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Konknni: A Politicized language (From Archives)

Last Updated: 15 January '09
 Article Published on SOD 13

Konknni: A Politicized language 

Pratap Naik, S.J.
Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr
Alto Porvorim, Goa


"The English have no respect for their language,
and will not teach their children to speak it...
It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth,
without making some other Englishman despise him."
Preface to Pygmalion (1912) by George Bernard Shaw

In the history of humankind, Languages, dialects and scripts are used not only for communication but also for domination, manipulation and suppression of weaker groups.  This is true also for Konknni. Its scripts and dialects are at the crossroads.  The politics of language  concerns policies and decisions about official and standard languages, language planning, language academies, and educational language policies.  A Politicized language is neither the preserve of a profession nor the office of the state.; it is a resource open to all, allowing one to consider and to use language for suasion and control.

During the pre-liberation period in Goa, Hindu community and common folks of the Catholic community, for oral communication used Konknni.  The Hindu community used Marathi for primary education, for popular religion, accounts, written communication theatre and other spheres of their lives.  The elite of the Catholic community used Portuguese at home and for education.  They used Konknni to converse with the Hindus and common folks of the Catholic community who did not know Portuguese language.  Portuguese language was considered the language of the cultured people.  The elite group of the minority community looked down upon Konknni as a language of the servants and socio-economically backward common people.  Konknni in Roman script was used for popular religious practices and for mass media.  Konknni written in Devanagari script hardly existed during this period.  It had practically no influence over the members of the Hindu community.  Marathi enjoyed the privileged position among the Hindu community.  Due to this the Hindu community identified Marathi as their intellectual and cultural language.  However there was no animosity or rivalry among the users of these three languages, namely, Konknni, Marathi and Portuguese.  These three languages coexisted with unity and harmony.

After 1965, due to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church all over the world replaced Latin by local languages for the religious domain.  Due to this, in Goa too the Church actively promoted religious services in Konknni. Church contributed to standardize Konknni in Roman script, which had its roots in sixteenth century. Let us call this dialect as Bardeshi. After the liberation of Goa, Konknni language suffered a number of setbacks.  This happened due to partly lack of vision and leadership on the part of the minority community and partly due to the manipulative tactics used by self-proclaimed protectors of Konknni.   After the liberation of Goa the elite Catholic community switched over to English while retaining the Portuguese language.

After the liberation of Goa Catholic schools introduced Konknni in Devanagari script as a third language in their schools.  The Devanagari proponents succeeded to convince a few leaders of the Catholic community that the Devanagari script is the ‘natural script' of Konknni and it is related to our nationalism and patriotism!  Majority of the students were from the Catholic community.  They were familiar with the Roman script and Bardeshi dialect due to religious literature and mass media.  But Bardeshi dialect was not taught in schools.  A different dialect was thrust upon them in the name of Konknni and nationalism.  According to Late Mr. Ulhas Buyanv, one of the stalwarts of Opinion Poll in Goa and veteran Konknni singer, ‘a Konknni dialect of 3% of Hindu Saraswats was forced upon 30% Catholic community'.  Students of Catholic community who had opted for Konknni had no real option.  They were not familiar with Marathi.  Besides they never identified with Marathi as their language.  Between Marathi and Konknni they were forced to take Konknni in Devanagari script.   Students learnt Konknni not out of conviction or love of Konknni but out of sheer compulsion.  Therefore, they never took interest in keeping up the language they learnt.  Once they finished their education they gave up reading and writing Konknni in Devanagari script!  This situation created a strong feeling of dislike towards Konknni in Devanagari script among the Catholic community. 

If the textbooks had included the Konknni dialect of the majority community and Bardeshi dialect of the Catholic community this unhealthy tension could have been avoided and a healthy blending of two dialects would have helped to promote a new standard dialect of Konknni in Goa.  Dialects and scripts are emotional issues.  In a democracy one group cannot impose their preferences on the others.  Language is far more important than its scripts.  Unfortunately among a section of Konknnis (Konknni speakers) Konknni language was identified with the Devanagari script and with a particular dialect called Antruzi!

When Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi gave recognition to Konknni there was no mention of its script in the minutes. Excerpts from the meeting of the General Council of the Sahitya Akademi held on 26 February 1975 reads "As Konkani fulfils the criteria formulated by the Akademi for recognition of a language, it is recognised as an independent modern literary language of India." On 21 November 1981 the Advisory Board of Konknni, which consisted of a majority of Devanagari proponents, through their shrewd manipulative skills recommended that Devanagari should remain the script for Konknni.  Konknni speakers, writers and leaders of various scripts were not consulted for such a major decision. There was no public debate to come to a consensus on this important issue of script.  The entire process was a clandestine exercise of a few.   Subsequently whenever the question of script was raised, the proponents of Devanagari script silenced the voice of their opponents by vociferously proclaiming that Sahitya Akademi recognized Konknni only in Devanagari script!  Since then Sahitya Akademi accepted Devanagari script as the official of Konknni. 

Consequently, Sahitya Akademi awards were given exclusively to books written in Devanagari script.  This tradition continues till today.  It is an open secret among Konknni writers that these awards are distributed among the supporters and well-wishers of Devanagari script.   This manipulation reached its climax while selecting a Konknni book for the  Sahitya Akademi award for the year 2005.  Three jury members recommended a book.  Two jury members were the publishers of the very same book, which was selected for the award!  Sahitya Akademi's recognition to Konknni first sowed the seed of division among the supporters of Konknni and supporters of Marathi.  Secondly, it created a rift between supporters of Devanagari script versus the supporters of other two major scripts of Konknni, namely, Roman and Kannada scripts.  This gap is widening day by day.  Prior to the recognition these three groups lived and worked together with dignity.    A popular language of the people does not need the recognition of an external organization.  Sahitya Akademi's recognition did more harm to the unity and harmony of Konknni and Konknnis than good!

Sahitya Akademi could solve this animosity by giving annual awards in turn to books published in Devanagari, Roman and Kannada scripts.   This is possible if the Advisory Board of Sahitya Akademi that consists majority from the Devanagari proponents agree to resolve to the script issue by mutual understanding.

In 1985 the Goa Government founded Goa Konkani Akademi (GKA).  Its chief objective was spelled out as ‘the Akademi aims at bringing about speedy development of the Konknni language, literature and culture and also at promoting cultural unity of this state through Konknni language and literature.'  GKA started actually functioning from 1986.  GKA was filled with Devanagari proponents and they interpreted Konknni means Konknni written in Devanagari script. 

Till 2005 the Goa Konkani Akademi hardly did anything to fulfill its primary objective.  In 2005 due to the demands of Roman script supporters, the Goa Government ordered the GKA to publish and to give financial assistance to books written in Roman script.  Roman script readers and writers who preserved, promoted Konknni and fought for it to become the Official Language of Goa have become second-class citizens in Goa itself!  Anyone who supports or demands equal status to Konknni in the Official Language Act is considered a ‘fundamentalist', ‘promoter of disunity' and so on by the Devanagari proponents.

At present in the name of promoting local languages and culture, the Goa Government gives lakhs of rupees to Goa Konkani Akademi, Marathi Akademi, Kala Akademi and Art and Culture Directorate.  Is there a need for the government to spend such an enormous amount of taxpayers' hard earned money for language and culture?  The government's involvement through its departments or autonomous institutions to promote local languages and culture has further divided the local people.  Each group envies the other group.  It is high time that the concerned citizens question the government regarding the relevance and the need for such an exorbitant expenditure on language and culture.  Any language or culture is maintained, developed and promoted with the active support of its native speakers.  When the government takes the initiative to promote a language or culture, it gradually kills the zeal of native speakers and in turn harms the progress of that language.  Besides, manipulation, corruption, nepotism and degradation of the society are bound to enter and get rooted even in the field of art and culture.  A written language or a particular culture cannot be kept alive merely by government's financial support.

When Konknni was included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India on 20 August 1992 there was no mention of its official script. The seventy-first amendment to the Constitution reads, "BE it enacted by Parliament in the Forty-third Year of the republic of India as follows:-

Short title.-this Act may be called the Constitution (Seventy-first Amendment) act, 1992.

Amendment of eighth schedule.- In the Eighth schedule to the Constitution,- existing entry 7 shall be re-numbered as entry 8, and before entry 8 as so re-numbered, the entry "7. Konkani.'' shall be inserted.  From this one could conclude that the official script of Konknni for all Konknnis is not officially decided or accepted by the people. 

On 4 February 1987 Goa Legislative Assembly passed the Official Language Bill. In the Official Language Act, under definitions 2c it was stated  "‘Konkani language' means Konkani language in Devanagari script."  Who created this deliberate mischief to include the definition of Konknni?  What was the need to include such a definition?  The majority of the Konknni supporters were then totally unaware of this manipulation or the implication of such a definition. According to Mr. Tomazinho Cardozo, the Ex-Speaker of Goa Assembly and Ex-President of Dalgado Konknni Akademi, "This is the biggest fraud or conspiracy of the 20th century as far as Konknni is concerned". 

The main objective of the State Language is to give preference to native speakers for government jobs. The Official Language Act of Goa is biased towards one section of the Goan community.   Konknni is not a compulsory subject in the education system of Goa. In other states the State Language is compulsory in education.  In Goa for government jobs the knowledge of Konknni (in Devanagari script) is essential and the knowledge of Marathi is desirable.  With this policy those who know Konknni in Devanagari script and Marathi are given preference for jobs.  Due to this, the present Language Act does not promote unity and harmony among natives in Goa.  Instead it has created disunity, mistrust and division in Goa.  Prior to the Official Language Act, the situation in Goa was much more cordial and friendly.  It was falsely presumed that Konknni in Devanagari script would promote unity in Goa.  But the reality is that the Hindu community has not fully accepted Konknni in Devanagari script in most of the spheres.  It continues to use Marathi for religious services, education, mass media and cultural domains.   In Goa neither the Hindu community nor the Catholic community has fully accepted Konknni in Devanagari script for all the domains of their life.   It is nobody's baby, yet this unwanted baby is artificially kept alive through generous grants of the government. Konknni in Devanagari script alone cannot become a true bond of unity among Goans. This writers experience for the last 35 years has shown that in Goa, Konknni for oral communication and English for written communication will definitely unite all Goans irrespective of their caste, creed and region.  Therefore, for the government jobs the knowledge of oral Konknni alone should be sufficient.   Language fanaticism does not promote a language rather it creates hatred towards it and its speakers. 

In 1990 Bombay High Court ordered private managements to pay the government pay scale to their primary teachers. These primary schools were of English medium.  Instead of challenging this verdict in the Supreme Court, managements approached the local government for assistance.  For the reasons best known to the government, it decided to give grants only to those schools who run their schools in Konknni, Marathi or any other recognized Indian languages.  The Catholic community leaders especially the priests and nuns were asked to run their schools in Konknni medium to avail the grants.  This major decision created innumerable problems for parents to educate their children in Konknni medium.  Besides, it further increased their dislike to Konknni in Devanagari script.  Those who were financially better off preferred to send their children to English medium primary schools.   Those who belong to the Hindu community continued to send their children to either Marathi or English medium schools. Those who economically cannot afford English education, continue to send their children to Konknni medium schools. English medium primary schools have become a common practice in our country.  Hence let the parents decide the medium of instruction of their children.  In a democracy they have a right to choose the medium of instruction. 

As on 30.09.2006, Catholics are in forefront in Goa to run 126 Konknni medium primary schools.  Hindu managements run only 5 Konknni medium primary schools  and 49 Marathi medium schools. Goa Government runs 72 Konknni medium schools and promotes 898 Marathi medium primary schools. Why the supporters of Devanagari do not bring pressure on the Government and Hindu managements  to start Konknni medium schools? 

According to the academic year 2005-2006 Marathi medium primary schools have the highest number of students, namely, 36,805. Konknni has only 28,152 students. The vast majority of Devanagari supporters send their children and grand children to English or Marathi medium Primary schools!  Though Konknni is the State Language of Goa in the entire State there is not a single Konknni medium high school. While Marathi, Urdu and Kannada medium high schools are found in Goa. Though Konknni is the official language of Goa, it is not a compulsory language in schools!  In Maharashtra one cannot complete X std. without studying Marathi and In Karnataka without Kannada. Only in Goa one can complete his/her entire education in Goa without learning Konknni!  Besides, one can live and die in Goa with dignity without speaking Konknni!  In Goa the regional identity ‘Goan' is far more important than the linguistic identity ‘Konknni'.  Therefore, we come across many natives who call themselves as Goans and are ashamed to identify with Konknni or give an excuse they do no Know Konknni or take pride that do not know Konknni!

At the X std number of students who opt for Konknni as the third language have not crossed 45% of total number of students who appear for the examination. In 2008 April  15,765 students appeared for the X Std examination. Out of which 7454 students opted for Marathi and 6535 for Konknni. At the XII Std number of students who opt for Konknni as the second language have not crossed 35%. According to the reliable sources the majority of these students are Catholics.  For the academic year 2006-2007 out of 127 Christian management high schools 126 schools offer Konknni as a third language.  Most of the government high schools in North Goa District do not offer Konknni. 51.83% of schools run by the Hindu community do not offer Konknni as a third language!  Devanagari supporters close their eyes to this naked reality.

Whatever may be the medium of instruction, the proponents of Devanagari script should have demanded from the government to make Konknni a compulsory subject in schools.  So far they have not done so.  Why?  The reason is crystal clear. As per the Official Language Act Marathi has been safeguarded in educational, social and cultural fields. Therefore, Konknni cannot be made the compulsory language in Goa for the education.  Fighting against granting the official status to Konknni in Roman script and cursing the impact of English in Goa will not help the cause of Konknni in Devanagari script.  Rather it will lead to the natural death of the Konknni written in Devanagari so-called the ‘natural script' of Konknni.   

In Karnataka Konknni is included in the school curriculum from the academic year 2007-2008 in Kannada script. 101 schools are teaching Konknni in Kannada script as a subject from Std. VI. Out of these except 5 government schools, rest of the schools belong to the Catholic management. Though there is an option to teach Konknni in Devanagari script, not a single school offers this option.  Karnataka Government has recognized Kannada script and Devanagari script as the official scripts for Konknni in Karnataka.  In this context what prevents the Goa Government to recognize the Roman and Devanagari scripts as the official scripts of Konknni in Goa? 

It is proclaimed by the supporters of Devanagari that hundreds of students have opted for Konknni at B.A. and M.A. and they still continue to do it.  When we analyze the composition of these Konknni students majority of them are girls.  They opt for Konknni to get a degree till they settle down in life.  To get a paper degree,  Konknni is the easiest subject. Boys do not opt for Konknni.  They know very well that there are no job opportunities for Konknni in Goa except for teaching field.  Most of these students of Konknni literature and even their teachers do not read any other Konknni material beyond their prescribed textbooks!  The contribution of Konknni teachers to Konknni language and literature is bare minimum. 

The Kerala Government has approved of teaching of Konknni in Devanagari script in Kerala, but in reality Konknni is not taught because there are no students.  In Kerala not a single full-fledged Konknni periodical is published.  In reality in Kerala Konknnis exist but Konknni continues to be mainly the spoken language and it is hardly used for written purpose. 

In Goa literate Hindus know the Devanagari script. Yet the vast majority of them prefer to read and write Marathi and not Konknni.  10 Marathi dailies are sold in Goa.  While the single Konknni daily in Goa has very poor circulation after 22 years of its existence!  In Goa besides the daily there are only 3 Konknni periodicals in Devanagari script. Roman script has 13 periodicals.  Besides these, there are 82 Parish Bulletins are published in Roman script. Catholics who read Konknni prefer to read it in Roman script.  Since liberation, Konknni in Devanagari script has not united the entire Hindu community.  It is highly Marathicised and Sanskritized. Yet, the Hindu Community has not accepted it!  Why the majority of the Hindu community which speaks Konknni has rejected Konknni written in Devanagari script? One of the answers is it uses the Konknni dialect of Saraswats. The common Hindu community known as Bahujan Somaz do not want the domination of Saraswats and Catholics. Therefore they prefer to identify with Marathi which they learnt in schools which is common to both Bahujan Somaz and Saraswats.  Besides, the Hindu community continues to use Marathi for their religious, cultural, social and other fields of life. Konknni in Devanagari script has failed to unite the majority and minority communities of Goa.  Prior to Goa's liberation, written Konknni meant Konknni in Roman script.  Spoken Konknni alone is the uniting factor in Goa.  Konknni in Devanagari script is kept alive mainly due to State and Central Governments grants.  In education it exists because of the support of the Catholic community. If the government stops or if the Roman script is given official status will Konknni in Devanagari script survive?   This is a serious topic for discussion and reflection.

Church  has supported and preserved Konknni in Roman script. As on 26 August 2008,  60,000 copies of the entire Bible in Konknni, 2,32,000 copies of New Testament and over 3 lakhs  of Gayonancho Jhelo (hymnal), 1,00,000 catechism books for students and 6,000 teachers' handbooks are printed. The Church uses maximum amount of Konknni in Roman script  for the religious purpose. Archbishop's official circulars and pastoral letters are written and published in Konknni.

In the market Konknni CDs, VCDs & DVDs of Kantaram (songs), tiatrs, Mandos, Dulpods, Dekhnnis, devotional hymns and films are found in great numbers.  The text and lyrics for these is written in Roman script and produced by the Catholic community.  Hindus still continue to use Marathi CDs for religious socio-cultural domains.  Tiatr is the most popular form of entertainment.  At least 40 tiatr troupes perform thousand of shows in Goa and elsewhere.  Tiatr is the most successful entertainment industry. Tiatrs are written exclusively in the Roman script.  Though it is claimed that many Konknni Nattoks (plays) are gaining popularity they are limited to competitions and free shows. Konknni Nattoks have not attained the commercial status.  On the all India Radio Kantaram, Mandos, Dulpods, Dekhnnis and Konknni film songs are still popular.  Konknni in Roman script is the heart and soul of Konknni.  Therefore, Lorna, Chris Perry, M.Boyer, Jacinto Vaz, Robin Vaz, C. Alvares, H. Britton, Alfred Rose, Rita Rose, Antonette Mendes, Remo Fernandes, Sharon Mazarello and other singers are popular in Goa irrespective of religion and caste.

The claim that there are over 50 lakhs of Konknnis is far from the truth. According to the Census of India 2001 in India there are 24,89,015 mother tongue Konknni speakers.  In census data under Konknni entry Kudbi/Kudumbi, Malwani and others are included. This data includes 24,20,140 Konknni ; 10,192 Kudubi/Kudumbi; 46,851 Malwani; 11,832 other mother tongue language speakers. According to Census 2001 the total population of Goa is 13,47,668. Of which only 7,69,888 (57.13%) persons have declared that their mother tongue is Konknni. According to Census 2001 in Goa, 8190 have declared English as their mother tongue.  This number is not realistic. There must be many more whose mother tongue is English according to the definition of mother tongue given by Census 2001.  Census 2001 defines mother tongue as follows: "Mother tongue is the language spoken in childhood by the person's mother to the person." If we take this definition literally, then the Konknni population in Goa is far below the recorded data 7,69,888.  Because in a good number of Catholic families, mothers speak to their children in English.  Such households might have wrongly given their mother tongue as Konknni instead of English.  Similarly, those who have declared their mother tongue as Marathi have given the wrong information because most of them speak Konknni in their homes.

For other major languages of India, the majority of a particular language is found in a particular State. For example, Marathi in Maharashtra, Kannada in Karnataka and so on. Though Konknni is the State Language of Goa only 30.93% of total Konknni population is found in Goa!  Konknnis are spread out in different States. They use different dialects and scripts. Konknni is required only to maintain their cultural identity.  In this context, Konknni does not help as a medium of instruction, as a common media for communication or to earn one's livelihood. So far Konknni is survived because it is a vibrant spoken language "One script, one dialect, one community" principle has not succeeded so far to unite Konknnis and in the future it will not succeed.  If we force this principle Konknnis will survive but Konknni will perish.  The protagonists of this principle implicitly believe that Aryans, Brahmins, Sanskrit and Devanagari script are inseparable elements of the common umbilical cord and they are ‘holy/pure/standard/best/high' for all!  On Alok Rai's book Hindi Nationalism the following text is found on the outer cover page. It's content is applicable to the situation of Konknni in Goa. The text reads, "This tract by Alok Rai looks at the politics of language in India through a study of the history of one language- Hindi.  It traces the tragic metamorphosis of this language over the last century, from a creative, dynamic, popular language to a dead, Sanskritised, dePersianised language manufactured by a self-serving upper caste North Indian elite, nurturing hegemonic ambitions.  From being a symbol of collective imagination it become a signifier of narrow sectarianism and regional chauvinism.  The tract shows how this transformation of the language was tied up with the politics of communalism and regionalism.  Rai seeks to save Hindi from the politics of Hindi nationalism.  If Hindi has to realise its inner potential and become a national language of communication, argues Rai, then it has to emancipate itself from its own repressed history, and dissociate itself from its deformed other - the Sanskritised Hindi of the pundits.  It can only do this through a critical return to its troubled past.  In returning to that past, Rai hopes to create the possibilities of a new future.  This is a powerful tract, written with emotion and passion, speaking with wit and ideas. It persuades us to rethink the question of National Language, and reflect on the tangles links between language, identity and politics."  

In the Editorial Preface of Alok Rai's book  Hindi Nationalism the editor  Neeladri Bhattacharya  says,

"This tract by Alok Rai is  a passionate defense of Hindi. But Rai's Hindi is the language of everyday life that had evolved in North India by the nineteenth century, a language variously and synonymously called Hindi, Urdu,, Hindustani. It was a heteroglot, hybrid language that had absorbed the semantic resources of many traditions. ...to explain the sources of the deeper linguistic fracture, Rai looks at the complicated working of competitive elite politics, and caste and regional rivalries. The anxieties and ambitions of the North Indian Brahmin elite., tormented by the entrenched power of the Muslim upper classes and jealous of the Kayastha monopoly over the service sector, sustained the energies of the Nagari/Hindi movement. Devanagari was opposed not only to the Persian script, but also to Kaithi, a variant of the Nagari script that was popular amongst Muslims and Kayasthas. To displace a community, it was necessary to repress the assumed markers of its identity and the cultural basis of its power. The hostility towards the Persian script, coalesced with the attack against the syncretic culture associated with the hegemonic Avadh Muslim elite, fusing the issue of language and religion.

...As the Hindi/Urdu conflict became acrimonious, ‘Urdu' protagonists dismissed Hindi as rustic and uncouth, while ‘Hindi' protagonists projected Urdu as the language of the prostitutes.

...If Hindi has to realise its inner potential and become a national language of communication, argues Rai, then it has to emancipate itself from its own repressed history, and dissociate itself from ‘Hindi' - a regional language invented by a self-seeking upper caste local elite desperate to exercise national dominance. Instead of being opposed to regional languages, Hindi has to ally with them, and allow them to acquire national presence. By bringing to light the violence that ‘Hindi' has done to Hindi, this tract seeks to counter the politics of that violence, and create the possibilities of a renewal." (pp. vii to xi). Konknni has many lessons to learn from "Hindi Nationalism". Konknni will survive and flourish if we accept the principle of unity in diversity of Konknni dialects, scripts and cultures.

Supporters of Roman script have so far not opposed the Konknni in Devanagari script. Then why the Devanagari lobby opposes the inclusion of Roman script in the Official Language Act (OLA)?  In the OLA why the definition of Konknni was given as "Konkani means Konkani written in Devanagari script"?  In 1987 when Marathi was included in the OLA, the Devanagari supporters did not oppose it. Why?  The logic is simple. If the Roman script is given its due place, the use of Konknni in Devanagari script will be reduced and eventually it might die a natural death. According to Ancy Paladka, a Konknni poet from Mumbai "For the survival of Konknni in Goa, Roman and Nagari scripts must be recognized as official and equal in the Language Act.  If Marathi too becomes the official language of Goa the blame has to be borne by Nagari lobby only.  For its own survival and honour Nagari lobby should immediately take necessary steps to rectify its past sin and join hands with Roman script supporters to obtain the official status to Roman script in the Language Act."

Since the inception of Goa Konknni Akademi, not a single Roman script writer or supporter has been appointed as the President or Vice-President of it. Kala Academy stopped to give awards to Konknni books written in Roman script from 1987. Not a single book in Roman script has been given Sahitya Akademi award. Why the Devanagari lobby is silent about this injustice? They used Devanagari as a tool to suppress and oppress the minority community to perpetuate their supremacy in the field of language and literature and to grab awards, positions, jobs, power and government funds. 

Marathi is used in Goa exclusively by the Hindu community for written communication, religious and cultural areas.  If Marathi has a place in the OLA, and Konknni in Devanagari script which the majority of Goans do not want has secured a place in it, then the Roman script which is the most popular script has a right to be in the Goa Official Language Act.  The question is not the script but the dialects in use. Devanagari script is heavily dominated by the Antruzi dialect of Saraswats of Ponda region. While the Roman script promoted by the Catholics use Bardeshi dialect of North Goa. Both these Konknni dialects vary at the phonetic, lexical, morphological, syntactic and semantic domains.  Since Konknni is the language of identity both these groups want to maintain their identity through their own different scripts and dialects. In this sense in Goa the Konknni language, its scripts and dialects are at the crossroads.  It is a language politics for identity (linguistic, cultural, social, psychological), power, prestige and economical control. The good of Goa and Goans is far more important than mere language, dialect or script controversy. 

Language, scripts and dialects have become emotional and cultural dimensions of people here in Goa. Logic and facts are pushed to the back seats.  Vast majority of Catholics think that Marathi is the language of Maharashtra and of Hindus. Devanagari script is imposed on them. Local Hindus do speak Konknni but identify with Marathi as the language of the religion and culture.  Roman script is considered as foreign and Devanagari as the ‘natural' script. This misconception prevails because language and script is associated with a particular religion.  Locals while speaking Konknni use their own dialects. Nobody speaks Devanagari Konknni or Romi Konknni.  Such Konknni does not exist. Yet, in popular writings and speeches these terms are often used and create further confusion. Devanagari and Roman scripts are used to write Konknni in Goa. Due to the effort of the church, a particular dialect of Konknni in Roman script is fairly standardized. A similar process is also continues in Devanagari script due to education process.  However, both Christian and Hindu communities have not totally identified with written Konknni in any script.  Due to this language suffers.  In the Official Language Act 1987, if the definition of Konknni was avoided, then both the scripts would have flourished side by side.  Here the Devanagari proponents put the fear in the mind of the leaders of the Catholic community that if they demand for Roman script Marathi would become the official language. Without becoming the official language, Marathi gets practically all the privileges which Konknni in Devanagari script enjoys in the OLA. In this language politics, Roman script was kept out of the OLA. Devanagari protagonists accuse Roman script supporters that after 21 years they are awakened and now demand a share in grants and awards.  One could counteract this argument by saying, "What is wrong in democracy to demand equal share in grants, honour and awards?"  The supporters of Roman script want not just monetary benefits, they want equal citizenship right for their dialect and script. They do not ask for charity but for equality and justice. In democracy, there will not be peace and unity as long as injustice prevails and one group wants to dominate others and suppress their voice. 

Those who care for Konknni should be open to the ground reality and not be led by mere theoretical idealism or language/script chauvinism.  In democracy mutual respect, understanding and unity in multiplicity and other values must guide any action.  In Goa, Roman and Devanagari scripts are used to read and write Konknni. These two scripts represent two different standard dialects of Konknni. They could be compared to two wheels of a cart.  For the survival of Konknni in Goa they are really essential. There cannot be true equality and harmony among the users of these two groups without justice.  Justice will be given by amending the Official Language Act of 1987 to include Konknni written in Roman script side by side of Konknni written in Devanagari script.  Let these two groups live in Goa with dignity as equal citizens maintaining their identity and liberty. Konknni without the Roman script and the Bardeshi dialect will lose its separate identity and simplicity. According to a Hasidic saying, "The culture of the heart is greater than the culture of the mind".

Rai, Alok. 2001. Hindi Nationalism. London: Sangam  Books Limited.
Naik, Pratap S.J. 2007. ‘A short history of Konknni in Goa in the Roman script from 1556' in SOD 11. Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr, Alto Porvorim. Pp 58-69.
Naik, Pratap S.J. 2008. ‘Konknni and its scripts at the crossroads' in ‘Herald' 5 September, 2008. p 9.

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Archived "SOD" Articles

Tumchea dolleant musoll astana, tumi dusreanchea dolleantle kisor koxem kaddum yeta.
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Konknni mollar Gõycheo ani her ganvcheo mukhel ghoddnnuko
Bhurgeam khatir gitam, kovita, kannio ani her bhurgeanache avddiche borpavollicho punzo.
Novim utram, tanchi mahiti ani vapor.
SMS-achea mollar Konknni.
Mhoineache Suvalle
Gõychim festam, porbo ani zatra
Konknni mon’xachem purvil’lem bhanddar (gitam, kannio, mhonni, humannim, opari, adi).
Konknni Sod lekh ani her prokarache lekh.
Konknni kotha.
Konknni kovita ani gitam.
Novim pustokam, CD hanchi vollok.
Research articles published in TSKK Research Bulletin.
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