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OLA 1987 - Goan Catholic community

Last Updated: 15 March '09
  OLA 1987 - Goan Catholic community

Godfrey J. I. Gonsalves
Borda, Margao, Goa

Three years ago the movement for the recognition of Roman script began in right earnest from Independence Day 15th August, 2005 with Goans within and outside request to send emails to the then Chief Minister of Goa Mr. Pratapsing Raoji Rane impressing upon him the need to amend the Official Language Act (OLA) 1987 section 2(c) to redefine Konkani language to means "Konkani in Devanagari /Roman script".

Later that year during  the monsoon session of the Goa Legislative Assembly the then Pernem MLA, Mr. Jiteendra Deshprabhu the scion of the prominent Deshprabhu family took up the cause of ensuring Konknni language  would be given due support. 

It was for the third time after OLA 1987 that the demand for Konknni in Roman script found mention on the floor of the Goa Legislative Assembly.

The earlier one was an amendment moved by the then MLA,  Mr. Radharao Gracias on 24 February 1994, which was defeated  another by Dr Wilfred Anthony de Souza a private member's resolution on 16 July 2004 which ensured financial assistance "not grants".

By and large the protagonists of Konknni in Devanagari script essentially the miniscule 3% of Hindu Brahmins, (who are today calling the shots in both the political arena and the executive arm of the Government ) have  since the last  69 years commencing with the first Konknni Parishad  held in 1939 in Karwar in the South Indian neighbouring state of Karnataka  (while Goa Daman and Diu was still under the erstwhile Portuguese rule 25/11/1510- 19/12/1961) been espousing the cause of "One language, one script" to the detriment of all other scripts be it in Kannada , Malayalam, Perso-Arabic etc. Their mentor was late Madan Manjunath Shanbag. On the same lines, a majority Advisory Committee of the Sahitya Akademi passed a "unanimous" resolution on 21/11/1981 ensuring that Devanagari alone will be the natural script for Konknni.

Unfortunately, for them their ambitions were defeated as it was the Government of Karnataka, which granted recognition for Konknni in Kannada script in school education, in 2007. Thus negating their demand of "One language, one script" but instead supporting the principle "One Language but diversity in scripts". 

In Goa the movement for recognition of Konknni in Roman script or call it English script (since the words Rome and Roman cause allergy to some Indians due to the present political dispensation UPA at the Centre and the Chairperson of the INC) by way of an amendment to OLA 1987 has suffered in Goa merely because

a) The Church maintains a stoic silence on this issue despite the fact that it is the English (Roman) script used in all its religious services.

b) The politicians in the four talukas of Velhas Conquistas Salcete, Mormugao, Bardez and Tiswadi (Ilhas) keep the issue alive only for its emotive appeal, to woo the electorate and consolidate their vote bank and many a Konknni playwright and Konknni litterateur has succumbed to their ploy.

c) the 13 Catholic MLA's  Mr. Francisco D'Souza of BJP, Agnelo Fernandes, Atanasio Monserate, Victoria Fernandes, Francis Silveira, Jose Philip D Sousa, Francisco (Micky) Pacheco, Alexio Reginald Lourence, Churchill Alemão, Filipe Neri Rodrigues, Joaquim Alemão will never muster  the courage of conviction to live up to the ground reality either because (i)most of their voters can afford  English education for their wards and  ii) an apparent fear that the Hindu Brahmins will "alienate" them in the socio-politico arena -- though the reality is otherwise viz; that the non Hindu Brahmin community viz the "Bahujan Samaj" fully understand and realizes the gross injustice inflicted upon the Catholic community by the 3% Hindu Brahmins after the Official Language Act 1987 was passed on 4th February, 1987 and still wonder why the largest minority community in the State the Catholics have been playing second fiddle to the Hindu Brahmins. Most of the Hindu Brahmins who are historically known for their cunningness and slyness (even since the times of St Francis Xavier in a letter in 1543).

But despite this it must be said to the credit of the common man the real protagonists of Konknni in Roman script the Konknni playwrights and the Goans abroad especially those in the Gulf countries, the sea-farers that they have kept the tempo moving for the ultimate recognition of Konknni in English (Roman) script even after nearly 21 years of OLA 1987.

The present coalition Government has accepted that scripts should not be an impediment for the development of Konknni language and thus has proposed in Budget 2008-2009 "financial assistance" of Rs. 15 lakhs for the development of Konknni in the English (Roman) script -by the Dalgado Konknni Akademi - while continuing its "grants" for the Goa Konknni Akademi (Devanagari) and the Gomantak Marathi Academy.

At the Adhoc committee meetings of the Goa Legislative Assembly thrown open to the members of the public a first of its kind in the country.  Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr, the Romi Lipi Action Front, and the undersigned highlighted the need for nothing short of an amendment to the OLA 1987 so that Konknni in English (Roman) script will get "grants" and official status on par with Konknni in "Devanagari" script and not mere "financial assistance" by making a small amendment by merely deleting in 2(c) "Konknni means Konkani in Devanagari script".

With the view that the OLA 1987 should remain intact and would not hurt the sentiments of our Goan brethren who use Marathi for religious purposes and in their literary works while they speak Konknni deletion was seen as appropriate and would be welcome by all MLA's of Velhas and Novas Conquistas except the Hindu Brahmins among them. Unfortunately, it is here again that the 13 Catholic MLA's have only maintained lip sympathy.

It is now that the Leader of the Opposition Mr. Manohar G Parrikar BJP who also was the Chairman of the Adhoc committee on Department of official language moved a private member's resolution which will come up for discussions on the last date of the present monsoon session ending 29/08/2008, and will in all probability be accepted by the ruling dispensation.

"This House strongly recommends to the Government to set up a Task Force consisting of all sections of society and political parties to study various demands of the Marathi Rajya Bhasha Prasthapan Samiti and Romi Lipi Action Front so as to suggest a solution to the language issue which has been dividing the State along regional and social lines, with a  view to unifying the State"

The fact of the matter is that the report of the setting up of the TASK Force which will obviously be accepted by the ruling dispensation is only delaying the process of official recognition to Konknni in the English (Roman) script.

Had  the  ruling coalition  INC-NCP-MGP-Independent-unattached MLA's  accepted the amendment proposed by others besides this writer of a mere deletion of word "Devanagari" from OLA 1987 there was no need of any TASK force and the matter could have easily been settled.

It would therefore be of importance for the voters in constituencies represented by the Catholic MLA's to forewarn their elected representatives that dragging the issue due to their "political impotency" is detrimental to the 29.6% Catholic community who are slowly but surely becoming strangers in their own land.

First - it was the cultural policy of the State billed to be the first of its kind in the country -- which projects discreetly only the pre (1510) Portuguese era cultural ethos of the State thus systematically jettisoning the east west cultural fusion and symbiosis nurtured during the 451 years of erstwhile Portuguese rule.

However, ironically this east-west cultural influence is given financial "assistance" solely to promote "tourism" and ensure "full bed capacity utilization" of Hotels in the State.

Second - Immigration of dwellers from the Novas Conquistas (not Goans but mainly settlers from nearby Maharashtra and Karnataka) into the Velhas Conquistas for economic reasons thereby severely diluting the strength of the minorities in the Velhas Conquistas. There is also rise in religious fundamentalism, with the numerous "ghumties" mostly near the banyan trees (which depicted village boundaries) or on roadsides or temples sprouting up in Catholic dominated constituencies. Litigation due to encroachments leave licence violation etc has mounted affecting the landed gentry mainly Catholics.

Third, it is the indiscriminate deletion of names of mainly Catholic community from the voters list viz those that have migrated only for employment purposes and shortly those that have acquired Portuguese passports will be on the anvil.

Fourth employment prospects for the Catholic community in the Velhas Conquistas where they are in the majority has been totally wiped as is seen from the list of Goa Government Junior and Senior grade officers and in clerical cadres of LDC, UDC and notably the Goa Police force.

Fifth though the Velhas Conquistas have 22 Assembly constituencies in the Goa Legislative Assembly there are just 13 Catholic MLAs (almost all at logger heads with one another and in different secular political parties with one exception) while the vote bank is essentially Catholic and vote invariably for secular parties on the a vowed principle that development without communal harmony is not worthwhile.

Sixth the Archdiocese of Goa & Daman who played into the hands of the Hindu Brahmins by succumbing to the medium of instruction policy in the early nineties and are now regretting in private their foolishness -- due to dismal performance and poor quality of Catholic students emerging from the primary section of the nearly 125 diocesan run schools are responsible for putting the Catholic community in disarray by paying heed to unsolicited advice from a seemingly sincere secular Uday L Bhembre an ex-independent MLA of Margao; who single-handedly took the Konknni Porjecho Avaz in 1985 - financed heavily by our Gulf brethren - for a ride by demanding travel expenses for his assistance during the KPA, the accounts receipt/expenses have till this date not been made public.

Such gross injustice being systematically inflicted upon the Catholic community by the 3% Hindu Brahmin community who have the largest representation in electoral politics, in the administration (entire families are either in Government employment or high wage island public sector or private sector organizations -- on merit by caste not one's worth) easily amounts to a gross violation of the rights of the minorities enshrined in the sacred Constitution of India.

Therefore, if Konknni in English (Roman) script is given official recognition in OLA 1987
a) it will then enable us to demand for "grants" not "financial" assistance.

b) It will enable us to set up Konknni schools imparting education in Konknni with the English (Roman) script and get "grants" for the same, the children in far-flung villages and those who cannot afford fees for English medium education will benefit.

c) It will provide employment prospects for Konknni teachers.

d) The Goa Konkani Akademi can then send Konknni playwrights to perform their tiatrs, just like the Konknni "Nattok" troupes, Sangeet Sammelans "filmi get" and Bollywood trivia is promoted in the name of Goan culture and sent to countries abroad or within India with grants received from the Government.  The religious rituals and the choral / hymn groups can get financial grants for organizing and promoting such latent skills among the Catholic community and even get grants for musical instruments from the Department of Art and Culture just as the bhajan troupes get such assistance.  Even the Konknni songs and Hymns can be introduced in schools just as Bhajans etc are taught today in schools.

e) Grants, pensions etc can be received for the promotion of the musical skills tiatr, Kantaram, our cultural dance forms, even post retirement etc on par with those artistes performing "podam" and "mattocks".

f) thus with official recognition to Konknni in English (Roman) script these benefits will be given as a legitimate due to a significant segment and economically influential Catholic community of the State.

g) the Department of Art & Culture, the Department of Official language, the Kala Academy the Goa Konkani Akademi that can recruit persons knowing Konknni in English (Roman) script as presently it is only the Hindu  Brahmins and others who know Devanagari script or Marathi that are employed.

h) The Goa State Public Service Commission can ensure that all advertisements insist of the essential qualification of Konknni also in English (Roman) script instead of just Devanagari.

i) While the essential pre-requisite of e-governance is knowledge of English script which the Hindu Brahmins embarrassingly use due to difficulties encountered in the use of Konknni Devanagari script this will be no longer a problem for them if they accept the Konknni in English (Roman) script.

j) The Catholic community is the highest contributor of foreign exchange as is seen from the over-banked talukas of Velhas Conquistas, which are flush with deposits. Ironically the Catholic community does not have any significant representation in these scheduled (nationalized) Banks or co-operative Banks by way of employment prospects instead it is the 3% Hindu Brahmins that have cornered all these posts.

It is necessary that this report be given wide circulation to muster support for the cause of official recognition to Konknni in the English (Roman) script. If the people of Karnataka have taken the lead and got official recognition for Konknni in Kannada script and even scripted their name in the Guinness World Book of records, it is only the ignorance of Catholic Goans and those supporting Konknni in English (Roman) script that needs to be blamed.

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