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Rediff.com  » News » 'Goa's defectors are pawns on the chess board'

'Goa's defectors are pawns on the chess board'

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
February 08, 2022 11:54 IST
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'Goa is a tiny state, but in terms of its Business of Politics, several powerful lobbies of India are involved in it, be it the mining lobby, hoteliers' lobby, casino lobby, hawala lobby, drugs lobby etc.'

IMAGE: Congress candidates take a pledge of loyalty towards the people of the state and the party ahead of the assembly elections, as senior party leader P Chidambaram (left) looks on, at the Mahalaxmi Temple in Panaji, January 23, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo

Journalist Sandesh Prabhudesai, recently published Ajeeb Goa's Gajab Politics, Goa Elections: A Perspective, a book providing insights into the history and politics of the western state.

In the concluding segment of his two-part interview with Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com, Prabhudesai says, "No party can come to power in Goa without taking the people of all the religions together."

 

Is it true that the Portuguese felt that Goan Christians would support them against India in 1961? Why did the Christians of Goa not stand by the Portuguese then?

Rather than dividing Goans between Hindus and Christians, I would prefer dividing it between Indian Goans and Portuguese Goans. They belonged to both religions.

The Portuguese succeeded to quite an extent in deculturising the Goan Christians, but deliberately did not abolish the caste system. They ruled over the Christians, divided into castes.

The Brahmins among Hindus and Christians were enslaved to the Portuguese. The pro-Portuguese Hindu Brahmins used to wear a coat over their dhotitopi over the head.

Goa's freedom struggle was led by educated Hindus from all castes as well as Christians, especially from the Kshatriya clan known as Chardos.

The Sudir (non-Brahmin, non-Kshatriya) community of less educated Christians was completely dependent on the Portuguese regime and was migrating all over the world for their livelihood.

Because of that, Dr T B Cunha wrote his famous pamphlet Denationalisation of Goans.

The initial leaders of Goa's freedom movement were mainly the Christians, from the 18th century, like Abe de Faria, Francis Luis Gomes, Luis de Menezes Braganza, Dr T B Cunha, Juliao Menezes and then Peter Alvares, who led the National Congress Goa till the liberation in 1961.

The Hindu nationalists were also part of the freedom struggle, but not by and large the wealthy landlord community and the mine owners belonging to both religions.

What do old-timers say about Portuguese rule in Goa? Do they feel Goa was better off under their rule compared to now, considering the fact that horse-trading has become the rule in Goa's politics?

Horse-trading or defections are the outshoots of a democratic system based on elections where everybody can participate.

During the Portuguese regime, only highly educated Portuguese-speaking wealthy landlords, who could afford to pay higher amounts of taxes, were allowed to vote and elect their representatives in the Portuguese parliament.

The common man was voiceless and the Goan was powerless. I have dealt with this in detail in the book.

The whole scenario of the first panchayat election and the first assembly election in 1962-1963. It was a revolutionary election, much different from the elections held in India after independence. People chose their own MLAs in the assembly at the state level and MPs of the Lok Sabha. The results were surprising.

How could it be compared with the undemocratic Portuguese regime where even a wedding card was censored?

In fact, the last phase of Goa's freedom movement began on June 18, 1946, as a civil liberties movement. Dr Rammanohar Lohia was arrested for speaking in public.

So atrocious was the fascist rule. Much different from the sober British rule.

Although Jawaharlal Nehru was the architect of Goa's liberation in 1961, why did the people of Goa not vote for the Congress in subsequent elections?

That's why I call it a revolutionary election. Though Nehru was the hero of Goans, his party was taught an unforgettable lesson by the Goan voters. Not a single Congress candidate was elected.

Why? What was the issue people were upset with? Why did they elect a six-month-old new party to power and a three-month-old party as the Opposition by rejecting all the national parties? That's the most interesting part of this book.

The Congress did not dare to contest the next assembly election. And this was done by the uneducated and less-educated voters. The book explains it all.

As a political analyst, can you explain why Goa is seeing 'Aaya Ram Gaya Ram' politics over the last two decades? Barring Manohar Parrikar of the BJP, no other Goan politician could unite Goans within their own party.
Does rebellion come naturally to Goans or is greed the only factor in defection to other parties?

There are several issues.

Firstly, we have had only 40 seats since 1987, when Goa attained statehood.

The assembly segments are very small, of about 25,000 to 30,000 voters.

Except in 2007 and 2012, no party could come to power with a simple majority of 21 or above. It was always a hung assembly.

The book has covered this whole era, from 1990 till date, behind which is the Business of Politics and Politics of Business. The Politics of Land is the core issue.

It is not the mere greed of politicians as it looks at face value. It is much beyond that.

Maybe Goa is a tiny state, but in terms of its Business of Politics, several powerful lobbies of India are involved in it, be it the mining lobby, hoteliers' lobby, casino lobby, hawala lobby, drugs lobby etc etc. They play a role behind the curtain.

The defectors are just pawns on the chess board.

What is the connection of young Christian Goans with Portugal? You mentioned that the Christian population reduced drastically from 38 percent to 25 percent because they were emigrating out of Goa to countries like Portugal, England and Canada. Why this exodus?

I have dealt with the issue of out-migration of Goans, especially the Christians, elaborately.

Actually in 1850, when the first census was conducted by the Portuguese, Christians comprised 64 per cent of Goa's population. Today it has gone below 25 per cent.

We know about the exodus of Hindus during religious conversions in the 16th century. But very little we know about the much bigger exodus of Christians, from the mid-19th century.

Within India, it was mainly in Bombay and Karachi (now in Pakistan) and to East African countries and European countries worldwide.

Even today, the young Goans, especially Christians, take advantage of Portuguese citizenship and travel to European countries, for employment.

It's not the love for Portugal, but the Portuguese passport, which allows you to work in the whole European Union, even amidst Brexit.

Is migration restricted to only the Christians of Goa or the Hindus too?

Initially, it was the migration of Christians because Hindus were outcasts for travelling abroad. But now religion is no bar.

There are youngsters of all the three religions working in the Gulf countries, on international ships, in Europe and also highly educated Goans -- especially the Hindus, who work in the US, Australia etc etc, like other educated Indians.

It is very inspiring to see how local Hindus and Christians in Goa have kept alive the bonhomie and brotherhood in the state. What keeps them united, unlike the neighbouring state where you read about attacks on Christian churches by right-wing Hindu groups?

That's the speciality of Goans. No party can come to power in Goa without taking the people of all the religions together.

Luckily, we had a different history, which is also connected to peculiar geographical structure evolved through this, which makes it possible.

Hindus are almost 65% while Christians are around 25%. But still, the Christian is a dominant force in politics.

Hindu-majority constituencies elect Christian leaders and vice versa. Muslims get elected where they are hardly 15%.

What is this peculiarity? Well, you need to read the book for that. Very difficult to explain in this short interview.

But let me tell you, I have written this book for the voter, not for the politicians. And not only the Goan voter, but the voter all across the country.

They should read the book, know the facts, study the circumstances, understand the polity and make Goa politics the model of Indian politics!

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SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
 
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