Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Rape of Goa...as a tool to save Goa?

The Rape of Goa, a photo documentary, by Rajan Parrikar is filled with images of violence. It speaks of a violence done to the earth, as hills are cut and forests ‘shaved’ off. It speaks of the violence done to local inhabitants, as concrete apartments rise and threaten the security and life-styles of these older residents. All in all, it is a vivid description of some of the more visible atrocities being committed in the name of development within the state. And yet, despite all of this documenting something is not quite right with the documentary.

Art historians tell us that works of art are not only geared toward a definite audience, they are also capable of creating an audience. When viewing a work of art, the viewer is transformed into a being who is not only able to appreciate the work, but also act out the message of the art work. And so it is that within the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe, the worshippers are reminded that they are mere creatures in the grand and marvelous work of creation that is the universe. Their place is to live their lives in praise of the Creator, uphold the system that He has divinely mandated, and respect the persons who mediate His mandate. Similarly with ‘corporate environments’ which create the cubicular work-spaces. These cubicles transform an individual capable of million acts of creation and leisure, into one that believes that the sole purpose of life is really to work; and be aware that they can be monitored, just as they monitor others. If the art-work produces a certain kind of an audience, what sort of an audience does ‘The Rape of Goa’ create?

The answer emerged in the course of the viewing of this documentary in the Conference Hall of the Hotel Mandovi, the day before. ‘The Rape of Goa’ is filled not only with multiple images of violences being visited on Goa and Goans, it is also filled with captions that provoke the viewer. In this slick production, music lends itself to the captions presented to the viewer. These captions by and large point out that the ‘developments’ in Goa are by outsiders and for outsiders, in connivance with a bunch of politicians, builders and miners. Overcome with the visuals being presented, one of the viewers at the Hotel Mandovi, was forced to cry out “Ye soglen Ghanti!” (All these Ghatties!). This is exactly the kind of response that ‘The Rape of Goa’ is expected to draw. The documentary seeks to provoke you, and then push you into a series of actions based on that provocation.

The question that we need to ask however is whether provocation is what we in Goa need to be doing right now. Is it provocation, or introspection that is required? A provocation creates a mob, and mobs don’t think or contemplate, they act unthinkingly and tend towards blind violence. Indeed, at the Hotel Mandovi, one of the initial comments was that the time for discussion and debate was over, it is now the time for action. The tendency towards this sort of rhetoric, one that constantly seeks to create mobs- and the simultaneous threat of violence - has been a constant feature of the mobilization in the upheaval that Goa has been seeing for a couple of years now, and this trend is extremely unhealthy.

This trend is unhealthy, because we don’t seek to engage people in dialogue and debate about how we can deal with these unhealthy developments and our personal contribution to this alleged ‘Rape’. We just identify public enemies, inflame passions, and mobilize people against these public enemies. Most of the time, as the debate in the Hotel Mandovi showed, these enemies are the builder-politician nexus and the migrant. It is the poor migrant however, a victim of multiple circumstances, who is the easiest target for mob violence. While there have been multiple instances of migrants and their children being targeted for violence, we are yet to see similar violence directed toward the builder or politician, or the buildings that they erect. (This is not a plea for such violence though).

Goa has seen numerous movements in the past, one of which was the Konkani language agitation that similarly created the enemy in the shape of Marathi. This image of the enemy was mobilized the masses, who were eventually let down. The goodies of state recognition were gathered by elite groups, and those reliant on the Roman script were left out, as their accent and script was deemed less that proper. In this context then, we must perhaps contemplate if what we had were not mass movements but mob movements? Mobs that were created, and carefully manipulated by those at the helm of power? The common person is not served by such mobilizations, only elite groups are, and in the present mobilization we should strive hard to stay away from such tendencies.

One of the options projected as a solution to the ‘Rape of Goa’ is obtaining special status on the lines of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. As seductive and attractive as it sounds, we should view with suspicion Hema Sardesai’s (and others) impassioned plea for special status for Goa. In the history of the Konkani movement, at the crucial moment, Konkani was defined as only that written in Devanagari script, cutting out entirely votaries of the Roman script, who formed the bulk of the masses then. How are we to be sure, that when this Special status is granted to Goa, the ‘local’ is not defined in a similarly perverse manner? We must remember that vast numbers of Goans are migrating outside of India. While many of them are also applying for ‘Person of Indian Origin’ (PIO) status, it should be noted that ownership of agricultural land in India is not available to them. Similarly, it is not possible for PIOs to purchase property in Jammu and Kashmir. The present mobilizations in Goa, seek to retain the ‘agrarian’ aesthetic of Goa. The Goan who migrates therefore, and yet wishes to retain a space in Goa, could possibly stand to loose from a move toward Special Status. The demand for Special Status for Goa needs to keep in mind therefore, much more than simply the current depredations of the Goan environment.

The ‘Rape of Goa’ may document the activities that most of us in Goa deem a matter a concern. However, it is not necessarily part of the answer primarily because it seeks to rouse and inflame the passions of a mob. It does not lead us to ask more penetrating questions about the structure of society in Goa that allows for such activities to take place. It pins the blame on politicians, without questioning our own complicity in this problem, allowing us to blame ‘greedy Goans’ and outsiders. A mob does not think independently, and what we require right now, is independence of thought and lots of it. This the ‘Rape of Goa’ leaves no space for, and for this reason must be a suspect tool in the battle to ‘Save Goa’.

(Published in the Gomantak Times, June 18 2008)


Jason Keith Fernandes said...

Rajan Parrikar's response to my essay...

Message: 11
Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2008 02:29:30 -0700 (PDT)
From: Rajan P. Parrikar parrikar at yahoo.com
Subject: Re: [Goanet] The Rape of Goa...as a tool to Save Goa?
To: goanet@goanet.org
Message-ID: <452917.14758.qm@web30405.mail.mud.yahoo.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii

To Goanet -

Comrade Vidyadhar Gadgil posts for Comrade Jason Keith Fernandes:
>This the 'Rape of Goa' leaves no space
>for, and for this reason must be a suspect tool in the battle to
>'Save Goa'.

First of all, I thank the two Comrades, one for
helping provide free publicity to my earlier interview
with Manohar Parrikar and the other for advertising
"The Rape of Goa" documentary.

Apropos of the latest ejaculate of Jason Keith
Fernandes - I, on the other hand, have no
hesitation in certifying the Comrade's tool
as genuine. Presumably it is his thinking tool
as well. How sad, then, that it got waylaid
and walloped by the barely literate Babush
Monserrate some weeks ago at the Taleigao
gram sabha. But not to worry. As you can
see, the Comrade is still holding on to his
tool and "thoughts" are still oozing from it.

Warm regards,


Anonymous said...

As a GSB I want to ask you only one question, why do you hate Saraswats so much !!

If Portuguese could stop the Sati system, then why not the caste system ? In fact they seem to have allowed it with in Christianity as well.