The sheer inaccessibility
of Goa by land has always kept it out of the mainstream of Indian
History. On the other hand, its control of the seas and above all
the lucrative spice trade made it a much-coveted prize for rival
colonial powers. Until a century before the arrival of the Portuguese
adventure Vasco Da Gama who landed near Kozhikode in Kerala in 1498,
Goa had belonged for over a thousand years to the kingdom of Kadamba.
In the interim it had been successfully conquered by the Karnatakan
Vijayanagars, the Muslim Bahmanis and Yousuf Adil Shah of Bijapur
but the capture of the fort at Panaji by Alfonso De Albuquerque
in 1510 signaled the start of a Portuguese occupation that was to
last for 450 years.
Meanwhile, conversions to
Christianity started by the Franciscans gathered pace when St.Francis
Xavier founded the Jesuit Mission in 1542. With the advent of the
inquisition soon afterwards laws were introduced censoring literature
and banning any faith other than Catholicism even the long established
Syrian Christian community were branded heretics. Hindu temples
were destroyed and converted Hindus adopted Portuguese names such
as DA Silva, Correa and De'Sousa which remain common in the region.
The transitional influence of the Jesuits eventually alarmed the
Portuguese government. The Jesuits were expelled in 1749 which made
it possible for Indian Goans to take up the priesthood. However,
standards of education suffered and Goa entered a period of decline.
The Portuguese were not prepared to help but neither would they
allow native Goans equal rights. An abortive attempt to establish
the Goan Republic was quelled with the execution of fifteen Goan
A spin-off of the British
conflict with Tipu Sultan of Mysore (an ally of the French at the
end of the eighteenth century, was the British occupation of Goa,
a little known period of the region's history, which lasted sixteen
years from 1797. The occupation was solely liberalization such as
the restoration of Hindu's rights to worship, the nineteenth century
saw widespread cvivil unrest. During British occupation many Goans
moved to Mumbai and elsewhere in British India to find work.
The success of the post independence
Goans struggle for freedom from Portugal owed as much to the efforts
of the Indian Government who cut off diplomatic ties with Portugal
as to the work of freedom fighters such as Menezes Braganza and
Dr.Cunha. After a "liberation march" in 1955 resulted in a number
of deaths and the state was blockaded. Trade with Mumbai ceased
and the railway was cut off so Goa set out to forge international
links particularly with Pakistan and Sri Lanka. That led to the
building of Dabolim airport and a determination to improve local
agricultural output. In 1961 Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru finally
ran out of patience with his opposite number in Lisbon the right
wing director Salazar and send in the armed forces. Mounted in defiance
of a United Nations resolution "Operation Vijay" met with only token
resistance and the Indian army overran Goa in two days. Thereafter
Goa (along with Portugal's other two enclaves Daman and Diu) became
part of India as a self governing Union Territory with minimum interference
Since Independence Goa has
continued to prosper bolstered by receipts from iron-ore exports
and a booming tourist industry, but it is struggling to hold its
own against a tidal wave of immigration from other Indian States.
Its inhabitants voted overwhelmingly to resist merger with neighboring
Maharashtra in 1980's and successfully lobbied for Konkani to be
granted official language status in 1987 when Goa was finally declared
a full-fledged state of the Indian Union.
THE STRUGGLE FOR KONKANI
Even before Goa's Independence in 1961 a handful
of Goans were fighting a protracted battle to have Konkani recognized
as a separate language. The Struggle to preserve it was more than
just a quibble over the school syllabus. It related to the whole
question of statehood and identity, at a time when Goa was threatened
with absorption into one or other of its large neighbors.
The problem lay in the fact that after several
hundred years of foreign rule there was little sense of what the
language of the people really was. Konkani, the natural language
of the region had been sidelined and had failed to develop under
the Portuguese. Language had become divided on caste and community
grounds. High caste families mostly "Catholics and Hindu Brahmins"
spoke Portuguese, English and Konkani. Lower caste Hindu families
tended to speak Marathi (the natural language of Maharashtra) as
a first language and some Konkani. Although Konkani was the only
language spoken by almost everyone in the state it was far from
standard and the local dialects and scripts (there are five scripts
in all promised problems of its own.
For those fighting the battle of Konkani the
first step was to have it recognized as one of the language of India
rather than as a dialect of Marathi which may in Maharashtra claimed
it really was. With the assistance of the linguistic experts a few
enthusiasts set about proving its separate identity. The first success
was to have konkani recognized in 1978 as "an important Language"
by the Sahitya Academe.
After this issue was quietly dropped until
early 1986 when Luizinho Faleiro introduced a bill demanding the
Konkani should be declared the official language of Goa. Finally
after much political maneuvering an Official Language Bill was introduced
and Konkani was declared the state language with safeguards for
Marathi. Konkani was added to the schedule of the Indian Constitution
as the 18th national language in 1992.
As a legacy of its unusual colonial history
Goa was inherited a mixture of language. Portuguese is still spoken
as a second language by a few Goans, although it is gradually dying
out. The official language of India is Hindi, which children in
Goa are obliged to learn in school. Konkani is now accepted as the
official language of the state and Marathi is also taught as a standard
subject. Ironically the primary language used in many schools is
none of the above - for most children are actually taught English.
The arguments about continuing or abandoning this policy of placing
such importance on English rage on. Most feel that continuing use
of English is a distinct advantage to their children who will need
it if they are to find good jobs in the future. Meanwhile children
in Goa are taught three or four languages as a standard part of
the school syllabus.