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HISTORY OF GOA

GOA'S PAST

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 conspirators.

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 from Delhi.

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.

THE PRESENT

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.

 


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