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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Save the Goan

The realization struck when I saw Carmen Miranda announce to the television cameras that CM Digambar Kamat said that he did not need her vote, he gets enough votes from the migrants. Like the tiger in India, the Goan in Goa is definitely on the endangered species list. And we are doing as sloppy a job of saving the Goan as we are of saving the tiger. Look at the measures taken to save the tiger: a little bit here and a little bit there with poachers doing pretty much as they please. The tiger sanctuaries are vast and the forest rangers say it is impossible to catch them. Often it is the rangers themselves and locals who are hand in glove with the poachers. If only the tigers could get together and turn against their killers. It is no different here.

Here the poachers keep coming in from all directions. They don’t actually take a gun and shoot us, skin us and steal our body parts. Instead they overpower us with money and sweet promises and steal our souls. Like the tiger we try to protect ourselves, but we Goans are also wired to bask in the sun. Attacking and fighting was never the Goan way. We have welcomed invaders throughout our long history, allowed them to rule over us and over time merged with them to morph into a new and even more fascinating entity that remained essentially Goan. This time it is different. We have run out of the Goan essentials. Too many of us are okay with the instant gratification policies of the poachers.

Our enemies know only strength. They respect and fear mass disobedience. They quail before the threat of violence. If it is the electorate that has got them into power allowing them to sell themselves and Goa to the highest bidder, it is the electorate that has to curtail that power. I don’t mean we have to wait until the next elections. We have to act now. If we continue rolling over and playing dead, we are in serious trouble.

We owe a very great debt of gratitude to the disparate groups that fight pitched battles with Goa’s new invaders in the hinterland, or the plains, or the hill slopes. We owe Goa Bachao Abhiyan. We owe Claude Alvares and his Goa Foundation. We owe Mathany Saldanha. These are people who have professions, jobs, homes and families, who have given up their time for a larger cause. The cause of caring and protecting the Goa that has been preserved for us by our ancestors and passing it on to our children and our childrens’ children.

We are a package deal. Goans are Goa. If Goa is gone, so too will Goans be gone, pushed out from the one small, beautiful place they have always called home.

We have to come together, get out of our comfort zones, face the heat, both in terms of the fearsome sun and the heat of grappling with police, goons hired by miners, industrialists and builders to terrorize those who dare to object to the rape of their land. We need to unite under one umbrella organization. Form a network that can reach the smallest house in the smallest hamlet to offer support and protection. We already have one organization, the Goa Bachao Abhiyan (GBA) which is recognized in most parts of Goa. We need to strengthen the GBA and take strength from it. They are fighting an impossible battle, stretched out thin, unable to fight simultaneous attacks from all sides cheered on by our political class who we have selected to fight for us.

We have so many heroes fighting the good fight, Aires Rodrigues who revels in the fact that though many have tried to kill him, he celebrates his 50th birthday tomorrow, Dr Oscar Rebello who is the face of Goan resistance to the rest of the country, the no-nonsense Sabina Martins who thinks nothing of spending long hours into the night to force a promise from one of the slipperiest chief ministers Goa has ever had. Patricia Pinto, Anand Madgavkar, Claude Alvares, the 85-year-old Dora D’Souza, her daughter-in-law Sheryl, and Sheryl’s eight-year-old daughter, Prajal Sakhardande, Pravin Sabnis, Nandakumar Kamat, Rajendra Kerkar, Seby Rodrigues, Carmen de Miranda, Judith Rebello, Judith Almeida, it is impossible to list them all here.

There are easily hundreds of hardworking men and women who love this small state of ours so much that they forgo the comforts of blinkers, ear plugs and gags that most of us use. It’s time we stopped being passengers going along for the ride. It’s time we took the reins, or at least got off and walked shoulder to shoulder with those who are fighting to preserve our identity.

That is the only way we can beat the poachers at their game. This is the only way we can preserve some of our cultural wealth for our descendants. This is the only way the Goan can survive.

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