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Of Language, Script and Panic

Last Updated: 15 April '09

   Of Language, Script and Panic

Tomazinho Cardozo
Candolim, Goa.

All of a sudden, the language controversy of Goa surfaced in the Goa Legislative Assembly in a big way. The MLAs expressed their opinions as per their thinking. Some demanded equal status to Roman Script Konknni along with Devanagari script Konknni and some others felt that Konknni in Roman script and
Marathi should be accorded equal status along with Konknni in Devanagari script. The Chief Minister, Shri Digambar Kamat assured the house that he would convene a meeting of all the stakeholders and make efforts to reach to a consensus in order to solve the language issue once for all. Can a consensus take place on an issue like this? For me it is practically impossible.

But certainly one important thing that will take place is everyone will be in a position to express their views face to face which can go a long way in preparing a congenial atmosphere as far as language issue in Goa is concerned. Nevertheless, I see a kind of panic among the protagonists of Devanagari script. This is because, besides leveling unfounded allegations against the protagonists of Konknni in Roman script, as reported, they have threatened to create a terror in the state if any one tries to amend the Goa Official Language Act of 1987.  Do we live in a democracy?  

"Why did it take 20 years to demand equal status to Konknni in Roman Script.?" is their first question. Yes, it took 20 years to know about the exact "hidden agenda" of the leaders in Devanagari script. The hidden agenda was to wipe out Konknni in Roman script from the Goan soil. In fact, the agitation for demanding equal status to Konknni in Roman script started when Dalgado Konknni Akademi was established in 1988 that is just after one year and not 20 years. It became intense during the last 8 years because Romi script protagonists realized that Konknni in Devanagari script has not succeeded in uniting Goans at all.

It is alleged that the Goan Catholic Community is pro western and even the masses in the churches are now taking place in English. This allegation is to say that Catholic community is not interested in Konknni at all.  It is not only Goan Catholic community but also the Goan Hindu community pampers English in public life. Scrutinize the life styles of Hindu community too. Every one, Hindus as well as Christians, today are pro-English and the reasons for that are well known to us.

In 95% of the churches in Goa, there might be only one mass in English as against masses ranging
from 8 to 25, in Konknni, as per the population of a parish, in a week. Till date all religious services in Catholic churches take place in Konknni in Roman script. Leaders of Devanagari lipi have no moral right
to open their mouths about the use of English in Christian religious services because they do not conduct their religious services in Konknni.

They allege that Roman script for Konknni will de-nationalize Goans. Rubbish! Nationalism and patriotism are values of our lives. Values cannot be taught, it should be caught. Hence no script and not even the language, including a foreign script and a foreign language, can influence these values. Yes, the content of the matter given through any language, including foreign language, can play some role in the formation of values. Therefore inculcation of values in us does not depend on Roman script at all. It solely depends on the behaviour and character of our parents, friends, teachers, society, etc., whose influence shapes our lives.

And what right do these leaders have to allege that Roman script will de-nationalize Goans? Take for example the growth of any leader of Devanagari lobby. If he is a graduate educationally, he must have studied his primary education in Marathi for at least 4 years, High School in English medium for 6 years, Higher Secondary School, again in English medium, for 2 years and College education, again in English medium, for another 3 years. In other words, he must have learnt in regional language only for 4 years while his study in English, foreign script as well as foreign language, amounts to a long period of 11 years. Does this mean these leaders are de-nationalized?

They claim that the demand for the Roman script for Konknni will divide Goans. Division can take place only if Goans are united through Konknni in Devanagari script. Where is this so-called unity of Goans through Konknni in Devanagari script? Today Bahujan Samaz, the largest section of Hindu community, has not accepted Konknni in Devanagari mainly because a particular dialect of very small community of Goa is dumped on all Goans. This is the reason why there are almost 947 schools in Marathi medium and only about 136 Konknni medium schools out of which only 5 schools are managed by Hindu managements and 126 by Christian management.  So where is the unity of Goans through Konknni in Devanagari script?

On the other hand, the imposition of Konknni in Devanagari script and also a particular dialect, which is
not liked by the Catholic community, has compelled them to go away from Konknni language. This is the reason why the number of  students in the 126 Konknni  medium primary school managed by Catholic  managements, is decreasing day by day. I have now realized that converting the Catholic primary schools in to Konknni medium, is a deep rooted conspiracy to finish Catholic education in Goa. If there was unity, all Goans would have studied primary education in Konknni in Devanagari script. Hence, Konknni in Devanagari script could not achieve unity among all Goans at all.

Every Devanagari lipi protagonist makes a statement today that Goa Konknni Akademi gives equal treatment to Konknni in Roman script. This has taken place only for the last three years as far as publication of books are concerned. This was because the Romi protagonists agitated and the government was compelled to direct the Goa Konknni Akademi to support Konknni in Roman script. But how many Romi lipi lovers have been given representation in the Governing Council and General Council of GKA? How many Roman scriptwriters have been given an opportunity to head the GKA? What sort of equal treatment are we talking about?

The Devanagari lobby today insists on the principle of "One Script, One Language, One Literature and One Society". This approach has alienated majority of Konknni speaking people from the Konknni movement and compelled them to fight for their rights. If the agitation for Kannada script for Konknni in Karnataka and Romi script for Konknni in Goa became intense it was because of this narrow-minded concept of "One Script, One Language, One Literature and One Society".

Traditionally Goans, Hindus as well as Christian, loved and still love their own religions and at the same time, they respected and still respect the religious feelings of each other. This is the foundation of communal harmony and peace among Goans. If we believe in the development of Konknni language and in strengthening the unity among Goans, we will have to learn to love and respect various scripts of Konknni. Konknni language will prosper only if all its scripts and dialects are given equal importance/equal status. Konknni language will perish if a particular script and a particular dialect is imposed on all Konknni
speaking people.

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