OBSTACLES: Despite stiff opposition from the then Chief Minister Pratapsingh Raoji Rane who wanted equal status for Marathi, Konkani was declared by the Legislative Assembly of Goa as the official language of the State.
By Arvind Pinto
Even 60 years after Liberation and the reorganization of Konkani as the official language and mother tongue of the people of Goa, we are shocked that there are still Facebook posts which inquire whether Marathi is spoken by 90% of the population! The truth is that over 98% of the population of Goa acknowledge Konkani as their mother tongue, but it is the Marathiwadi people who are often considered bhaile!
WHEN the tiny colony of Goa came into the Indian state in 1961, after the initial euphoria of liberation, one of the political issues that the people faced was whether to remain independent or merge with either Maharashtra or Karnataka. For these two states surround this tiny enclave from the north, east and south. Like vultures eyeing their prey, both these states were looking forward to annexing this little area of the Konkan coast and make it one of their own districts.
karnataka rail link
Karnataka lost earlier on since it did not have the political connections, although the then railway link went through Castle Rock in Karnataka. Maharashtra on the other hand had a better stake since the Maharashtra Gomantak Party (MGP) headed by Dayanand Bandokar, who was the first chief minister of Goa, and had close connections with Maharashtra’s political class. Later, it was learned that Bandodkar had promised Maharashtrian politicians that it was only a matter of time before Goa became the southern district of Maharashtra.
In the referendum of the January 16, 1967, the only referendum held in the country, the people of Goa voted to remain independent. This was due in a large measure to the United Goans Democaratic Party (UGDP, when multiple Goan regional parties merged in 1963 with Jack Sequeira as the president) — now defunct. The party saw the active involvement of several academic and literary personalities who believed that Goa had a unique identity which would die with any merger with Maharashtra.
This referendum now relegated to history was a milestone in the history of Goa and Goans for it allowed them to keep their unique identity in which language and culture play a dominant part. During the agitation however, one of the important aspects of discussion was the unique identity of Konkani as the mother tongue of Goans, both Hindu and Christian Goans.
The victory of the people to remain independent, subsequently witnessed the eclipse of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) which was the party that had espoused the cause of merger with Maharashtra. In the ‘80s the ruling Congress party in Goa, despite its assurance to support Konkani as the official language of Goa, did nothing to promote it.
This lethargy on the part of the then government led to a series of mass protests and agitations by students and protagonists of Konkani to demand official status for the language. Prominent amongst the protagonists was Shenoi Goembab, who led the agitation that unfortunately saw the loss of seven youths in police firings. On February 4 February, 1987, Konkani in the Devnagari script became the official language of the State of Goa.
Goans speaks konkani
Konkani is the State language and spoken by the majority of the people of Goa. It is taught in schools and colleges and is widely used by Goans when they communicate with fellow Goans. However, Konkani is not unique to Goa. As the word itself suggests Konkani is the language of the Konkan areas. As a language Konkani is also spoken in the Konkan districts of Maharashtra – south Maharashtra in Ratnagiri, Vengurla, Sawantwadi; in Goa it is spoken in Bardez and Salcette; in Karnataka it is spoken in Karwar, Udupi and South Kanara, in Kerala it is spoken in Calicut and Cochin. Konkani does not have its own script and so is written either in the Roman, Devanagari Kannada and Malayalam scripts.
In this connection, I was honored to have an interesting book “KonkaniKit Pollen Pustak -Teach yourself Konkani” presented to me by Dr Mohan Prabhu (LLM, LLD, QC). Dr Mohan Prabhu is a native of Mangalore, who after completing his primary studies at St Aloysius College in Mangalore in 1947, the eve of our Indian independence, came to Mumbai to do his Master’s degree and Law.
After a working stint in India, he emigrated to Canada where he did his doctorate in law and in 1990 he was honored with the rank of the Queen’s Counsel He has several law books to his credit and in this his 90th year, has undertaken to bring out a primer to learn Konkani. The book is essentially for the non-resident Indian written in English and attempts to teach the Konkani-speaking diaspora their mother tongue.
Dr Mohan Prabhu’s book has an interesting format. It has three main parts. The first or introductory part attempts to understand Konkani through its grammar – the nouns, adjectives and verbs.
For a Goan, this part may be rather abstract since dealing with nominative, accusative or dative case would not be everyone cup of feni! Nevertheless, the exercises that Dr Mohan Prabhu gives at the end of the grammar section are topical, the use of Indian names Hari, Patkar, go from Mangaluru to Mumbai (note the current use of the names of places) will certainly touch a chord in the mind of Indian readers.
user friendly guide
This second part of the book containing exercises for the practice of Konkani illustrates the language in a common place manner and would certainly help someone who wishes to learn the language. The last part of the book is a collection of Indian and Aesop tales both in English and Konkani. Mohan Prabhu, while teaching Konkani, would also like to educate his readers a little of the culture of Konkan and its folklore – which makes for a mystical and enchanting learning experience. The book also has an extensive dictionary of daily words used with both their meaning and pronunciation. Dr Mohan Prabhu’s magnum opus, rather his labor of love, has given to the world yet another book for those interested in learning Konkani as their mother tongue
SADLY, if one were to survey the use of Konkani both in Mangaluru or Goa, the results are not very encouraging! Konkani that was once the pride of the people, with its rich expression in “teatro” cinema and usage, is slowly losing its place to the more dominant and commercially viable languages be it English or Hindi. This in a way is a reflection of a demographic unspoken fact – Goans are slowing being relegated to a minority in their own land.