Protection of Goa and Goans, their land, ethos, culture, identity and language are undoubtedly issues that every true blooded Goan is not only concerned but worried about, but has not been able to give expression to, in a manner that would compel those in authority to act. Several politicians have, on several occasions, raised the issue of special status for Goa, but only a handful of them, like Shantaram Naik, Francis D’Souza, Reginaldo Lourenco and a maybe a few others have been vocal, clear and sincere in conveying what Goans actually want and urgently need and what they mean by this demand.
Goans gracefully accepted India’s sovereignty over Goa and never questioned it despite the promises made by late Jawaharlal Nehru to Goans, including the assurance that Goans would have the right to decide their own future, remaining unfulfilled. Unfortunately, however, Goans also remained silent spectators to the decisions taken both by Portugal and India, on their behalf without having any mandate to do so. It is interesting to note that while Portugal granted Independence to all its colonies, except Macau, it did not feel necessary to consult Goans prior to signing, in December 1974, a Treaty with India, “on recognition of India’s sovereignty over Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and related matters”. Goa and Goans were sacrificed at the altar of Portugal’s longing to free itself from isolation due to its faulty and intransigent policy on its colonies and India’s anxiety in legalizing what till then was considered Goa’s illegal occupation. Portugal not only denied us the right to autonomy, despite persistent demands from certain quarters and the knowledge that a silent majority was in its favour, but later compounded this sin by signing the 1974 agreement, without any consultations with Goans or ensuring the safeguard of certain rights and obligations, which would have protected us from the mess we are in today.
But all this is history now. Lets us shed our tendency to indulge in blame game and find fault with everyone else, except ourselves, on what is happening to us. Our deep and prolonged slumber, lack of courage and absence of unity, tenacity and perseverance have been the main causes for our present situation. What is required from us now is to put our past behind, forget our differences, particularly of caste, religion, language or script and unite for a greater cause – the cause of our beautiful land and of our people. We owe it to our ancestors to retain and to our descendants to save this earthly paradise from destruction and ecological disaster and our people the ignominy of being treated as second class citizens by none other than our own people. We have rightly thrown one lot out. We will throw the other one too if Goans do not have their way.
Time is running out for us. We need to put Goa back on the tracks. We are not asking for much – just protection of our land from sale to outsiders and controlled in-migration, considering our fragile and limited infrastructure and resources. It is an affront to our dignity and self-respect to see that Goa is up for sale and Goans are being treated as aliens in their own land. With vultures walking in with brief cases full of ill-gotten and unaccounted wealth, thanks to Governments both at the Centre and in the States that thrive on this, honest Goans cannot afford even a piece of land, leave alone a house to live in. The previous Government, with sizeable number of Ministers and MLAs in real estate and construction business, was averse to a law that would restrict sale of land to outsiders. But even Manohar Parrikar does not seem serious enough on this issue.
We heard him attentively recently, on the issue of Special Status, when in the Assembly he roared that the Central Govt. was taking from us more than what it was giving and that he would demand our share and not ask for alms (anv bhik magpa nam). Even when it came to proposing a law prohibiting sale of agricultural land, he affirmed that only agriculturists would be entitled to buy, without specifying whether it would be restricted to goans. It is significant that except at Mathany’s funeral, when he clearly asserted that he was committed to fulfilling his ideals, including his dream of Special Status, the Chief Minister cleverly avoided spelling out what he means by this term. He has even treated it lightly by comparing it to children’s inclination for chocolates.
My humble appeal to my fellow Goans is that we need to unite for the issue is too serious and too pressing to be ignored or treated casually. It is a question of life and death. Fortunately today, more than never before, Hindus, Christians and Muslims seem to be all united in this demand, as they have all realized that we have been taken for a ride not only by the Centre but by some of our own people for too long a time. We all now feel that enough is enough. No party will be willing to support us, conveniently ignoring the fact that Goa was not part of the Constituent Assembly and not politically a part of India till 1961 and hence has every right to be treated on a different footing altogether.
Meanwhile, we must stop the Government from parting with our land to Central agencies for any of their projects, be it defence or any other. Shortly, a movement is due to start to press for these demands. Let us wholeheartedly lend our support to this just cause of the Goans. Like Tilak let us assert: It is our birthright and we shall have it, come what may.