Today, May 30, Goa completes 31 years of being recognised as the 25th Indian state. From the position of a union territory Goa was raised to a level of a state with the sole intention of preserving the Goan identity. As there are several issues that plague Goa and threaten its uniqueness and identity NT BUZZ finds out more about the need to preserve Goan language and its culture
SHERAS FERNANDES | NT BUZZ
31 years ago Goa became a state much to the joy of ‘goemkars’ who proudly call themselves Goans. Statehood was demanded by the citizens of Goa in order to preserve Goan identity which encompasses the language – Konkani, the cultural traditions and literature. “Statehood was needed in order for Goans to have self-respect. Only a state is an independent entity in the Union of India, with powers to take decision and guide the destiny of the state in the best way possible,” says president of Dalgado Konknni Akademi (DKA), Tomazinho Cardozo. This however would not be possible if we were under the central government as a union territory.
Threat to Konkani
The language is possibly the best gift we have received from our ancestors. Nobody realised the damage done to the identity of a place known far and wide after achieving statehood. Konkani which is the identity of Goa has not been given due respect. “Konkani has being neglected at all levels. Though it is made the official language not many use it as most of our correspondence is in English,” says Cardozo. Back then Konkani was made the official language in Devanagari script which was not acceptable to all the people of Goa. This in turn became a hindrance to the development of this language. Even after statehood Konkani wasn’t the principal language to acquire employment. “It was mandatory that one should have knowledge of Konkani but it wasn’t made compulsory to study Konkani in either of the two scripts,” says Cardozo. Had it been made compulsory, Konkani writer Bharat Naik says that today everybody would have studied Konkani for employment. “If one wants to avail any government facility one has to be well-versed with English. To seek employment in any government department one needs to know English and not Konkani nor is there any compulsion to learn Konkani,” says Naik.
Cardozo points out that recently many schools teaching Konkani opted for English as the medium of instruction (MoU). “It was learnt that Konkani that is taught in schools has no relevance as far as getting a job is concerned and until and unless a job is secure nobody wants to learn a language,” says Cardozo. “If Konkani was made an official language, with an option of Roman script as well, many would have used it in administration,” says Cardozo. Comparing Goa to other states of India Naik says: “In other states you need to understand and know the vernacular language if you wish to seek employment or live in that state. If the same is done in Goa maybe the fate of Goa will change.”
It is not just the decrease in native language speakers that has affected the use of Konkani in the state but also the influx of non-Goans in Goa. “The entry of migrants from other states in India has increased drastically and within a decade or so they will outnumber Goans,” says Cardozo. Presently 45 per cent of the population in Goa is from other parts of the country. “In the next ten years they will become 50 to 55 per cent. In this case where is the identity of Goans and is the purpose of statehood served in such a scenario?” questions Cardozo.
Today the biggest threat to our language is that native speakers are using other regional languages to communicate with non-Goans in Goa. “Goans talk to non-Goans in Hindi. We ourselves have lowered our respect for our language. Why not ask the non-Goans to learn Konkani and talk to native speakers in Konkani,” says Cardozo. Naik opines that if we use Konkani in our day-to-day conversation then non-Goans will have to learn and speak Konkani. “In Goa there are many non-Goans and they don’t understand our language and hence we talk to them in their language. If one wants to live in Goa then they should learn Konkani,” says Naik.
One should be proud to talk in their mother tongue and should not consider it inferior. “Every language is rich in its own way and one should not be labelled as an intellectual or illiterate based on the language they speak,” says president of Konkani Bhasha Mandal, Margao and Konkani writer Chetan Acharya. He opines that knowledge is not based on language. “Our ancestors were not fluent in speaking English or other foreign languages yet they were smart and had knowledge about several topics. This has been passed down for generations and we still posses this rich source of information,” says Acharya. One is rooted to his culture and traditions if he talks in his mother tongue. “Those who despise the language are ignorant. Language is a source of knowledge, information and widens one’s understanding on different topics. It need not be in a particular language,” says Cardozo. Today the two scripts of Konkani are used in several setups but the Roman Konkani script is prominently used by the church. Cardozo opines: “The day Konkani is not used in churches will be the beginning of the end of Konkani in Goa.” Parents have been requesting the church to serve masses in English and replace the traditional means of teaching catechism to children from Konkani to English. “We have to do away with the inferiority complex associated with Konkani and only then will our language develop and flourish,” said Cardozo. He adds that the youth is the future of the country and the youngsters have to take responsibility to protect our identity – Konkani.
Preserving Marathi and Portuguese
It cannot be ignored that besides Konkani, languages like Portuguese and Marathi are also spoken by native Goans and have to be protected too. “Post liberation the use of Portuguese has decreased but there are a few households of Portuguese descents in Goa that speak in Portuguese while Marathi is still widely spoken across the state,” says Cardozo.
Statehood was achieved in order to preserve Goan identity and hence Cardozo says: “Let’s promote Goan culture and develop Goa in a sustainable way which we have so far failed to do. Hence efforts should be made to preserve whatever is left of Goa for the future generation.”
(Dalgado Konknni Akademi (DKA) will organise a programme comprising of poetry, skits, story or thought presentation to celebrate Goa Statehood Day on May 30 at 4.30 p.m. at the DKA’s Reginald Fernandes conference hall, Panaji. The event is open to all.)