Herald: Of statues, bridges and recognising a stalwart of Goan identity

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Of statues, bridges and recognising a stalwart of Goan identity

27 Jan 2019 06:27am IST

Report by
Alexandre Moniz Barbosa

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27 Jan 2019 06:27am IST

Report by
Alexandre Moniz Barbosa

A statue of Dr Jack de Sequeira in the Assembly complex where there exists one of Dayanand Bandodkar will not just look just fine but also complete the picture as the two stalwarts stand on their own pedestals. A bridge named after Dr Jack de Sequeira will also be a good idea to remember him by. After all the State would be honouring for perpetuity the memory of a leader who played a major role in the struggle to retain the identity of Goa. Who can tell, given the politics of one-upmanship being now played out in the State over his memory, there could even emerge a demand from one of the political parties, or one of the politicians, to rename a village or a town after Dr Jack de Sequeira. 

But frankly, is such symbolism the only manner in which Goa and Goans can pay tribute to the memory of the first leader of the opposition who is popularly known across the State as the Father of the Opinion Poll?

It is rare that a leader of the opposition, even 30 years after having passed away, is not only remembered but there are demands for his statue to be erected and for State infrastructure to be named after him. But, Goa needs to go beyond such symbolism and beyond scoring political brownie points when it comes to honouring Sequeira. It has reached a level where if one politician wants a statue of Sequeira, another wants a bigger statue of the political stalwart and then a third wants a bridge to be named after him. Not to be left out from the demands, the main opposition party joins the chorus and seeks that the bridges over the Rivers Mandovi and Zuari be named after Goa’s first chief minister Dayanand Bandodkar and Jack de Sequeira.

One does have to take time to ponder over whether the man himself, Joao Hugo Eduardo de Sequeira, who is best remembered for the contribution to preserving Goan identity, would want his memory to be perpetuated through statues and bridges and other concrete structures. It would perhaps be what one could well term as a monumental shame to only have monuments in his name. The Goa of the 1960s, when he fought the attempt to merge Goa with Maharashtra, and the one that he, at that time, would have visualised in the future, would not be one of the unimagined change that we see today. 

Perhaps today’s political parties and politicians need to ask a few questions to themselves, before they make demands of statues of Sequeira in the Assembly complex. The prime question would be: Sequeira fought for a separate identity, but what have those who came after him done to save that identity from being diluted?

After he lost the 1979 election from St Cruz constituency, the election in which the regional parties made way for the national parties who then formed the government for the first time, Sequeira never again contested an election, returning to running his business. Which of today’s politicians will promise to take a loss as a positive result from the people and retire from politics? We have politicians returning to the electoral arena after every loss, some seeking to make a return two or three times and being unsuccessful at it, yet never giving up. 

Congress, as the opposition party, needs to ask of itself if it is playing the role of the opposition, of being a watchdog of democracy and a counter to the government as did Sequeira and the United Goans Party. Had Sequeira, being in the opposition, not convinced New Delhi of the need for an Opinion Poll to decide the issue of merger, Goa may well have been today a district of Maharashtra. Is the current opposition party able to play such a role in the State? Sequeira did it, as leader of a regional party, and as opposition leader in a small, fledgling Union Territory, dealing and convincing three different Prime Ministers – Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi – before the Opinion Poll was finally held. Congress can surely learn a few lessons from him on how to behave as an opposition party.

Sequeira stood by his principles, never once wavering in his resolve to keep Goa separate and hence its identity distinct. He played a major role at that very crucial period of history, when Goa stood at a fork in its path, searching for an answer that would lead it to taking the right road ahead. Sequeira directed that decision and even five decades later, while we enjoy the fruits of that vote – of that Opinion Poll – Goans struggle to stand together as one.

If Goa does indeed intend to pay tribute to Sequeira, so as to recognise his immense and invaluable contribution towards the land retaining its distinct identity, then it should be done by ensuring that what remains of the land and the culture is not frittered away for purely economic reasons or due to the shortsightedness of a few politicians. What role will a statue of Sequeira play if the identity he strove to preserve has been forever washed away?

It is 30 years since Sequeira passed away, but there are many who remember the man who, in his white attire and stroking his long grey beard as he spoke, convinced the masses of retaining Goan identity. Strangely, there is no unanimity now among the politicians on how to retain his memory. Should it be a statue, a bridge or should all together work towards preserving Goan identity? Surely Sequeira would like the last while a statue or two would serve as balm to the politicians who have been demanding them. 
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