FASCISM ON THE RISE IN GOA
The fascist tendencies of the Sangh Parivar will have to be fought, with all our might, the might of those who believe in a secular, pluralistic society, where the Rule Of Law prevails and where the Government works to protect the Constitution and not to subvert it, writes Aravind Bhatikar.
IT WAS THE summer of 1958. Purushottam Kakodkar was released from jail in Portugal and had returned to India. After spending some time with his family in Mumbai, he came home to Goa and set up an ashram in Margao. The activities of the ashram were apparently very innocuous, but were covertly aimed at strengthening the movement for liberation of Goa from the Portuguese. I was one of the inmates of the ashram, along with many well known freedom fighters who were just then released from jail.
The police knew about the activities of the Ashram inmates and threatened all the inmates individually, apart from a warning to Purshottam Kakodkar to close down the Ashram. The sub-inspector of Police Margao who, I think was called “Tenento” those days, called my father to the police station and warned him about consequences of my continuing in the Ashram. Such warnings were given to the families of the other inmates too. Eventually the Ashram was closed down.
CATCH THEM YOUNG: Inducting fresh blood into the RSS!
Forty-four years later, in free Goa, history is repeating itself. The drama and the theme remains the same, though players and dialogues are different. Fascism is manifesting itself in various shapes and sizes, sponsored or patronized or just connived at by the Government. Dissent is stifled through money or muscle power, or flagrant misuse of the police machinery. Objective and unhelpful Press is coerced into toeing the Government line through patronage of Government advertisements. If this fails advertisers, newspaper vendors, etc. get anonymous phone calls with threats to their life and property for helping the newspaper / periodical perceived as inimical to the Government. The increasing assaults of the aggressive Sangh Parivar on individual freedom of speech and an orderly way of public life has lately become a hallmark of the present BJP regime. These assaults on individual liberty have taken the form of illegal trespasses and unruly behavior in private property or destruction of public property or plain high handed and illegal action of the Government.
THE GATE-CRASHING and hooliganism of an unruly crowd in the premises of Bishop’s Palace on flimsy grounds some time back was an eye-opener. The high-handed and the gung-ho style of Parrikar Government was evident when Government agencies razed to ground the slums in Baina. About 250 tenements of commercial sex-workers and about 350 tenements, belonging to petty shopkeepers, labourers, traders, etc. were razed to ground, by taking unjustified shelter under a court order which talked of rehabilitation of the sex workers. Datta Naik and Sridhar Kamat of the Lok Shakti along with Albertina Almeida of Bailancho Saad were arrested and charges of rioting slapped against them, for having dared to go to the destruction site and for seeking some information from the police.
The Baina episode deserved more discussions and more attention by the national press than it has received. It has been widely perceived as Parrikar’s own style of settling scores with citizens of a locality which voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Congress in the last Parliamentary elections. For, if the objective was to rehabilitate the CSWs , the question is where are they now ? Nobody has any idea whether they have resumed their professional activities elsewhere in Goa. So much for the rehabilitation which the Court wanted. If the objective was slum clearance, why was only this slum chosen? Why not the slums on the Moti-Dongor and elsewhere in Margao? Does Parrikar dare to touch these slums, patronized by his own ministers and reportedly housing BJP voters?
Close on the heels of Baina comes the 18th June aggression by a crowd, reportedly comprising Sangh Parivar members, including the son of Subhash Velingkar, the RSS supremo in Goa. The destruction of old and installation of new name-boards and the vandalism indulged in by the mob in various residential houses in the Malla area was meekly watched by a few policemen, who had either instructions from the top brass not to interfere with the Sangh Parivar, or who knew that answering the call of duty honestly would attract the wrath of the Despot and the Dictator. The desperate attempts made by Parrikar repeatedly on the Government patronised “independent” Goa Newsline, to lay the blame on Nagesh Karmali, a freedom fighter, who has no sympathy for religious bigotry, is, to say the least, ridiculous. The Sangh Parivar’s attempts to promote Hindutva under the guise of nationalism is old hat and cannot be repacked and resold in new forms, no matter how wily and crafty Parrikar and company are.
AND NOW THE latest and the most heinous act of this drama of Sang Parivar ministers of the State Government leading an unruly crowd destroying private property of Mathew Branganza, a Congressman in Mapusa, who reportedly offered shelter to the former Governor Kidar Nath Sahni. We have very often seen important members of Parliament and ministers walking in a procession to Rashtrapati Bhavan to submit memoranda to the President. But this may be the only instance in the country where two ministers in the Government are found participating in rioting. Fortunately, the presence of ministers at the head of the mob has been video-taped by a freelancer Anil Gaad and may be useful to media and judiciary in future to take action against the culprits. Provided, of course, that Anil Gaad is bold enough to withstand pressures from the almighty Dictator of Goa. Parrikar has of course made the right noises that “Law will take its own course”. The question is - whose Law?
People in India have not forgotten the holocaust in Gujarat under the BJP regime. The communal carnage that followed the Godhra crime, under the conniving eye of a partisan administration, and the subsequent efforts of the State Police to dilute the prosecution process against the accused, have all been too well reported and documented. I have a nagging feeling that Goa is going the Gujarat way. Whether that feeling is a false alarm or an instance of a mole hill being perceived as a mountain, one thing is clear : The fascist tendencies of the Sangh Parivar will have to be fought, with all our might, the might of those who believe in a secular, pluralistic society, where the Rule Of Law prevails and where Government works to protect the Constitution and not to subvert it. Middle classes which are traditionally indifferent to social issues and which only occupy a ring-side position to watch political fights, should enter the arena to make the Goan society a safe and just place for future generations.
The action taken by Luizinho Faleiro as the President of Congress in Goa in appealing to the President of India to dismiss the BJP Government in Goa may or may not be justified. But beyond that, what are the Congress leaders in Goa doing to eradicate communalism in Goa? Are they willing and ready to forget their mutually conflicting personal ambitions, and mobilize opinion against the Sangh Parivar? Can they give Goans a secular and clean Government? Free from corruption, nepotism and favouritism, ills that have plagued Congress Governments in the past. If the answer is yes, the dismissal of Parrikar Government will be useful for the future of Goa.
When the communal carnage in Gujarat took place the Modi Government, far from being dismissed or even reprimanded, earned encomiums from Advani for managing the State well. This is understandable, because Modi, Advani and most top leaders of the BJP have been members of the RSS. When the Babri Masjid was pulled down by “Kar Sevaks” in 1992, there was a Congress Government at the Centre. Today, even Kalyan Singh, the then Chief Minister of UP, blames Narasimha Rao, the then Prime Minister, for not dismissing his UP Government, inorder to save the Babri Masjid monument from destruction.
Dismissal might be too strong a medicine right now for the BJP Government in Goa. The Sangh Parivar and Parrikar can still be contained and forced to uphold the Rule Of Law, by the new Governor of Goa and the Congress Government at the centre. If their attempts fail, Dr. Manmohan Singh should be more decisive than Narasimha Rao in upholding the Constitution.