Goa Legislative Assembly passed a private members’ resolution seeking official language status of Marathi along with Konkani. The act also has provision for amendment that it can be reviewed after a thorough consultation with the public. This move was followed by mixed reactions across the state, with some people welcoming the Act, some questioning the intent of the government behind the Act while some expressing their fear of Goa losing its unique identity in the purview of this act.
Marathi’s place among Goans:
Marathi is widely spoken and accepted as a part of the Goan culture. Inspite of Konkani being most spoken language, many Konkani speaking people are bilingual. BJP MLA Vishnu Surya Wagh quoted in the legislative assembly during the discussion, “ Konkani is on our lips, but Marathi is in our hearts.”
This is evident from the fact that there are currently 9 newspapers distributed in Marathi language as compared to only one active in Konkani. Previous Konkani daily, Sunapranta, was shut down in 2015 after 24 years of operation, due to poor response of the Goans. Marathi has been the connect of the Goan populace to the Indian mainland in the pre-independence era, with it being the medium of information interchange and a symbol of nationalism. Even today we see various ad hoarding alongside the roads in Goa in Marathi language. Konkani was declared offical language of the state in 1987.
Opinion Poll of 1967:
Goa, being part of the coastal area of Konkan, separated from the Deccan Plateau by the Western Ghats, always had a sizeable Marathi speaking populace. After Liberation of Goa from Portuguese, there were efforts by ruling party to merge with Maharashtra. Also one of the main reason leading to the referendum was the diglossic situation among the people of Goa. Apart from this, many Konkani people were bilingual; they spoke both Marathi and Konkani. Among the Hindus in Goa, Marathi occupied a higher status and their culture was similar to the culture of the neighbouring state. Konkani was spoken at home and in the bazaars, but religious literature, ceremonies etc. were practiced in Marathi. Some people in Goa considered Konkani to be a dialect of Marathi and hence by reason, considered all Goans to be of Marathi ethnicity. As a result, there were demands from various sections in Goa as well as from Maharashtra to merge Goa into Maharashtra.
But a majority of Goan population was against the merger. It wasn’t because of the language per se, but more due to fear of Goa losing its unique identity if the merger happens. Also Administration of Goa would have been under the shadow of the Maharashtra government with majority decision making happening far away from Goan mainland.
The Goan populace voted to not to merge with Maharashtra in the Opinion Poll. Today, years later we see that Goa stands with its unique identity among the other states having one of the highest HDI in the country. It is better not to mix administration with politics based on ethnicity, religion etc. It was India’s only experiment with referendum and whether it was a success or failure is still debated based on various parameters.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly:
The move is widely seen as a one with dubious political intent, with an attempt to play with the sentiments of Goan citizens and create a rift based on language lines in the poll-bound state of Goa.
Though the language will gain importance in the state of affairs in Goa, it seems unnecessary and naive to bring it up just a few months before the elections in the state.
Written by Shubham Phadte