PETITION: An online petition to save Kala Academy has been doing the rounds over the past week. Most Goans have fond memories of Kala Academy and believe its unique design should be preserved
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when President Ram Nath Kovind and Home Minister Amit Shah murdered democracy in the country. For a Saturday following the week when Luizinho Faleiro and Babush Monserrate expressed fears that the Center may merge Goa with Maharashtra. For a Saturday following the week when Chief Minister Pramod Sawant issued an ultimatum to tourist taxi drivers. For a Saturday following the week when there were vehement protests against the demolition of the open air auditorium in the Kala Academy. For a Saturday following the week when Allopathic doctors turned against Homeopathic and Ayurveda doctors.
And a few stray thoughts on the murder of democracy in India.
The Constitution declares India is a secular democratic republic. The implication is that the people of the country have to be consulted before any decision about their physical and mental welfare was taken.
In violation of all Constitutional laws, President Kovind revoked Article 370, which conferred special status on Kashmir. Special status ensured that Kashmir was not flooded by migrants as Goa has been. Special status guaranteed that the land sharks would not destroy the beauty of Kashmir. That they would not convert the Dal Lake into a St Inez nullah. Special status stipulated that no outsider could purchase land or construct buildings in the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
There have been several occasions when union territories have been converted or upgraded into states. The difference is that whereas a state is autonomous, in an Union Territory it is the Center which calls the shots through the Lt. Governor. As it is happening in Delhi where the LG has been obstructing the functioning of the Kejriwal government as New Delhi is a Union Territory and not a state.
The proclamation by the President is the first case of a state being reduced to the status of a Union Territory. Before the proclamation the Jammu & Kashmir state consisted of Kashmir which had a Muslim majority population, Jammu which had a Hindu majority and Ladakh which had a mixed Buddhist and Muslim population. Not only has Jammu and Kashmir being reduced to Union territories it has been split into three parts. Each of the three regions of Jammu & Kashmir, namely Hindu Jammu, Muslim Kashmir and mixed Ladakh (claimed by China), have all been made separate Union Territories. This is been done without consulting the people of Kashmir. Before the proclamation all the major political leaders of J&K were arrested. Army re-enforcements were sent to Kashmir to ensure that any revolt or protest can be ruthlessly put down. Forget about the ordinary people, even political parties were not consulted.
Indeed the proclamation was an action replay of the notorious Emergency proclamation by Fakruddin Ali Ahmed who in the early hours of the morning signed the Emergency proclamation at the instance of the late Indira Gandhi. The president has no right to issue any proclamation on Jammu & Kashmir because the special status was conferred before the office of the president was created. Though India became independent on August 15, 1947, it became a Republic only on January 26, 1950 when the governor general was replaced by the President. The accession of Jammu & Kashmir to India occurred soon after Independence, on October 26, 1947.
The principle behind Partition was that all the Muslim majority states would go to Pakistan while Hindu majority states remain a part of India. The other factor was that the Muslim or Hindu majority states have to be contiguous. It was on these grounds that the claim of the Nizam of Hyderabad (now Telangana) to merge with Pakistan was rejected. The Nizam reportedly even tried to merge Hyderabad with Portuguese Goa to avoid joining India.
In the case of Kashmir it was the reverse. Although the majority of the population was Muslim, King Hari Singh was a Hindu. When Pakistani forces started marching into J&K, the king quickly entered into an agreement with India, whereby Kashmir would enjoy a special status. Which essentially meant that people from outside Kashmir could not buy property or do business in J&K. Since the deal between Hari Singh and Lord Mountbatten, who was still the Governor General of India at the time, took place before 1950, the President has no authority to pass a proclamation. Even the Constitution, which became operational in 1950, clearly states that Jammu & Kashmir would enjoy special status, and even that its chief minister would be called the prime minister of J&K.
With its brute majority the BJP has pushed through the proclamation and the splitting of Jammu & Kashmir through Parliament. But it is bound to be challenged in the SC and declared illegal as it was done arbitrarily without the consent of the people. In practice, this means that anyone from India, including Goa, can now buy land in J&K and set up a business in the state.
And a few stray thoughts on the legitimate fears expressed by Babush Monserrate and Luizinho Faleiro that the BJP at the Centre may reverse the verdict of the Opinion Poll.
A government which can downgrade a state and split it without the consent of the people can easily reverse the merger decisions and make Goa a part of Maharashtra. When the question came up of whether Goa should retain its unique identity as a Union Territory or be merged with Maharashtra, so deep was the commitment of the country and the Congress to democracy, that an Opinion Poll was conducted. Goans settled in any part of the country were allowed to vote in the Opinion Poll. The anti-merger group led by VM Salgaocar, Purushottam Kakodkar and Jack Sequeira won the Opinion Poll, thereby safeguarding the unique status of Goa.
I have an even greater fear since the agenda of the central BJP government controlled by Modi and Shah is clearly to convert India into a Hindutva state. Amit Shah may, in the course of preparing the national register of citizens, instruct officials to declare all Christians in Goa citizens of Portugal. If Christians from Goa lose their voting rights, it will change the structure of the electoral power in the State so that the BJP will no longer be dependent on the minority communities to win the elections here.
The most divisive decision of the Modi government would be to extend the Register of Citizens created in Assam to the rest of the country. It was decided to create a Register of Citizens in Assam as literally millions of Bangladeshi refugees have settled in Assam. This upsets the demographics, with Muslims — or rather Banglas, which include both Hindus and Muslims — becoming the majority in the smaller Northeastern States.
The Assam Citizens Register has selectively withdrawn citizenship of over a million Muslims living in Assam. Imagine what could happen if the Goa government decided to conduct a similar exercise to distinguish original Goans from outsiders. This might result in the Goa government asking all the Nepalis, Biharis, Maharashtrians and Kannadigas to go back to their ‘home’ states even if they have been born and brought-up in Goa and have been Goan residents for over three generations. Or Goans settled in other states could be displaced by similar measures.
Amit Shah seems to take his inspiration from US President Donald Trump who has gone to the extent of building a wall between Mexico and the US to prevent the entry of illegal migrants. Even worse, children of illegal migrants, including illegal Indian migrants, have been separated from their parents and put in camps. This is because the children were born in the US and therefore are automatically entitled to citizenship. But their parents are not. Trump has also refused work permits to wives of H1 B1 visa holders who are authorized to work in the US. Since the cost of living is very high, this has forced many wives to come back to India. Trump has also stipulated that Indians cannot be hired by hi-tech companies like Google and Amazon if a suitably qualified local candidate is available. Increasingly Modi and Amit Shah are acting like Trump and there is every risk that a war might break-out between Pakistan and India.
TOURIST TAXIS VS SAWANT
And a few stray thoughts on Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s ultimatum to tourist taxi drivers and owners.
Pramod Sawant warned them that if they do not end their strike within 48 hours he would cancel the licenses of all the 36,000 taxis and was successful in getting them to call off the strike. The government was prepared for a show down with the tourist taxis. If they blocked traffic the collector was asked to use bulldozers and cranes to clear obstructions. Even the greatest political patron of tourist taxis, Churchill Alemao, admitted being helpless to assist the cabbies. Their northern patron stayed silent, frightened of losing his kodel.
There have been many instances of violence against GoaMiles taxis. Perhaps inspired by youth in Jammu & Kashmir, the tourist taxi drivers started throwing stones at GoaMiles drivers. Repeated appeals have been made to the tourist cabs to start their own app and install meters and GPS systems. So far there is no response on this issue from the tourist cabs. It is clear that they will have to fall in line as they have no political support any longer. The public lost sympathy for the taxi mafia a long ago. They could continue to do dadagiri because of protection from their political god fathers.
In the history of Goa I have never come across a CM who has taken such a tough stand against the taxi mafia. This does not mean that GoaMiles should enjoy a monopoly over the taxi business. Indeed other app-based taxi companies should also be permitted. There is no logic to the tourist taxi claim that GoaMiles are hiring outsiders. By the very nature of the business, app-based taxis do not own the vehicles. They are only aggregators who provide infrastructure for monitoring the pick-up and drop of passengers. Even in the case of GoaMiles the government should ensure that there should be no surge pricing as this would be exploiting both Goans and tourists.
And a few stray thoughts on the strong objections to the Chief Minister Sawant’s demand that the open air auditorium in the Kala Academy should be demolished.
The provocation for his statement is that the structure is reportedly in very bad shape and might collapse any moment. It poses a danger not only to those who go to the open air auditorium to see tiatrs and other functions but also to the Black Box and the art gallery which are below the open air auditorium.
The various music departments of Kala Academy have also been asked to move to the Adil Shah Palace. This includes the drama school, the Indian and western music classes and the instrumental music classes. In fact even the canteen of the Kala Academy will have to shift as it is just below the open air hall.
The Kala Academy was designed by famous Goan architect Charles Correa. After the death of Charles Correa his family had set up a foundation in Panjim to help the community. The irony is that the Charles Correa foundation was not consulted when Minister for Culture Govind Gawde first made the announcement.
Hundreds of crores have been spend on the Kala Academy every year before IFFI. In the first two years over 50 crores were spent by the late Manohar Parrikar who was obsessed with Goa becoming the permanent venue for IFFI. The renovation included the building of the jetty to bring film stars from the Taj by boat to the venue of the IFFI. Most of the money went in the renovation of the indoor auditorium named after Dinanath Mangeshkar, father of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. Interestingly Lata Mangeshkar has adamantly refused to perform in Goa because in the early days she was boycotted by the Saraswats who called her a ‘kalwant’. Kalwants were temple dancers attached to the Mangeshi and other temples.
Obviously no attention was paid to the outdoor auditorium during these renovations though it had the highest seating capacity. It was the indoor auditorium with a capacity of only 900 which were used for the opening and closing ceremony for many years. For some years the Parrikar government build huge air conditioned tents which could accommodate 5,000 to 10,000 invitees. I recall Salman Khan driving a bike on to the stage as part of the entertainment. In more recent years the opening and closing ceremony has been held at the Dr Shyam Prasad Mukerjee Stadium, though the opening and closing films continue to be screened at the Kala Academy auditorium.
There is a story behind Shyam Prasad Mukerjee and the government’s decision to scrap article 370 conferring special status on Kashmir. Mukerjee was the original BJP politician who objected to special status for Kashmir and wanted India to be a Hindu country like Nepal. Mukerjee died in mysterious circumstances when he was visiting Kashmir in the early ‘50s. The BJP is claiming that the revoking of special status for Kashmir and splitting it into three Union Territories has been inspired by Shyam Prasad Mukerjee’s aspirations.
MEDICAL COMMISSION BILL
And a last stray thought on the strike by doctors against the new National Medical Commission Bill.
The doctors are objecting to giving Homeopaths and Ayurveda doctors equal status in treating patients. Allopaths — doctors who do their MBBS — consider practitioners of alternative medicine, quacks. They don’t believe that Homeopaths and Ayurveda vaids are qualified to treat patients in Allopathic hospitals such as Healthway or Manipal.
Ironically, all the major hospitals and nursing homes in Goa rely entirely on Homeopaths and Ayurveda doctors to serve as resident doctors, as they are willing to work for much lower salaries than MBBS doctors. So it is absurd for the MBBS mafia to object to giving due status to Indian systems of medicine.
The syllabus for both western and Indian systems for medicine are similar, except that the Homeopaths and Ayurveda doctors do not perform surgeries. Interestingly, there is nothing Indian about Homeopathy, which was developed by a German doctor.