On the eve of Opinion Poll Day, the new kid on the block – Goencho Avaaz – has spoken of a dream that the past generations of this land had for Goa which led to the demand of a separate Union Territory for Goa and the rejection of merger with Maharashtra. The dream, as Goencho Avaaz has elucidated, was to ensure the protection of the unique social, cultural, ecological values enshrined in the heritage and hospitality called Goenkarponn. This dream, Goencho Avaaz says, now faces a grave threat of getting annihilated due to the greed of politicians and real estate agents who have been plundering and selling Goa at the cost of the people.
This is just an echo of what Goans across the State have been saying the past few years. There is a sense of futility that can be seen in the people, when they talk of Goan identity and how it has been diluted over the years. As pointed out by octogenarian Antonio Piedade Morais, since the Opinion Poll, migration has increased leading to a change in the Goan demography, which in turn has affected Goan culture and the identity of Goans, diluting the victory of the Opinion Poll. But he doesn’t stop there. The staunch Konkani protagonist fears that the migration will in the future take the State from the hands of the ‘niz’ Goykar resulting in the loss of Goan identity – the Konkani language and culture.
True, if there comes a day in the distant future when the Konkani is hardly spoken or written, what will constitute Goan identity? The land, demarcated by its geographical boundaries, denotes only the physical area which is Goa. It is the language and culture that creates and cements the identity. If this is allowed to be erased, how will Goans recognise each other in the future? Or, how will the Goan be identified in the future? It brings to mind the cartoons of Mario Miranda that predicted the changes in Goa, where the Goan would be identified, or perhaps singled out in the crowd, as the one that does not conform with the rest of the people around him. The cartoon did bring a smile to the face, but it could well prove to be frighteningly true in the years to come.
Camouflaged under the Union Territory garb, what the Opinion Poll was all about was preserving Goan identity – the Konkani language and the culture. The post-liberation history of Goa has been peppered by battles to save the identity. Retaining Union Territory status of 1967 was the first such struggle that ended in a victory. The next big movement, was the 1985 to 1987 prolonged agitation to make Konkani the official language of Goa, that saw some violence and even brought the land to a halt. That too finally saw Konkani take its place as the official language. Then came the struggle to scrap the Regional Plan 2011 that proposed massive changes in the land, that would alter the face of Goa, watering down several aspects of Goan identity. That too was won, but that’s a battle that still continues, as land use maps and plans that are proposed by the government, meet the disapproval of the people, whose aims do not match.
And so the battle to preserve the identity of Goa continues, being fought in the sands, in the fields, in the forests, in the rivers, and even in the barren mining pits, for the Goan is found everywhere, and loves every bit of his land and his heritage and his identity. It is fought through newspaper articles, through suits and petitions in courts, through agitations on the streets, using all democratic means available to save for posterity the identity of the people and the land. Opinion Poll Day is a reminder of this, and an occasion to rededicate to the efforts to keep Goan identity from further dilution.