim.
As Goa Police contacted the United States consulate in Mumbai about the death of 30-year-old Caitan Vholte, leader of opposition Pratapsinh Rane said the incident was technically a murder.
He said the tragic incident late on Tuesday would deter foreign tourists from choosing Goa as a holiday destination.
"Technically, it could be called murder," Rane told reporters outside the assembly complex, shortly after he raised the issue in the ongoing winter session of the house.
Vholte, according to eyewitnesses, was chased by locals from Korgao, 35 km north of Panaji, for suspected theft.
"He ran into a soggy paddy field where he fell and died as he choked on mud, before the police reached the scene," an eyewitness said on the condition of anonymity.
The victim appeared mentally disturbed as per the statements of witnesses, a police officer told IANS.
"He died after choking on mud in a marshy area, which he had run into," the officer said.
Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar also endorsed the choking theory.
"I was told that he was chased by the villagers and died in a paddy field after suffocating in the mud. I am going to find out more," Parsekar told the assembly.
Leader of Opposition Pratapsingh Rane said tourists would stop visiting the state if foreigners died like this. "Who will come to Goa if tourists die like this?"
Goa attracts more than three million tourists annually, out of which half a million are foreign nationals.