What a Monumental Shame !
Valmiki Faleiro

 

TGF foreword: [ Where there is food, there will be rats! Where there are sheep, there will be wolves - even wolves in sheep's clothing. And there will be those who will see a saffron-riding-wolf sitting right in front of their noses, but will believe that the wolf is actually a lamb.  Ai Saiba bhogos amkam!

One of the realities of post 1961Goa, least known (to Goans generally) and almost never articulated (in the Goa Press) is the slicing of the Goa pie. And while we hear platitudes ad nauseam about the valiant freedom fighters (and there were some genuine ones) and the freedom they brought to Goa and Goans, the truth remains as fascinating as fiction.

After the first step of invade & grab was completed in 1961, the next step was to swallow. Of course, every one and sundry knows that Goa was a highly coveted piece of real estate. The 'fool the public' Nehru-Krishna Menon platitudes notwithstanding, there was a 1962 general election in India to be won, and Goa had mineral wealth and a brilliant deep water port in Marmagoa.

As it happens, after the 1962 election goal was achieved, Nehru and the Congress Party left Goa to the wolves.  Most of the main wolves congregated in the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party(MGP).  The platform of the MGP was that "to enjoy freedom better, Goa would do best by becoming a backwater of the neighbouring State of Maharashtra" .

When that failed, the MGP proceeded on to a sophisticated method of marginalisation of the Goan Catholics. The Goan Catholics had (along with the so called 'upper caste' Hindu Goans) voted en masse against this dastardly betrayal of Goa and its people by the MGP.  The modus operandi of that marginalisation program was : Deny Jobs in Goa to Deserving and Qualified Catholic Goans.

No prizes to guess that tens of thousands of qualified and self respecting Goans left Goa, some for good. They were unwilling to sell their soul to the communal ethnic cleansers. 

The following article by Valmiki Faleiro looks at the 1967 Opinion Poll, the very act that saved Goa from the neighbouring wolves, and the intentional suppression of any serious recognition to this landmark event,  by successive Goa Governments.]

 

What a Monumental Shame !

Do we need to pinch ourselves to realize that Goa would have forever lost her independent identity … but for an event whose 29th anniversary falls tomorrow, January 16 – an event that many have forgotten? 

 How many of our current politicians, in or out of power, remember this watershed event, which made their power and pelf – their very existence – possible? 

 Were it not for the *Opinion Poll* of 16 January 1967, Goa would have faded into another faceless taluka of south Maharashtra … and our Ranes, Khalaps and Luizinhos into some Sarpanchas or Zilla panchas.

 Do the Ranes, Khalaps and Luizinhos realize that their chairs came by courtesy of a few gallant men, who first toiled to get New Delhi to decide on free India’s first (and, to date, only) Opinion Poll, and then campaigned hard to sway the vote in favour of a separate Goa?  Have those men been remembered and honoured?

 Around 1962, some Goan leaders severely affected with figurative myopia and clinical phobia, agreed that the best way to smother all colonial traces was to merge Goa with its gigantic neighbour, Maharashtra.  Much like burning down one’s house to kill a rat within. 

 Inspired and abetted by Maharashtra’s political leadership, these parties and groups united into a political formation whose very name, *Maharashtra*-wadi Gomantak Party (MGP), betrayed its one-point agenda.  The MGP won Goa’s first elections to the Legislative Assembly.  The Maharashtra lobby immediately went pro-active in Delhi, interpreting the mandate as a pro-Merger vote and demanding that Goa be forthwith merged into Maharashtra.

 Throughout the liberation movement, India’s Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had assured that Goans alone would decide Goa’s future.  Fortunately, we had leaders who convinced New Delhi that local Assembly results did not reflect the Goan mind on Merger and that the issue be decided by a separate referendum.  Leaders like Purshottam Kakodkar, who enjoyed a personal equation with the Nehru household, and the redoubtable Dr. Jack de Sequeira, who led an equally steely Opposition in the Goa Assembly.

 While Kakodkar lobbied hard and long with Nehru and other central leaders (and, in the process, almost lost his sanity), Sequeira shrewdly activated the Karnataka (then Mysore State) lobby, led by the indomitable S. Nijalingappa, to counter Maharashtra’s weight in the ruling Congress.  The Nehru cabinet finally yielded and decided to put the question of merger before Goans by way of a referendum.  That’s how India’s one and only Opinion Poll came about.

 The symbol *Flower* (merger with Maharashtra) was pitted against *Two Leaves* (separate entity, then as a centrally administered Union Territory.)  The D-day: Jan 16, 1967.

Two Leaves faced an almost insurmountable task: a charismatic Bhausaheb Bandodkar, whose mass appeal had been enhanced by welfare legislations like land reforms, led the Flower.  A bitter campaign ensued.  Both sides freely used emotion-evoking strategies.  Incidents of violence, arrests (mostly of Two Leaves protagonists) and bailouts were rampant.

 Dr. Jack de Sequeira and his son, Erasmo, led the Two Leaves campaign upfront.  They sacrificed great deal of sweat, energy and money … partly symbolized by a whole fleet of Land Rover jeeps thrown in for the campaign.  In South Goa, UGP stalwarts like Vassudev Sarmalkar (his hot-blooded young sons, Jyoti and Ramesh, drove their Peugeot with concealed loudspeakers, announcing poll-related corner meetings or disrupting those of the other camp), Anant Naik and MLAs like the inimitable Enio Pimenta carried the campaign forward. 

 Among writers, journalists and *tiatrists* was a significant *Third Force* that carried the campaign into the heartland of the Mergerists – the hinterland talukas, where people were being brainwashed with catchy Marathi slogans like *Zaleach Paayje.*  It comprised of young intellectuals like Uday Bhembre (a passionate orator, whose father belonged to the opposite camp), Chandrakant Keni, the long-standing Editor of Marathi daily Rashtramat and singer Ulhas Buyao, whose *Channeachi Ratri* still rings in the ears of yore.

 Counting day witnessed a seesaw thriller.  Hinterland talukas provided massive leads for Merger, throwing up jubilation and fireworks in that camp, which initially must have unnoticed small but significant numbers going the Two Leaves way.  Coastal talukas, as expected, stood solidly for separate identity.  When counting ended and tally drawn, Two Leaves stole a march over Flower by a modest margin of 34,021 votes.  Goa was saved! 

 From the Sequeiras to Salmarkars and Purushottams to Pimentas … these were the gallant Goans who ensured that this little patch on the western seaboard of India did not *merge* into oblivion but was allowed to flower into India’s pride of sorts.  Yes, Goa was saved, as it turned out, for our Ranes, Khalaps and Luizinhos…

 And not a single memorial to that memorable event, not a single statue to any of the heroes, not a single monument to remind how Goa kept her separate identity.  What a monumental shame!

Valmiki Faleiro
January 15, 2006

[TGF post script:  The roles of Ananta Narcinva (Babu) Naik, Uday Bhembre, Chandrakant Keni and many "Brahmin" Goans including the so-called  Catholic "Brahmins"  in opposing the MGP attempt to help Maharashtra swallow Goa, are well documented. In 1966-1967, they joined with the majority of Goans in defeating that merger (swallow) attempt.

What one needs to revisit is the post-Opinion Poll actions of the casteist elements or the veritably simple-minded among the "Brahmin" Goans. Did these folks end up working for the MGP interests?  Did they not know that these very same 'maka maka' MGP stalwarts regularly jumped ship back and forth  between the virulently communal Goa BJP and the quite arrogantly  corrupt Congress Party of Goa - when the opportunity arose?

It is in that light that the actions of the "Catholics for Devanagri only Konkani" should be seen. 

Are they, once again,  playing the "caste" card on Goans or are they just very naive?  Why exactly would they want to deny Goans who use the Roman script for the language of Goans (Konkani), the opportunity to express themselves in the 'manner and form' they have known, or wish to? 

Konkani  is presently being yo-yoed between the intolerant Devanagri-only bigots and the re-inventers of the wheel (i.e. those who are reinventing a complex Roman script for Konkani). From the looks of it, Konkani is doomed to fade away after a period of  lack luster existence (except perhaps in the tiatr tradition). There might be another language (a heavily contrived one) which surely Goans will be told is the real Konkani, but certainly will NOT be our mother tongue.

Goans who have lost their once clean environment, their peaceful way of life, their island of Anjediva, and even their civilian airport at Dabolim, are set to soon lose their beloved native language.

UNLESS Konkani is allowed to flourish as it is spoken, and without the artificial Sanskritisation or engineered Romanisation, most Goans will turn either to Marathi or English.

And the the hard fought 1967 Opinion Poll  will be totally irrelevant. That is probably the main thrust of the bigots.]

TGF
Jan 15, 2006

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