Monday, January 8, 2007

On why incorporating Karwar into Goa is not a good idea

“Imagine a situation where Goa has 13 talukas, hydroelectric and nuclear power projects, two major ports and an added coastline. This is not wishful thinking or an academic debate, but a social movement in operation for nearly 15 years.” This extract is from a report that appeared in the Herald a few days ago. A report informing us of the existence of a movement in Karnataka’s Karwar district which seeks to merge with Goa. The reasons they give are that they do not wish to exist as a part of Karnataka, since the Karnataka government has ignored the development of Karwar. Also, they argue that around 60% of the people of Karwar speak Konkani, and it is only natural that they should be part of a Konkani speaking State. Finally, there are religious links between the people of Karwar and Goa, with family deities on both sides of the current border.

The tenor of the report seemed to suggest that this movement was something that we should be glad for and welcome with open arms, since it would create a larger Goa with more economic opportunity and secondly it would buttress the claim of Konkani within Goa. However, I am not so sure that for these reasons we should automatically support this claim. On the contrary it is exactly this sort of a promise that we should be wary of since there is more than meets the eye in this case.

The mere support for Konkani does not translate into the support for what the Language Agitation and the struggle against merger with Maharashtra was all about. Both movements sought to protect a Goan identity and local concerns that were only superficially connected with the names we have given to these movements. What was the issue of merger with Maharashtra all about? On the one hand the Catholics very rightly did not want to get swamped in a Hindu Maharashtra, the Saraswats did not want to loose dominant status in a Maratha Maharashtra, and the Goan bahujan samaj wanted to escape Brahmin domination by creating an option in a Maratha Maharashtra. Similar the support for and against Konkani was on similar lines, the Catholics wished to secure their identity, and the pro-Marathi lobby by and large identified the Konkani movement with their greatest fear, Brahmin dominance in Goa.

Perhaps the Bahujan samaj in Goa were the most far-sighted of us all who saw in the pro-Konkani movement, the contours of a design to ensure Brahmanical and Hindutva dominance. The Catholics woke up a little late in the day and realized that in supporting Konkani without securing the protection of the script that guarantees their uniqueness, they laid the foundations for their own demise from cultural and political life.

To put things in context now, let us recollect that it was in Karwar, in 1939 that a decision was taken to recognize Devnagari as the natural – and hence only- script for Konkani. A reading of Indian history will point us toward the fact the recognition of Devanagari as the natural Indian script was the tool used by Hindu right wing groups to cast India as essentially Hindu. This recognition refuses to recognize the multiple strands that have played their part in constituting India, and delegitimizes them. Similar to the manner in which Romi, the only script that supports a living and vibrant Konkani, is currently being delegitimized. That the mention of family deities comes up when there is talk of incorporating Karwar into Goa should instantly alert us to the fact that the argument is also playing to a Hindutva lobby which would seek to create a Goa on the basis of religious markers.

We need to develop a politically savvy understanding of what exactly is afoot here. The mere reference to Konkani and a greater Goa does not work to the advantage of Goa, Konkani or the communities that speak Konkani or live in Goa. Let us once again refer to modern Indian history to understand that what appears to be progressive may in fact not be so. Rightist forces have always managed to secure their agenda by riding piggy back on overtly secular and progressive agendas. Until the 80’s the women’s movement protesting obscenity found support from the BJP, until the Fire episode when it realized that what the BJP was supporting was the suppression of female sexuality in the name of Indian values. Similarly the women’s movement did not realize that the BJP’s support for a Uniform Civil Code was not their pro-women stance, but an anti-Muslim stance.

Currently as the protagonists of the Romi script seek to secure allies, there seems to be opposition to recognize the claim of Marathi as an official language in Goa. We need to figure out where this demand for Marathi is coming from. It is the demand of a minority that fears domination. A fear similar to what the protagonists of Romi experience. They seek recognition of Marathi in its Goan form, and as a Goan language, as an alternative to the brahmanical hegemony that will persecute both Catholics and the Bahujan samaj. The threat of Maharashtra is now dead. A new threat has emerged now, the threat of a brahmanical Hindutva, and it seeks to use Konkani and the idea of a larger Goa to get its way. We need to realize this. The addition of Karwar to Goa is not in Goa or Konkani’s larger interests. On the contrary, acknowledging Marathi as a Goan language may do more to further the interests of Goans in Goa. But more about this some other time…

(published in the Gomantak Times, 2006)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My friend and I were recently discussing about the ubiquitousness of technology in our daily lives. Reading this post makes me think back to that debate we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.

I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Societal concerns aside... I just hope that as technology further develops, the possibility of transferring our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's a fantasy that I daydream about every once in a while.

(Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=]R4[/url] DS scPost)