Saturday, December 19, 2015

Isn’t Liberation a cruel joke when Goa is in chains?

As incessantly as the regularity of the passage of time, Goa basks in the glory of “liberation” with the same set template of going through the motions of celebrating freedom from the yoke of colonisation. But are we liberated?
Freedom and colonisation are both easy to sell to the rest of India, where the first was the prize for the fight of many Indians against the later. So when the Indian army, on the orders of the Defence Minister Krishna Menon, raided Goa, in December 1961, it incorporated into its imagination the words freedom and colonisation the way it meant in British India. For sure India got Goa in 1961 through an armed annexation which it called the culmination of Goa’s freedom movement. The Indian troops managed to secure Goa easily with no resistance by the Portuguese, leading to the Governor General of the Estado da India to sign the instrument of surrender.

Let there be no mistake. 54 years later after Estado Da India was annexed, Goans do not need any certificate of patriotism. Their Indian-ness is complete. When thousands line up to surrender their Indian passports and line up again to get their Portuguese ones, each one tells us of their sadness, grief and horror of being betrayed by their country, which has taken away their land, their way of life, their identity, their freedoms and their confidence to stand up and fight against the tyranny of their own state. And lest we forget, the generation which is lining up to give back their blue passports to acquire the red ones, neither know nor feel any of the affects of inquisition or dictatorship of the Portuguese. They do not have the ghosts of the past haunting them, but the ghosts of the present. And these ghosts are not imaginary but very real. From the panchayat in Pilerne to the Secretariat in Porvorim, from the municipality to the minister’s office, the common Goan faces the everyday bullishness of a system of governance that forces him to literally surrender his liberties and his rights in the same manner, that the Governor General of Estado da India signed the instrument of surrender on December 19, 1961.

At the heart of this feeling of abject emptiness, (akin to what Mr Kurtz the European felt in the forests of Congo in Joseph Conrad’s epic novel Heart of Darkness, as he uttered ‘Horror Horror’ on his death bed), is the horror of the common Goan of losing his land, as it is grabbed by the state.

In Tuem, names of legal lease holders been illegally deleted from Form I & XIV, as the government has taken over land 3,08,625 sq mtrs of land in prime forested areas for its electronic city project, by changing the land use of the extinct Regional Pan of 2001 and the “in abeyance” Regional Plan of 2021. Herald investigations have also revealed that not only leased land but legal tenanted land has been taken away from a farmer, Amarnath Naik, without his consent or permission. Is this the liberated Goa we live in?

In Tiracol village, there has been a planned, systematic takeover of the village, by taking away households and lands in the garb of an eco tourism project. Herald has stood in solidarity with the villagers of Tiracol who are battling the twin enemies – Leading Hotels and the government of Goa, who have become facilitators, in absolute violation of the Tenancy Act and the Mundkar Act. Is this the liberated Goa we live in?

From Canacona to Carmona, massive projects built by cutting hillsides, destroying forests and violating CRZ provisions, with fancy seductive titles showcasing their presence in the lap of nature, have been cleared by either bypassing or manipulating the Regional Plan through utter corruption in the panchayats in collusion with local politicians. Is this the liberated Goa we live in?

The takeover of land by the state government, by the central government and by private players is the biggest slap on the face of a “liberated” Goa. It is a Goa in chains, it is a Goa weakened by corruption and it is a Goa where the powerful and the rich are the liberated dictators with the common man living a life of misery as a slave.
The word liberation is cruel joke played upon us.

And how has this takeover of land happened? We wish to draw upon and take the liberty of borrowing from a seminal essay by scholars Jason Keith Fernandes, Amita Kanekar, Albertina Almeida and Dale Menezes “How Goa is getting colonised, one mega project at a time”, (May 31, 2015) in the DNA newspaper, to seek answers. The authors wrote, “In Goa, land was traditionally appropriated and tightly controlled by the bhatkars. Relief to the mundkars and tenants came in the form of the Goa Agricultural Tenancy Act, 1964 and the Goa Mundkar Act, 1975, but this relief was eventually thwarted by a new and developing economic system that no longer made it economically viable to cultivate land and made it seem more alluring to sell land to the highest bidder and share the spoils, albeit disproportionately between the bhatkar and the tenants. What we see is that, although the mundkar and agricultural population in Goa is not able to forge alliances with similar beleaguered communities across India and the world, more bhatkars – in the form of national and global capitalists – are getting added to the old ones in Goa. These national and multi-national corporations have allied themselves with the local Goan bhatkars and thus combine modern as well as traditional power to drive out the mundkars and the agricultural tenants from their ancestral homes and the lands that they have long tended. This is the process by which Goa gets colonised, one mega-project at a time”

The biggest fear among “liberated” Goans is the loss of land through mischievous take overs. Non Resident Goans are paranoid that when they return to Goa, they will find their unattended properties seized and their names struck off land titles due to manipulation at the sub-registrar’s office. Is this the liberated Goa we live in?

In the Goa which is in chains, the all powerful current BJP government is set to control the government and its men in a manner never done before. Key positions in sensitive departments are being filled by loyal RSS and BJP followers who will take decisions not according to merit or law but according to the wish of the master in Goa and the supreme master in Delhi who is longing to get back to Goa. But let there be no mistake. The chaining of Goa has not happened in this rule alone. Let’s not forget that a frustrated Goa, tired of corruption and deals had voted the previous government out. And as Goa hopes and prays that these chains will break it knows that the same tried, tested and failed faces will not work. Goa needs a new start, a new energy, and a new polity, ruled by real people.

But Goa is resilient. Even though there is a sense of foreboding, that we have indeed surrendered, people give us hope. Activists, foot soldiers and other crusaders, even out of India, tell us not to sign that final surrender declaration and fight till we reclaim this land of ours both physically and metaphorically.

This chained land needs its real freedom fighters now and a very real liberation. Let Dec 19, 2015 be the start of this liberation.

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