2006-06-20 21:04:53 UTC
By Pratap Naik, S.J.
Pre-liberation Goa: During Goa's pre-liberation period,
members of the majority community and common folks of the
minority community, for their oral communication, used
Konknni. The majority community used Marathi for primary
education, for popular religion, accounts, written
communication, theatre and other spheres of their lives.
The elite of the minority community used Portuguese at
home and for education. They used Konknni to converse
with the majority community and common folks of the
minority community who did not know Portuguese language.
Portuguese was considered the language of the cultured.
The elite of the minority community looked down on
Konknni as a language of the servants and
the socio-economically backward commonfolk.
Konknni in the Roman script was used for popular religious
practices and by the mass media. Konknni written in the
Devanagari script hardly existed during this period. It had
practically no influence over the members of the majority
Marathi also enjoyed a privileged position among the majority
community, which identified Marathi as their intellectual and
cultural language. However there was no animosity or rivalry
among the users of these three languages. These three
languages co-existed with unity and harmony.
In the post-liberation period: After 1965, in keeping with
the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic
Church all over the world replaced Latin by local languages
for the religious domain. Due to this, in Goa too, the Church
actively promoted religious services in Konknni.
The Church contributed to standardize Konknni in the Roman
script, which had its roots in sixteenth century. Let us call
this dialect as Roman Script Standard Konknni (RSSK). After
the liberation of Goa, Konknni language suffered a number of
setbacks. This happened due to partly lack of vision and
leadership on the part of the minority community, and partly
due to the manipulative tactics used by self-proclaimed
protectors of Konknni.
*** After the liberation of Goa, Catholic schools introduced
Konknni in the Devanagari script as a third language in their
schools. The Devanagari proponents succeeded to convince a
few leaders of the minority community that the Devanagari
script is the "natural script" of Konknni and it is related
to our nationalism and patriotism!
Majority of the students were from the Catholic community.
They were familiar with the Roman script and the RSSK dialect
due to religious literature and mass media. But the RSSK
dialect was not taught in schools. A different dialect was
thrust upon them in the name of Konknni and nationalism.
According to Ulhas Buyanv, one of the stalwarts of Opinion
Poll in Goa and veteran Konknni singer, "a Konknni dialect of
three per cent of a minuscule section of the majority
community was forced upon 30% minority community."
Students of the minority community who had opted for Konknni
had no real option. They were not familiar with Marathi.
Besides they never identified with Marathi as their language.
Between Marathi and Konknni, they were pushed to take Konknni
in Devanagari script. Students learnt Konknni not out of
conviction or love of Konknni, but out of sheer compulsion.
Therefore, they never took interest in keeping up the
language they learnt. Once they finished their education,
they simply gave up reading and writing Konknni in the
Devanagari script. This situation created a strong feeling of
dislike towards Konknni in the Devanagari script among the
If the textbooks had included the Konknni dialect of the
majority community and the RSSK dialect of the minority
community, this unhealthy tension could have been
avoided and a healthy blending of two dialects would
have helped to promote a new standard dialect of Konknni
in Goa. Dialects and scripts are emotional issues. In a
democracy, one group cannot impose their preferences on
the others. Language is far more important than its
scripts. Unfortunately, among a section of Konknnis (or,
Konknni speakers) the Konknni language was identified
with the Devanagari script.
*** Schools run by the majority community promote more of
Marathi compared to Konknni. As on September 30, 2004, there
were 137 Konknni medium primary schools run by NGOs. Out of
these only six primary schools are exclusively run by the
majority community. However, the majority community was
running 63 Marathi medium primary schools. On the other hand,
the minority community ran 126 Konknni medium primary schools.
Konknni can be offered as the third language from the fifth
to tenth standard in schools in Goa. As of February 3, 2005,
in Goa there are 292 NGO high schools. Out of which only 207
schools offer Konknni as a third language. Out of these, 207
schools 126 belong to the minority community. This means more
than 50% of high schools run by the majority community do not
provide the option to their students to opt for Konknni as a
third language. From this, if one concludes that Marathi is
for the majority community and Konknni in Devanagari script
mainly for the minority community, will one be wrong?
*** On February 26, 1975, the Sahitya Akademi in New Delhi
recognized Konknni as an independent literary language, based
mainly on the literature produced in Roman and Kannada
scripts. In its recognition, the Sahitya Akademi never
mentioned any script of Konknni.
On November 21, 1981 the Advisory Board of Konknni, which
consisted of a majority of Devanagari proponents,
calculatedly recommended that Devanagari should remain the
script for Konknni.
Konknni speakers, writers and leaders of various scripts were
not consulted for such a major decision. Nor was there any
public debate to come to a consensus on this important issue
of script. The entire process was a clandestine exercise of a
few. Subsequently, whenever the question of script was
raised, the Devanagari script proponents silenced those with
another viewpoint by vociferously proclaiming that Sahitya
Akademi recognized Konknni only in Devanagari script.
Consequently, Sahitya Akademi awards were given exclusively
to books written in Devanagari script. This tradition
continues till today. It is an open secret among Konknni
writers that these awards are distributed among a small group
of supporters and well-wishers of Devanagari script.
This manipulation reached its climax while selecting a
Konknni book for the 2005 Sahitya Akademi award. Three
jury members recommended a book. Two jury members were
the publishers of the very same book, which was selected
for the award.
The Sahitya Akademi's recognition to Konknni first sowed the
seed of division among the supporters of Konknni and
supporters of Marathi. Secondly, it created a rift between
supporters of Devanagari script versus the supporters of
other two major scripts of Konknni, namely, Roman and Kannada
scripts. This gap continues to widen.
Prior to the recognition, these three groups lived and worked
together with dignity. A popular language of the people does
not need the recognition of an external organization. The
Sahitya Akademi's recognition did more harm than good to the
unity and harmony of Konknni and Konknnis.
*** In 1985, the Goa government founded the Goa Konkani
Akademi (GKA). Its chief objective was spelled out thus: "The
Akademi aims at bringing about speedy development of the
Konknni language, literature and culture and also at
promoting cultural unity of this state through Konknni
language and literature." The GKA started actually
functioning from 1986. The GKA was filled with Devanagari
proponents and they interpreted Konknni to mean Konknni
written in the Devanagari script.
Till 2005, the Goa Konkani Akademi hardly did anything to
fulfill its primary objective. In 2005, due to the demands of
Roman script supporters, the Goa government ordered the GKA
to publish and to give financial assistance to books written
in the Roman script.
Roman script readers and writers who preserved and promoted
Konknni for centuries and fought for it to become the
Official Language of Goa have become second-class citizens in
Goa itself. Anyone who supports or demands equal status to
Konknni in the Official Language Act is considered to be a
"fundamentalist" or a "promoter of disunity" by Devanagari
*** On February 4, 1987, the Goa Legislative Assembly passed
the Official Language Bill. In the Official Language Act,
under definitions 2c, it was stated the "Konkani language"
means Konkani in the Devanagari script. Who created this
deliberate mischief to include this definition of Konknni?
What was the need to include such a definition? The majority
of the Konknni supporters were then totally unaware of this
manipulation or the implication of such definition. According
to Mr. Tomazinho Cardozo, the ex-Speaker of Goa Assembly and
ex-President of Dalgado Konknni Akademi, "This is the biggest
fraud or conspiracy of the 20th century as far as Konknni is
The main objective of the State Language is to give
preference to native speakers for government jobs. The
Official Language Act of Goa is biased towards one section of
the Goan community. Konknni is not a compulsory subject in
the education system of Goa.
In other states, the State Language is compulsory in
education. In Goa, for government jobs, the knowledge of
Konknni (in Devanagari script) is essential and the knowledge
of Marathi is desirable. With this policy, those who know
both Konknni in Devanagari script and Marathi are given
preference for jobs. Due to this, the present Language Act
does not the promote unity and harmony among Goans.
Instead it has created disunity, mistrust and division in
Goa. Prior to the Official Language Act, the situation in Goa
was more cordial and friendly. It was falsely presumed that
Konknni in the Devanagari script would promote unity in Goa.
But the reality is that the majority community has not fully
accepted Konknni in Devanagari script in most spheres. It
continues to use Marathi for religious services, education,
mass media and cultural domains. Thus, in Goa, neither the
majority community nor the minority community has fully
accepted Konknni in the Devanagari script for all the domains
of their life. Therefore, Konknni in Devanagari script alone
cannot become a true bond of unity among Goans.
This writers experience for the last 35 years has shown that,
in Goa, Konknni for oral communication and English for
written communication will definitely unite all Goans,
irrespective of their caste, creed and region. Therefore, for
government jobs, knowledge of oral Konknni alone should be
sufficient. Language fanaticism does not promote a language;
rather it creates hatred towards a particular language and
*** In 1990, the Bombay High Court ordered private
managements to pay the government pay scale to their primary
teachers. These primary schools were then being run in the
English medium. Instead of challenging this verdict in the
Supreme Court, managements approached the local government
for assistance. For reasons best known to the government, it
decided to give grants only to those schools who run their
schools in Konknni, Marathi or any other recognized Indian
Minority community leaders, especially priests and nuns, were
asked to run their schools in Konknni medium only to avail
government grants. This major decision created innumerable
problems for parents to educate their children in the Konknni
medium. Besides, it further increased their dislike to
Konknni in the Devanagari script.
Those who were financially better off preferred to send their
children to English medium primary schools. Those belonging
to the majority community continued to send their children to
either Marathi or English medium schools. Those who
economically cannot afford English education, continue to
send their children to Konknni medium schools.
As on September 30, 2004 there are 1229 primary schools in
Goa. Out which 968 (78.76%) offer Marathi medium and 216
(17.58%) offer Konknni as the medium of instruction. Every
year, the Konknni medium schools are declining. In the year
1995, there were 244 Konknni medium schools. English medium
schools are increasing day by day.
As on September 30, 2004 there were 81 English medium primary
schools in Goa. From a reliable source in the Education
Department, it is learnt that a number of managements have
sought the permission to open English medium primary schools
in Goa. English medium primary schools have become a common
practice in our country. Hence, let the parents decide the
medium of instruction of their children. In a democracy they
have a right to choose.
Remedies: Those who care for Konknni should be open to the
ground reality and not be led by mere theoretical idealism or
language and script chauvinism. In a democracy, mutual
respect, understanding and unity in multiplicity these and
other values must guide any action.
In Goa, the Roman and Devanagari scripts are used to
read and write Konknni. These two scripts represent two
different standard dialects of Konknni. They could be
compared to two wheels of a cart. For the survival of
Konknni in Goa they are really essential. There cannot
be true equality and harmony among the users of these
two groups without justice. Justice will be given by
amending the Official Language Act of 1987 to include
Konknni written in the Roman script side by side of
Konknni written in Devanagari script. Let these two
groups live in Goa with dignity as equal citizens
maintaining their identity.
At present, in the name of promoting local languages and
culture, the Goa Government gives crores of rupees to the Goa
Konkani Akademi, Marathi Akademi, Kala Akademi and the Art
and Culture Directorate. Is there a need for the government
to spend such an enormous amount of taxpayers? hard earned
money for language and culture?
The government's involvement through its departments or
autonomous institutions to promote local languages and
culture has further divided the local people. Each group
envies the other group.
It is high time that the concerned citizens question the
government regarding the relevance and the need for such an
exorbitant expenditure on language and culture.
Any language or culture is maintained, developed and promoted
with the active support of its native speakers. When the
government takes the initiative to promote a language or
culture, it gradually kills the zeal of native speakers and
in turn harms the progress of that language. Besides,
manipulation, corruption, nepotism and degradation of the
society are bound to enter and get rooted even in the field
of art and culture.
A written language or a particular culture cannot be
kept alive merely by the government's financial support.
Therefore, let the Goa Government stop funding
government institutions and other NGOs (non-governmental
organisations), which promote local languages or
cultures. Let the people develop and support their own
language and culture as Tiatr and Marathi play lovers do
it. Let the government concentrate its resources to
promote local languages in education and administration.
Sahitya Akademi could encourage the Konknni literature by
giving annual awards in turn to books published in the
Devanagari, Roman and Kannada scripts. This is possible if
the advisory Board of Sahitya Akademi that has a majority
from among the Devanagari proponents agree to resolve to the
script issue by mutual understanding.
Whatever may be the medium of instruction, the proponents of
the Devanagari script should demand from the government to
make Konknni a compulsory subject in schools. So far they
have not done so. Why? This remains a mystery. Fighting
against granting the official status to Konknni in the Roman
script and cursing the impact of English in Goa will not help
the cause of Konknni in Devanagari script. Rather it will
lead to the natural death of the Konknni written in the
so-called "natural script" of Konknni.
The good of Goa and Goans is far more important than mere
language or script controversy.
PRATAP NAIK is a Jesuit and head of the Thomas Stevens
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