Saturday 17 August 2019

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Court says Konkani Goa's sole official language, Marathi protagoinsts plan agitation

 

The age-old linguistic controversy appears to be erupting once again in Goa to make Marathi the official language of state since the high court, almost 13 years after the official language act was passed, ruled that Konkani is the sole official language of the state and not Marathi.

It is for the first time the court has interpreted the controversial official language act, which was passed by the then Assembly of Goa, Daman and Diu union territory after violent agitations by Konkani and Marathi protagonists, which even took a communal turn and paralysed the whole state for a fortnight during tourist season in 1986.

In order to calm down the situation and resolve the issue amicably, the state Assembly had then passed a legislation stating that Konkani is the official language of the state while Marathi shall also be used for all or any of the official purposes.

"Undisputedly Konkani is the official language. Mere use of Marathi for official purposes to reply the communication received in Marathi by itself cannot afford the status of official language to Marathi or equal status with Konkani. The fact that 90 per cent of people of Goa speak Konkani is not in dispute", states the court now.

The Marathi Rajybhasha Prasthapan Samiti, whose petition has been now dismissed by the local bench of Bombay high court, had challenged government notifications making knowledge of Konkani essential and that of Marathi desirable for employment purpose. As the same court had once observed that Marathi enjoys equal status on par with Konkani, the Marathi protagonists had filed the petition against 'discrimination'.

"The order is really shocking and it needs to be reviewed by the Supreme Court", says former union law minister Ramakant Khalap, who had led the state-level agitation in favour of making Marathi the official language. He has however been targeted by the Marathi protagonists now, accusing him of misguiding them that Marathi enjoyed equal official status.

Gopalrao Mayekar, former MP and the president of Gomantak Marathi Academy, has convened a meeting to once again begin the agitation, fighting to get official status for Marathi. "Our politicians have done what even the Portuguese could not do", he quipped.

Raju Nayak, the president of Konkani Bhasha Mandal, has however wholeheartedly welcomed the court verdict stating that the issue of dual linguistic status has been set at rest and now is the time to implement the official language act and work for the development of Konkani language.

Though Konkani is the only widely spoken language here, Marathi emerged in Goa and became the prime written language especially after the Portuguese aggression in the 16th century. While suppressing the local Konkani language, they tried to impose Portuguese through education and other means.

Marathi then remained the prime language for education, religious purpose and even cultural expression while growth of Konkani language got affected to quite an extent. Even after liberation, the then Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party government opened Marathi schools, replacing the Portuguese ones, and not Konkani.

Pointing out several similarities between both the languages, the rulers dubbed Konkani as a dialect of Marathi and demanded merger of Goa into Maharashtra, the state of Marathis. As this move was vehemently opposed by Konkani lovers, it led to the country's sole opinion poll in 1967, when majority Goans voted for Goa's separate identity.

Konkani was then also recognised by the Sahitya Academy in 1975 as an independent language while the state-wide violent agitation forced the then Congress government to make it state official language in 1987. This was also followed by statehood for Goa the same year while Konkani has now even been included in the eight schedule of the constitution.

"As the high court has put an end to all the controversies going on till date, the government has to be now pressurised to fully implement the official language act and make Konkani compulsory even for jobs here", states Adv Uday Bhembre, a journalist and president of Goa Konkani Academy.

While the language controversy had kept Goans fighting amongst themselves on the linguistic issue all these years since its liberation in 1961, Goan population has become double, from seven lakh to 15 lakh in spite of attaining best birth control rate, the prime reason being huge influx of outsiders in almost all the sectors.

"Accepting the court verdict, we should now end the controversy and fight unitedly for making our socio-economic structure self-reliant with imposition of Konkani in jobs. No Goan is opposing the status Marathi enjoys in Goan society", feels Chandrakant Keni, a veteran journalist.

The Marathi protagonists, who appear to be more hurt and cheated than anything else, however are in mood to listen to any such arguments. They are bent upon starting a state-wide agitation to make it Goa's official language.






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