Tuesday, June 30, 2015
As the rest of the country debates the pros and cons of the Land Acquisition Bill, I would like to draw attention to matters closer to home in Goa. Many of you are aware that there is a movement to preserve the traditions of the Comunidades and there is much discussion whether to abolish or reorganize them.
The system of the Comunidade is pre-Portuguese. In fact the earliest known date of its reference is 1526. It is known that centuries earlier, a few people from across the Ghats came to Goa. They were agriculturists, in Cape Canar (Karnataka), and were attracted by the freshness and beauty of Goa as their own lands were uncultivable.
It is well documented that the first people to live in Goa divided themselves into families called Vangores. They were further divided based in order of preference into first vangor, second, third, etc. The territory was further divided into malos (provinces) and further into gaos (villages). A certain number of vangores were transformed into ganvponn or Comunidade.
The Comunidade got its income from fields, fishing in the lakes and rivers and this was further distributed between the gaonkars. Land ownership was collectively held but controlled by the male descendants of those who claimed to be the founders of the village.
This became a form of land association similar to many other rural agricultural peoples’ form of land holding such as that of pre-Spanish Bolivia and the Puebloan peoples now in the Southwestern United States.
Over time this institution has lost its original character and now is tightly controlled by the Goa State government which leaves little scope for them to act as self-governing units.
My family, the Gomes, are one of the 9 founding families of the Comunidade of Taleigao. The other families being Mendonca, Abreu, Luis, Falcao, Martins, Veigas, Faria and Almeida. Most of them were cultivating the fields and managing plantations of cashew and mangoes with the help of cattle.
Taleigao or Tiswadi Taluka, as known, reaches up to the Panjim Church on one side and up to Dona Paula the other including the Singbal building.
The land held in this particular comunidade, is prime property and is most sought after. The Comunidade has in the past decades provided parcels of it as per tradition for various purposes to benefit the community. For example some years ago one parcel of land was given to the Don Bosco institution to set up educational facilities. However, sad to say, a part of the property adjacent to Don Bosco in Odxel has been sold to a real estate developer for an apartment complex facing the ocean. Similarly they have leased an area, close to the Chapel in Odxel, to a restaurant, a commercial entity.
It seems, the sole official function of the comunidades, currently, is to parcel out their land at government-approved rates with little thought to community benefit.
After 1962 much of the land from the Dona Paula plateau and others was forcefully acquired by the Government, Navy and other agencies. Although taken over by the Government, the same land was further sold to real estate companies for monetary profit. A classic example is the residential complex called Mathias Residency, owned by Joe Mathias, facing the sea. Little remains to the imagination when speaking of an ocean front complex regarding the amount they are being sold at whereas neither the Comunidade nor its members get any of the benefits.
Furthermore a few years ago, a huge parcel of land was acquired by the Goa state government for the purpose of building the Rajiv Gandhi IT Park. It was given under the promise of bringing jobs to our youth. This project is now abandoned and the IT Park is being shifted elsewhere. The land which was acquired to benefit our people is now going to be used to build a convention centre.
Cajetan Rapose, associate professor at St Xavier’s College (Mapusa) and attorney of the Comunidade of Assagao, in his thesis on ‘Comunidade System in Goa – A Socio-Political Analysis’ claims to have analyzed over 250 amendments, legislations, circulars, notifications and directives by governments since post-liberation. Rapose felt these directives were issued in violation of the Code of Comunidade and that governments since post liberation have never had an inclusive dialogue before initiating changes in the structure of the Comunidade.
His research revealed that various government directives had “adversely” impacted the Comunidades rendering them financially handicapped as they do not get revenue from such lands.
Therefore it is important that we take urgent measures to prevent such land acquisition which does not benefit the community but just a few in positions of power. Furthermore, any land that has been acquired but not being used for its original purpose must be returned to the comunidade so that it can be redistributed for the benefit of the community it represents.
Comunidades with a systematic and detailed code governing their functioning, are age-old institutions meant to safeguard the interests and welfare of the indigenous population. If we don't stand up now and fight for our rights, legacy, history and culture, we might find ourselves being strangers in our own land of Goa.
Friday, June 26, 2015
A few years preceding the invasion and conquest of Goa by Nehru’s "serkar" (I say conquest because according to the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of India, on 19th December 1961, Goa was conquered by India. Hence, the word Liberation is wrong), especially during the tenure of last Portuguese Governador Vassalo e Silva, Goa was booming and flourishing with all round development. Common man was happy because Vassalo e Silva introduced lot of developmental changes in Goa.
To give a sense of dignity to the students he stopped corporal punishment in schools for the students. Earlier, teachers were thrashing the students like Buffalos especially if the student is coming from low category. To spread education to all the segments of Goan society especially for the socially lower rung students, he made primary education in Portuguese compulsory for all children attaining the age of six, of course free of charge. And those who wanted to pursue higher professional education in Portugal, educational loan facilities were given to the students by the Goa government.
To spread the gospel of education, he issued order to build Portuguese Primary Schools in every village. His wish was to make every Goan adequately educated. Then, after creating appropriate climate, he gave a call to Gulf Goans willing to return to Goa for job, to come back with a promise to provide them with the necessary employment in Goa, for English educated in the Mining sector and for Portuguese educated in the government departments. Heeding this call some Goans working at Qatar Oil Company left their jobs, returned to Goa and got employed in Goa.
Then he embarked on creating avenues for Goans to get employment especially for the Portuguese educated Goans and this move was making a very good progress. Then he made easy availability thru market reforms, of the goods and commodities for the common man like two and four wheelers and electronic gadgets. Expensive and luxury goods started flowing into the hands of common man. The prices of food items were brought down thru his personal intervention so that common man could afford best of food. To check the prices of food items, in Panjim market as a common "Paklo" he was moving all by himself in civilian dress.
Agriculture was given a strong boost even by providing the affected farmers with necessary requirements to carry on with their farming uninterrupted. When in my village once Saline water entered the paddy fields, he personally came to inspect the affected paddy fields by interacting with the “Kaxtticar” farmers to the chagrin of Bamon Bhattkarshai. His wish was to elevate the standard of "Bahujan Samaz" and in this direction he was moving speedily.
During this time itself when Goa was doing all round progress, according to my source, Nehru got the smell that Goa is progressing at a fastest pace and if India wants to acquire Goa, this will be the only ripe time when Goa was still progressing. If India delays invasion of Goa for later on then even ordinary Goan would oppose invasion because by that time even the last strata of Goan would be developed and would not like to be a part of corrupt and filthy country India under the corrupt Indian leaders. Hence the military invasion of Goa started on 17th December and at that particular moment on 18th December 1961, UN discussed this topic and commanded India not to move an inch further into Goa till this topic is discussed and settled amicably.
In the ensuing Security Council Vote, 7 countries including US, UK, France, China voted against invasion of Goa but Russia, Ceylon and other two tiny countries voted in favour of invasion of Goa. Since Russia wielded Veto power, the resolution went in favour of invasion. Thus Goa was hurriedly robbed from Goans by India to convert it into a colony of India or a brothel of India or a part of Maharastra since the big stalwarts of Congress Party in Maharastra were keeping their eyes on Goa, Y. B. Chawan and V.P. Naik were two of them. As a punishment for Nehru’s Congress for illegally invading Goa without taking Goans into confidence, in the first general election, Congress Party of Nehru was totally voted out by the Goans. Such a humiliating defeat Congress never got anywhere in India.
If Goa is saved till today, we must thank Governador Vassalo e Silva for not executing Salazar’s order of destroying Goa fully to the ashes instead of giving Goa on silver platter to India. If Goa is intact till today, we must pray for Vassalo e Silva and also the then Portuguese Patriarch of Goa who impressed upon Vassalo e Silva not to follow the diktats of Portuguese dictator Salazar. It was their Christian principles that made them to act the way they acted. This is the greatness of Christianity. Thru their decision they saved not only minority Christians but also majority Hindus. A few days before the invasion of Goa, the way Bombs were implanted all over Goa by the Portuguese it was really horrible. May the Christian souls of both these Portuguese stalwarts rest in peace.
Like Goa, Pondichery in South India was also colonized not by the Portuguese but by the French and it was given freedom not in 1947 but in 1954. It took many years after independence in 1947 for India to claim possession of Pondichery from France officially and legally. At the time of surrender of Pondichery to India in a treaty and agreement signed by the French Foreign Minister and Nehru of India, a number of Clauses were put by the French government to safeguard the rights of the citizens of Pondichery and all these clauses were accepted by the same Nehru who promised mountains to Goans but none given. It took long years of negotiations for India and France to agree on these clauses and then only France agreed to hand over Pondichery to India. While Pondicherians were given all the rights and facilities to safeguards their interest by Nehru, Goans were totally neglected because Goa is a precious place for India. For this reason India robbed Goa in the name of fake lliberation.
Take the case of Macao, another colony of Portugal. When it was given to China by the Portuguese government, both the countries Portugal and China negotiated for long years the clauses for transfer of power. Like Pondicherians, Macao citizens were also given lot of facilities and rights. It is almost like an independent country now except that its sovereignty comes under China. There is no high command in Beijing for Macao, all the decisions are taken in Macao only. And to get all these facilities, Portuguese government worked hard to convince China to agree.
While Portugal at the time of transfer of power of Macao to China protected the rights of Macao citizens, the same assurance was not given to Goans at the time of officially and legally handing over Goa to India in 1974. Before the transfer of Macao to China, Portugese took Macao citizens into confidence and then only transferred the power to China. But at the time of negotiating of officially transferring of power of Goa to India in New York in 1974, only the two persons – foreign ministers of India and Portugal – decided what is good and what is bad for Goans without even consulting Goans. Mario Soares was the foreign minister of Portugal and it was he who gave Goa on silver platter to India on behalf of Portugal. When the final agreement was signed in the same year in Delhi by both the leaders, there was nothing for Goans thus Portugal also robbed Goans of their rights and previlleges and because of this we are now suffering in Goa as orphans.
India does not care for our rights and sentiments. Special Status will never be given to Goa inspite of the lies given by Modi and Parricar. In the next election in 1922 there is a possibility of non-Goans to form government in Goa because majority of residents in Goa will be non-Goans then and because of their harsh and cruel nature they will even massacre Goans if we do not toe their line, just as Jews did for Palestinians in the occupied Palestine. Our situation will be very pitiable. Our freedom fighters who suffered so much to get rid of Portuguese from Goa will never be able to help us. They are dead issue now only. We have to forget them to do anything good for Goa and Goans. They are happy with their Tamrapatras and Pensions that Indian government gave them.
In this scenario, is everything lost for us? No, never. With some hope, we have to tell our woes to the current generation and see if we can get a new leadership from them to fight peacefully for our rights, if necessary by approaching even UN, if possible. UN Charter gives certain facilities to the indigenous people who are facing a disguised genocide in Goa. Global Goans can think over this issue because they are in better position to make their voice more audible. If possible we must conduct a hunger strike in front of Portuguese Consulate in Panjim to make Portugal aware of our sentiments and of the mistake they did by ignoring us at the time of transferring of power of Goa to India. Side by side, we must conduct peaceful “dharna” in Delhi to make Delhi “babus” aware of our grievances because our case is totally different. We were not Indian citizens till 1961/62 but we were made Indian citizens by force by Indian “dadageri”. By doing this much we may not get anything but by sleeping at home will we get something?
Saturday, June 13, 2015
Today, if anyone ventures out of Goa for employment, there is no likelihood that he will ever find his home intact-likely to be lost in the laws of the jungle! Regarding Mr. Mesquita's suggestion that Goans should stay put in Goa and save Goa, I would ask the question, save from what? Through recycling the Alemaos, Faleiros, Sardinhas, Monteserrats, or the ...kars beginning with the Bandodkars, Goans are losing dignity if any was left after the liberation (?1961) . At least the Bandodkars made sure of that. If your own government usurps land belonging to your community (comunidades), what is there left for a honest Goan to fight for?
Armed conflicts between countries happen because of hurt egos or greed for land and its material resources and not because of an abstract concept called love of their inhabitants or their freedom, and Portuguese Goa or Nehru's India were not exceptions. Goa was freed of the Portuguese through an armed invasion not for the love of Goans or respect for "freedom fighters" (who continue to take birth even today half a century later) but solely for its land and mineral wealth. Let us not continue to live in denial of this fact.
Wars happen more out of hatred then out of brotherly love. The Portuguese were overthrown by violent means and not by any negotiation or peace understanding. Goa was lost in 1961 to a population of 400 million and today there are 1.2 billion people eyeing to make Goa their homeland. Goans like the rest of humanity need jobs in order to have a decent survival chance. They cannot keep living on hot air exhaled by our politicians from their southern ends in the form of 50,000 jobs in the next 2 years-that is living in cloud cuckoo land! An army can only march on its stomach. Goa's culture or what is left of it, is overwhelmed by the culture of of 1.2 billion other people and like Jason has mentioned in the above article, we are going to change our habits to appease the powers to be. These types of changes have already begun to happen since December 1961-does anyone remember Father Naik?
At one point Konkani happened to be the predominant medium of communication and English was seldom spoken prior to 1961 and today English seems to be displacing Konkani. You step into any public transport mode and one rarely hears anyone speaking in Konkani. 450 years of Portuguese administration and we should have all been communicating in Portuguese if not Konkani. It is a real tragedy for Portugal to hear Goan people speak in English at their Embassies while asking for a Portuguese passport. Then it is no surprise to me that in 1975 Portugal gave up all its claim over Goa. All we can do is to try and slow down the pace of commercialization and make the life of our people tolerable and as convenient as practicable. Hoping to save our culture may turn out to be a dream unfulfilled. It is very very sad indeed!
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
Q: You suggest India's official account of the cause of the 1962 border war is false. What, in your view, is the truth?
NM: By September 1962 the Indian "forward policy" of trying to force the Chinese out of territory India claimed had built up great tension in the Western (Ladakh) sector of the border, with the Chinese army just blocking it. Then the Nehru government applied the forward policy to the McMahon Line eastern sector and when the Chinese blocked that too India in effect declared war with Nehru's announcement on October 11 that the Army had been ordered to "free our territory", which meant to attack the Chinese and drive them back. As General Niranjan Prasad, commander of 4 Division, wrote later: "We at the front knew that since Nehru had said he was going to attack, the Chinese were certainly not going to wait to be attacked" — and of course they didn't. That's how the war began. The Chinese attack was both reactive, in that General Kaul had begun the Indian assault on October 10, and pre-emptive because after that failure the Indian drive had been suspended to build up strength for a resumed attack.
Q: What in your opinion were the policies, on both sides, that brought about the basic quarrel over the border?
NM: As far as the McMahon Line was concerned India inherited the dispute with China, which the British had created in the mid-1930s by seizing the Tibetan territory they re-named NEFA. The PRC government was prepared to accept that border alignment but insisted that it be re-negotiated, that is put through the usual diplomatic process, to wipe out its imperialist origins. Nehru refused, using London's false claim that the Simla Conference had already legitimised the McMahon Line to back up that refusal — that was his Himalayan blunder. Then in 1954 he compounded that mistake by laying cartographic claim to a swathe of territory in the north-west, the Aksai Chin, a claim which was beyond anything the British had ever claimed and on an area which Chinese governments had treated as their own for at least a hundred years. To make matters worse, he ruled that there should be no negotiation over that claim either! So Indian policy had created a border dispute and also ruled out the only way it could peacefully be settled, through diplomatic negotiation.
Q: Whatever the truth about the origins of the war, it's the effect on India-China relations and the deadlock since then that is important now... And there was the worry that bringing up all the bitterness of that bloody conflict may only make matters worse?
NM: Certainly not, the opposite is true I think. If the Henderson Brooks Report is read closely in India (and it's not easy reading!) people will see that political favouritism put the Army under incompetent leadership which blindly followed the Nehru government's provocative policy. It shows that all the way, from formulation to implementation of the Forward Policy, that policy was resisted by the pucca soldiers because they saw it must end in a conflict India could only lose, but the orders came from the top and in the end had to be obeyed... the authors of the report ruefully quote the poem, "theirs not to reason why... but to do or die".
Q: What made you publish the report now, and why were you selective about what you published?
NM: There's a significant gap in what I published, about 45 pages, otherwise I published all I have, which is Volume One of the Report's two volumes. The gap is there only because the time I had to copy it was limited, and when I saw I wouldn't have time to copy it all I chose to leave out a chunk in the middle rather than the end of it. As for the timing, I'd been trying to make it public for years but thought if I did it myself there'd just be attacks on me rather than concentration on the Report's contents, and to some extent that what's happening now. So a couple of years ago I made the text available to several major Indian papers on condition they didn't disclose their source, but none of them would publish it, so by this time I had to conclude that if I didn't do it myself it might never see the light of day. Now it's done without any harm whatever to national security let's hope the Indian government, this one or the next, will quickly publish both volumes of the Henderson Brooks Report without any gaps or editing.
Q: All right, but don't you see you may have made matters worse by arousing all this heated discussion just before a general election?
NM: Honestly, the elections never crossed my mind as bearing on my decision, I don't follow Indian politics closely nowadays. And as for making matters worse, absolutely not, I see the opposite as being true. The tragic irony in all this is that settlement would be easy and the way to settlement has always been open! All that is required is that the Indian government, any Indian government, reverses the Nehru refusal to negotiate. And it's possible that under the guise of just "talking", a secret process of negotiation has in fact been going on and there are signs that it may have reached agreement on basics. If so the Indian public is more likely to welcome that outcome because the myth of "Chinese aggression" has been exposed again, as the Henderson Brooks report does. I say "again" because all this, the historical and diplomatic background and what the Henderson Brooks report tells about the debacle, was exposed long ago in my 1970 book India's China War, and a revised edition of that has just come out in Delhi.