It would be easy to dismiss the Lamanis as migrant nomads. The community members in Goa have evolved to contribute wholeheartedly to local economy and become mainstream residents, says Taurappa Lamani*
The clamor of Goankarpon among ministers and talks of driving away migrants has created ripples of unease among the Lamani community. It has created a sense of insecurity among significant populace from neighboring state of Karnataka who have made Goa their permanent home for over five decades.
Travel along the beach belt of Goa and port town of Vasco shows just how important they are promoting tourism and in economic activities. Lamanis came into Goa as manual labour to build the hotels and houses of residents. Over the years the community marched ahead into small scale business of hawking, selling of handicrafts and traditional wear.
Several members of the community have moved beyond hawking. They operates garment shops, jewelry outlets, handicraft stores, shacks, tattoo shops, water sports, restaurant, taxi, etc with needing investment of over lakhs of rupees.
Most Karnataka being a neighboring state of Goa, most of the Lamanis viz., from Goar Banjar Community (GBC) are from Gadag and Haveri districts, which are barely four hour driving distance from capital city of Panjim. However, in the recent past people from Bijapur and Bagalkot districts have also arrived and they ventured into trade and service.
The presence of the community is such that on daily bases over 60 buses from Karnataka State Road and Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and Kadamba ply along the routes from Panaji, Mapusa and Vasco depot, which is highest number of buses among interstate.
The perfect mode along the tourism in Goa would be ObyG and ObyNG (Owned by Goan and operated by non Goans). However, in a small pockets of the northern beach belt tourism is operated as ObyG and ObyF ( Owned by Goans and operated by Foreigners) also.
These mutually accepted and operated model exists in water sports which is largely owned by Goans but mostly operated by people from GBC. However, in recent past high returns from tourism sector has also attracted people from Gujrat, Kashmir and Rajasthan.
The dominance of the Lamani community is visible in water sports, garments, handicrafts, tattoo shops, parlors and odd jobs of beach cleaning and maintenance and domestic helper in houses hold and shacks.
“Around 15 year ago I started as tattoo artist and later moved to commence garment and handicraft business. Now I export the fancy garments and handicrafts from Indonesia, Bali and Thailand,” said Ravi Chavan who is popularly known as Ravi Banjara, who runs his business along Tito’s lane at Baga.
He says that local Goan never had any issues with them. “In fact Goans have given us an opportunity to commence our business and we are indebted to it,” says Banjara.
“A sense of insecurity is created among GBC after a statement of tourism Minister Babu Azgaonkar to drive away with Lamani’s,” adds Banjara.
Over the period of time people have invested heavily in the shops and establishment paying over Rs 9 lakh rent for just for seven months of tourism season. Now they are worried about the future
“I had commenced as Jet ski operator, now I manage paragliding and all adventures watersports activities,” said Santosh Lamani, who operates water sport at Sinquerim beach. He says that over 90 per cent water sport operators are from GBC.
Goar Banjar art is curiosity value among foreigners. When one is obsessed with a strong desire to learn then institutions and academic are mere formality. Literacy is strange element but one still finds women from Goar Banjar Community (GBC) wearing colorful traditional dress and conversing with foreign tourists in fluent English along beach belt.
Banjara do not have any linguistic, regional, caste and state biases. Perhaps, that could be the reason that they considered entire country as our village and wherever they have settled they have adopted linguistic ethos of respective region and state. Similar, is the case with Goa. People who migrated four decades ago have adopted linguistic ethos and culture of Goa as their own culture.
Besides being fluent speaker in Konkani, section of people from this community have learnt English and now giving stress to learn Russian just to have edge over business in tourism beach belt. The curiosity value among foreigner is Goar Banjar craft, their colorful wears and their ability to chat with tourist in their language.
“Colorful clothing of GBC is a symbol of an art-loving and skilled craftsmanship. Mirror work is the unique feature of Banjara handicraft. Banjara being nomads use to live in forest they used mirrors on their clothes to protect themselves from the wild animals,” says Prof. Motiraj Rathod, researcher and scholars, who has inked thesis on Goar Banjara community. He said that handmade embroidery design done on Ghaghra, Blouse and the head cloth is highly artistic with wonderful texture and style. This art is declared as languishing art.
“When foreigner showed curiosity in handmade embroider product, people have started procuring theses item from different villages in Gadag and Haveri districts,” said Ravi Kattimani, who operates Anjuna beach.
He says that social self-help group and NGO’s have helped in providing women forum to market their product at international level. These handmade products are procured mostly from Karnataka’s villages, Udaipur, Rajasthan.
The Goar Banjara community is believed to have descended from Indus Valley who traveled across northern India into the deserts of Rajasthan thousands of years ago. Before migrating down into southern states, which includes Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andra Pradesh and Telangana, said Rathod.
‘Banjara’ is the name given to this tribal group by the British during their rule, but they are traditionally known as Lambadi and Goar. Nomadic tribes like Goarvamshiya are found in some 60 countries. Their world body is known as Roma Gypsies. There is almost 90% similarity as regards their language, costumes, and lifestyle and food habits. Roma Gypsy of Europe considered Goarvamshiya Banjaras as their brethren, said Rathod.
*The author is former president of Goa Banjara Samaj