Friday, January 24, 2014
THE YOUNG REVOLUTIONARIES by Constantino Xavier
Ten or twenty years ago, “anti-India” feelings in Goa would be restricted to a marginal and minority group of people. Mostly elderly “ armchair activists”, they were either simply ignored or accused of harboring resent for the 1961 liberation and a nostalgia for the “ good old times” under the Portuguese colonial regime.
Those few that then denounced uncontrolled immigration from the rest of the country, surging crime rates, environmental degradation, or the collapse of a truly civil society, were immediately labeled as “ pro- Portuguese” – which, by default also meant “ anti- Indian” – and also as reactionaries unable to come to terms with the undeniable economic progress Goa has experienced in the last fi ve decades.
There is no doubt that many older Goans nurture a deep resentment against what happened in 1961. I have written before that India’s military action off ered Goa a valuable negative liberty from the oppression of a colonial and fascist regime in Lisbon, but, at the same time, that annexation through conquest also denied Goans the agency to conquer their positive liberty, for example by freely deciding their political fate within or without either Portugal or India.
What is new today, however, is how this resentment is growing well beyond a tiny declining group of elderly Goans.
The many Goa groups on Facebook offer a good sample of these voices. There you will fi nd comments that may not be overtly ant- Indian, but oft en extremist in their denunciation of non- Goan tourists and immigrants who visit or settle in the state – “ ghantis ” and “ bhingtas ”. The trendiest phrase around seems to be to describe Goa as India’s “ colony” which refl ects these youth’s dangerous ignorance about the true history and nature of colonialism.
This sentiment is also fueling demands for special status, mainly under the umbrella of the Goa Movement for Special Status. Just ten years ago, people would laugh at that idea, then made by only a handful of anonymous activists. Today, it is the rallying cry of all major parties.
Similarly, while opposition to the new ( second) international airport at Mopa, in the extreme North of the state dates back several years, it is now succeeding in galvanizing the public against the Navy, which controls the originally civilian Dabolim airport since 1962 and is thus being pressured to move to INS Kadamba in Karwar.
All this indicates unprecedented levels of mobiliaation among Goan youth, which are adopting more radical causes and slogans that, only a few years ago, were absolutely unthinkable.
When, in 2007, at the height of the Save Goa movement, I met a young Goan who professed his “hatred” against India and called Goa his “ only motherland” I thought of him as a curious and rare exception – a “ radical”. I am no longer sure he is that much of a loner today.
Oft en the root of such discontent is a very specifi c issue, however small or complex: lack of professional and education opportunities; illegal land conversion and environmental degradation; the rise in urban slums for immigrants; the surge in violent crime and insecurity associated to gangs; the beach belt colonized by Russians and foreign mafi as; the unruly social and sexual behavior of drunk Indian tourists on the beaches and narrow roads; or maybe even a small, personal experience of alienation – simply because, as Samuel Huntington reminded us, “for peoples seeking identity and reinventing ethnicity, enemies are essential”. As these young Goans struggle with their identity in a society undergoing rapid and massive transformation, many will not resist the temptation to create new enemies.
It remains to be seen to what extent democratic politics and civil society will be able to respond to this extreme discontent.
As an outside observer, I can only monitor these trends – and confess my worries at the alarming radicalisation of a cross- section of young Goans, independent of their caste, class and religion. Xenophobia, bigotry and violence have only rarely found fertile ground in a Goa that for centuries has been a cosmopolitan and liberal melting pot for diff erent cultures and identities. So it must continue.
Constantino Xavier is a Portuguese of Goan and German origin who was made in Brazil, lives in Washington D. C., and tweets at @ ConstantinoX „¯ Xenophobia, bigotry and violence have only rarely found fertile ground in a Goa that for centuries has been a cosmopolitan and liberal melting pot for different cultures and identities. The Goan