Monday, 16 November 2015

COMMUNAL GOENKARS? A RESPONSE TO VIKAS KAMAT

The following is a response by Vikas Kamat to my op-ed in O Heraldo, “Intolerance and the Minorotized Groups”, dt: 11 November, 2015:

All Goemkars Not Communal
By Vikas Kamat (12 Nov, 2015)

I read Dale Menezes’ article, “Intolerance and the minoritized groups”, in the Herald, dt. 11 Nov. 2015. I however, have to make a few observations regarding his opinion: As regards the Konkani language and the script issue, the Sahitya Akademi as well as the Government recognizes Konkani in Devanagari script as the official language of Goa. It would not have been possible for the Roman script to be accepted by the Sahitya Akademi and perhaps, Konkani would then never become its official language.

However, I agree that the Catholics in Goa find great difficulty studying in Devenagari. But today, we see many Konkani youth and author-poets who are Catholics, but find no difficulty with Devenagari script. Similarly, the Government of Goa has helped Roman Konkani by establishing the Dalgado Konkani Akademi (DKA).

However, except a few exceptions, the majority Hindus of Goa use Marathi for “official and formal” occasions since decades – right from their early morning newspaper to their wedding invitations.

Menezes has pointed out towards the representation of Goan Muslims in politics. I have also observed that the Goan Muslims have been underrepresented in politics, perhaps due to their miniscule population. One famous Muslim in Goan politics was Sheikh Hassan Haroon, some decades ago. But here, a difference has to be marked between Goan ‘niz Goemkar’ Muslims and non-Goan Muslims. Goa today has many Muslims, but a large chunk of them are the migrants from states like Karnataka – referred to as “ghaati” by Goans. But they meet the labour demands in Goa. These Muslims mostly hail from the Bijapur, Gadag and such parts of Karnataka.
In the recent Municipal polls, one gentleman called Qutubuddin has been elected by the voters.

He is a Muslim and is the people’s choice too, but he is not a Goan Muslim per se. Goans generally do not vote on religion lines. Right from the first Goa, Daman and Diu Legislative Assembly, this can be seen. Anthony D’Souza was elected in the first Assembly from a Hindu majority constituency in North Goa. Even today, Hindu voters vote for Christian candidates and vice versa. Based on a few isolated comments, Menezes should not paint the all Goemkar lot as communal.

MY RESPONSE:

I would like to thank Vikas Kamat for writing such a prompt response (12 November, 2015) to my op-ed, and also for agreeing on many points and arguments I made.

Apologies for being blunt, but it is ridiculous to say “[i]t would not have been possible for the Roman script to be accepted by the Sahitya Akademi and perhaps, Konkani would then never become its [Goa’s] official language”, without a touch of irony. What Kamat is trying to tell us, in essence, is that the Roman script and the people who use it are not legitimate carriers of Goan identity. Thus, a large section of Goans are excluded from Goan cultural life. The fact that the Goa government belatedly started giving out grants to Dalgado Konknni Akademi, does not take anything away from the fact that many Goans for a long time have been at the receiving end of “intolerance”.

Further, it is also important to call out the blatant display of xenophobia and islamophobia in relation to my argument about adequate representation for Muslims in Goa. I think, to make a distinction between Goan and non-Goan Muslims in response to claims for Muslim representation is another way to deny Muslims in Goa adequate representation, as on the ground Muslims are almost invisible-ized in politics. Although it is an oft-repeated anecdote in Goa that the Saraswat brahmins had migrated to Goa (is it a fact or fiction, is a story for another day), yet it is unthinkable today to think of the Saraswats as anything but Goan. One needs to ask why this distinction is made generally in the case of Muslims.

To end, it is not at all my aim to paint the whole of Goan lot as “communal”. In my mind, I am quite clear that those in Goa – be it the migrants, settlers, or natives – who have been at the receiving end of discrimination and intolerance can ever be “communal”. Fact is they can’t be. My only fault in this was to assume that this fact was obvious to all Goans.

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