Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bhaji on the Beach: A Malcontents’ opinion regarding a Protest Party on the beach.

There is to be a public protest party on the 19th of April 2009 from 5 pm onwards. The party will be held on Vainguinim Beach, a beach that the invite to this party indicates is a “public beach that the Cidade has been treating as it's own private property.” The email invitation, that must have reached a good number of inboxes by the time you read this column, goes on further to state “You're invited! Come help us reclaim the beach. Bring your friends, family, relatives, dogs, what have you...”

At first glance this invitation struck me as a wonderful example of civil disobedience, the vanguard movement for the as yet elusive Goan revolution. The event seems to have all the elements for classic civil disobedience. You have identified an enemy of the public, who allegedly stands in the way of the Commonwealth, and you mobilize the public to mount a challenge to this enemy. The action is a provocation to this public enemy, and it mobilizes the as yet silent majority to come out and take a stand in favour of the Commonwealth.

I have to confess that a few weeks ago, I myself would have suggested such an action, and I would have attended this party at Vainguinim beach. Today however, I find myself poised differently for reasons that I will now elaborate.

To begin with, I am extremely uncomfortable with the manner in which Fomento (the company that owns both Hotel Cidade de Goa and a number of mines) has been singled out as Public Enemy Number 1. I do not wish to suggest that Fomento is a lamb bathed in milk; pure and without blemish. I have no doubt that they are guilty of at the very least making it difficult for people to access this public beach, that in the course of mining they have engaged in illegalities and cut corners to make their profits. However, my question to myself and to those willing to listen is; are they the only violators of the law in Goa? Clearly not. On the contrary, they are in august company. They rub shoulders alongside the rest of the industrial houses, and political dynasties, in Goa which rule the State as if it were their fiefdom. The casual takeover of public lands through backroom deals, the illegalities in mining, the exemptions and exceptions, the list of their crimes against the commonwealth could go on. If this is so, why then, has Fomento suddenly become public whipping boy? It is this singling out of a single family and company that bothers me deeply. A few weeks ago, I had questioned the motives of demonizing Babush Monserrate and suggested that demonizing Monserrate allows us to ignore the actions of the rest. I fear that in demonizing Fomento, some similar process is at hand. I must hasten to add that I do not accuse the organizers of this party of being partisan. I am merely suggesting that we are unwitting accomplices to larger processes we have not as yet figured out.

Speaking at a Public meeting against the Ordinance amending the Land Acquisition Act, I had suggested that we ought to focus on the larger processes through which the Law in Goa is being subverted. To do so would move our focus away from the individual violators we are focusing on, the manifestations of the problem, and train our sights on the root of the problem. The party at Vainguinim I fear focuses on the manifestation, and not on the root of the problem. Thus we will go to the party, we will satisfy ourselves that we have challenged the rot in the system, when in fact we will have only targeted a single player. The system itself will continue to flourish.

If not Cidade de Goa and Fomento, who should we target? In my opinion, target the real entity behind the mess in Goa, the seat of Government. When the GBA led the first public cries against the Regional Plan, the voices were loud and clear, give us transparent and accountable governance through an effective and empowered Panchayat system. This clear and simple demand was not however responded to. On the contrary we were presented the sham of a Regional Plan process, which incidentally culminates today. It is through the demand for transparent and accountable Local self Governance that every protest movement in Goa today, right from mining to anti-mega housing, is united. Despite this clarity however, we are yet to see a concerted and focused protest against the Government. Reclaiming a public beach is good, challenging illegalities is good and I totally endorse the scheme of such a public takeover. If only the location were different though. If only we saw this enthusiasm of takeover outside the Legislative Assembly and Secretariat. Not a single weekend party, outside the property of a single player, but a committed siege of the State’s primary offices until we actually put in place the legal and administrative system that we want. If the party on Vainguinim beach were the first step towards the radicalization of the populace, especially the middle class populace that seems to be the target of this action, I would despite my reservations applaud this initiative. However, having seen opportunities to challenge the State’s blatant illegalities and irregularities being squandered, I believe that this party is a cop-out. It will not continue onward to make the necessary challenge to the State.

The protest against Cidade de Goa is supposed to be a protest against the manner in which the public right of way to the beach has been blocked by the hotel. Who is this public though? Is it the residents of Machado’s Cove, location of what is playfully (but somewhat aptly) called the Snob Hill Mansions? Or is it the people of Taleigao, for who the beach was not a space for leisure but also a space for livelihood generation? Is this party an attempt to reclaim the beach for livelihood or for leisure? While I see nothing wrong with reclaiming a public space for leisure, I would like to see a few more examples of civil disobedience where it is the livelihoods of people that will be the clear winner of the protest.

Having elaborated my problems with the proposed picnic on the 19th of April, I would like to conclude by indicating that I do not wish it ill. Any action that mobilizes the public (and especially the middle class constituent of the public) to radical action is welcome. I do hope however, that this party will not be the first and last of such radical actions. I hope it continues, across locations in Goa, more often than not making a stand for the livelihoods of people. I have in mind a few locations where we could stand for the livelihoods of people, and would be more than happy to work with the organizers of this protest. I’ll be waiting for your call. Until then, Bom Trabalho e Bom Sucesso.

(Published in the Gomantak Times, 15 April 2009)


Miguel Braganza said...

Dear Jason,

I was trying to understand the drift of your article while wading through the verbosity. However, I was stuck in the quicksand of the sentence that reads thus
"Having elaborated my problems with the proposed picnic on 19 of April, I would like to conclude by indicating that I do not wish it ill" coming as it does with the drowning man's straw, "I do hope, however, that this party will not be the first and the last of such radical actions. I do hope it continues across locations in Goa, more often than not making a stand for the livelihoods of people."

18 December, 2006 ..... Azad Maidan,Panaji

24 December, 2006, Market, Mandrem
26 December, 2006 Aldeia de Goa, Bambolim
28 December, 2006 Lohia Maidan, Margao [exhibition with GOACAN]
30 December, 2006 Lohia Garden, Mapusa [exhibition with Utt Goenkara]
16 January, 2007, Lohia Maidan, Margao
26 March, 2008 , Colamb Village [nearILPL mines], Sanguem
28, January, 2009 Secretariat, Panaji
13 March, Clube Nacionale, Panaji
23 March, 2009, Gomant Maratha Samaj, Panaji
19 April, 2009......

Kya hai FIRST , Kya hai LAST? Mujhe kuch nahin pata, bhayya!

Mog asundi

Tum yo Vainguinim veller 19ver Abrilache....kombddeachi xakuti ani pao astolo, patoll bhaji nhoi!!


Sabina Martins said...

Dear Jason,

This is with reference to your article, "Bhaji on the Beach" written in response to GBA's "Picnic on the Beach" invite to reclaim public spaces.

You have raised several issues in your article. One of them is that if we do not have picnics on other beaches it amounts to selective targetting of a family.

This is a typical response one gets when a general point is tried to be made through an individual case.The question asked is, why only the rape of Scarlette or the molestation by Narvekar or the land conversions by Babush or corruption by this Police or that Government official highlighted?

While it is desirable that all cases should be addressed, does it mean that if we cannot take up all, we do not take up any?
Just because some vested interests may take advantage of the protest and make us unwitting accomplices, do we allow the wrong doings to continue? My take on this is to do whatever possible with checks and balances.
As a matter of fact, some years ago, we, as citizens of Goa, had held a similar picnic at the beach adjacent to the Taj, Candolim where locals used to be driven away by the security.

You have also stated some of your aspirations from the GBA.You want a focused protest against the Government and a siege outside the Legislative Assembly till we put in place a legal and administrative system we want.You would like to see some more protests of civil disobedience where the livelihoods of people are the clear winners.You want a transparent and accountable governance through an efficient empowered panchayat.Only if these conditions are fulfilled will you participate.

While there is nothing wrong in having aspirations, there is definitely something amiss when one does not want to participate out of choice stating that our protest will not continue onward to make the necessary challenge to the State.

I believe that it is better to have tried and lost rather than not having tried at all.

When GBA launched its first agitation against RP2011,we were not sure whether we would get 200 people.Yet we went ahead.The agitation not only revoked the RP2011, but inspired several village level struggles.for protection of livelihoods, lands and environment.

You also stated that at the Land Acquisition Ordinance meeting in March, you hd suggested that we ought to focus on the larger processes through which the law in Goa is being subverted and we have to move our sights from manifestations to the root.
GBA is clear on that. However, for us ,the "we" means the people
When GBA raised the demand for 73rd /74th amendment, it did not cut much ice with the people.The debate of whether the process was participatory or not was restricted to very few.Even the so called educated class could not make much sense of the debate in the newspapers.

It is only when we explained the Draft RP 2021 to the people that they understood the importance of participatory process.People asked us whether the government would listen to their suggestions.That is the time we were able to impress upon them that the govt will be compelled if we have legal backing by way of 73rd/74th amendment which will be binding.Today we have support from the grass root level for this demand because people have understood and have therefore taken the initiative to write to the government demanding 73rd /74th, revocation of 16/16A which puts government projects outside the purview of RP.

It is through the manifestations that one leads to the root.If these manifestations are not seen as problematic, then they remain firmly rooted with no challenge.

Had we taken a stand that we will not participate because certain conditions of ours like 73rd/74th were not met, we would not have seen the kind of awareness and involvement of people in decision- making.

Similarly had we taken a stand that we will not protest the Ordinance because it might look that we are targeting a particular family, we would not have reached this far of making a point on how the government bends backward to subvert law for the rich or on reclaiming public spaces.

There has to be a connect between Theory and Practice.

We are clear that we have to reach the finishing line.It does not matter whether we run a marathon or a relay.When the people at large will take this task upon themselves, it will not matter whether it was GBA's first or last step.It would be a positive step all the same.
Come and enjoy the picnic.


Luis Dias said...

I just finished reading Bhaji on the Beach.

You've got this very good ability to look at an issue in ways others don't.

Eloquently put, very lucid arguments. I agree with every point you've raised.

I'll probably be going to the Bhaji though.

That's all for now. Keep writing, and continue to fight the good fight,


ellen said...

goans are idiots - who cares about this? - you dona paul people have no other issues to worry about - get a job goan wankers