Mind your language (Again!)

By Dr Oscar Rebelo
01 July 2011 18:22 IST

Let us clarify crystal clear positions in our current language imbroglio.

1)   Uday Bhembre; Arvind Bhatikar; Prashant; Pundalik & Hema Naik; N. Shivdas and many other stalwarts in the BBSM movement specially the youth brigade I know well, are the finest, secular and principled individuals in Goan society. Just because they take a position on a cultural issue does not make them communal. Indeed, if the crazy bats from the Sangh were to run riot terrorizing minorities in Goa, some day, these individuals would be in the front line of fire defending secularism. The beloved Man of the Masses would at that time be probably hobnobbing with the BJP, still counting his 20%.

In India it is simple. The majority Hindu can choose to be communal or secular. The minorities have no option but to be secular. We are blessed that a large percentage of Hindus in our society choose to remain inherently secular.

2)   The Church in Goa, despite me being in disagreement with many of her teachings, much to the chagrin of my suffering wife (and now my argumentative kids) has been an epic institution in our social history, fighting relentlessly on genuine issues plaguing Goa. Mining and Real Estate scandals; Education & Human Rights; Casinoisation of Goa & Rehabilitation of drug & prostitution victims. All these issues make them deeply patriotic and her position on cultural issues makes them anti-national? Incongruous no? But just as beauty, I guess, patriotism also lies in the eyes of the beholder.

3)   The BBSM brigade may pitch for Konkanni / Marathi passionately but they do not hate English and don’t want it banned. The FORCE may ask for English as a choice but not that they love their  Konkanni / Marathi any less.

So where is the problem then ?

The stumbling block in any meaningful solution to the current bitter feud (much to the delight of politicians of all hues) is this: A yawning, gaping  hole in the BBSM argument . What's that ? Let me explain:

I grant that it is the duty and business of academicians and teachers ; thinkers and educationists to draft the MOI policy in our state and if it is Konkanni / Marathi ( regional language ) as MOI then , so be it !

But then this MOI policy must fundamentally, necessarily and absolutely apply to every primary school-going kid in Goa. One uniform policy!!!  For ALL, Todos, pour tous, sab ke liye !!!

There can’t be a set of escape hatches into the warm embrace of English (a.k.a. Elitism or Exclusivism) for the Ranes & the Rebellos; the Pintos and the Prabhudesais; The Shaikhs and the Sardessais ; the Agarwals and the Ambanis.

You certainly don’t  have one set of traffic rules for a motorcycle and one for a Mercedes Benz on the same road, do you?

And that is the anxiety, angst and frustration of the FORCEful parents (notwithstanding their mollycoddling with dubious politicians)

One set of rules for the privileged, affluent  and connected. (how many affluent parents put in their kids to a badly run government school?) and another for the hoi polloi.

And these binary rules are not just in education! A five star hotel gets saved from the axe bypassing a supreme court judgement but fishermen houses are demolished; a seedy real estate bandicoot can flout all rules but a simple bloke is made to run pillar to post for a housing license; a BMW can smash through people but a motorcycle rider without a license gets hauled up; a mining accident can kill without culpability but anti-mining farmers whose fields are destroyed are terrorists!

Therefore the clamour for a similar kind of education that the privileged class access. If you can’t beat them, let’s at least be like them.

And this you will find resonating amongst parents of all denominations and religions and classes .Don’t look at the crowds everywhere. Just scratch the surface and go deeper.

What our leaders urgently need to do is to veer away from this claustrophobic politics of religious and linguistic identity – very necessary identities but they do not have to be fretful, grieving and inward looking but positive, light and irreverent and forward looking to embrace everyone.

And of course it would really really help if our Goan identity this century, would completely change and focus on efforts to make individuals sensitive to the environment and our heritage: to honesty and probity in public life; to civic sense and the capacity to sensibly share our resources; to an identity of genuine inner pride and massive forgiveness on all sides.

That would be a Goenkarponn that we could truly showcase to the world!

Blogger's Profile

Dr Oscar Rebelo

Dr Oscar Rebelo is one of the leading social activist of Goa and a practicing doctor. He led the historic peoples’ movement in 2006-07 to get the anti-Goa Regional Plan scrapped and save Goa from total destruction of Goa’s ecology and natural beauty. He is a Goa-based leader of Aam Aadmi Party. He is also a columnist.

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Previous Comments

Dr. Rebello,

Why do you consider Mr. Bembre and Mr. Bhatikar as principled individuals as the former it seems cannot convince his own son about the importance of Konkani at primary level and the latter is Member /Director of a English medium primary school that goes by his last name?

I think they are pure hypocrites and they have no moral right to tell the rest of us what is and is not good for our children.

- Gilbert Fernandes, Margao | 06 th July 2011 02:04


Mr Bale,

" Bharat' is gone long back with Manojkumar's films. Talk about India now. Sanskrit is a dead language and kindly "learn" to write proper English before you pretend to be a master. How can they allow you to use your 'Indian" English in the U.S.? The problem with guys like you is you all are neither here nor there when you live abroad.Don't be uncouth and first respect the land you live in.

- Yash Desai, Indranagar, Bangalore | 05 th July 2011 17:54


We all have almost mastered the 'International language' English. We can play with words like " Goan identity this century, environment,heritage,honesty to probity in public life,tocivic sense,genuine inner pride and massive................

But in the year 2007, I had a chance visit to "Vivekananda

Retreat" at Ridgley, 95 miles north of NY city. There was a thought of Swami Vivekananda,which read : Everyone must learn SANSKRIT and ENGLISH along with his mother tongue.

Goans are lacking of mother tongue,KONKANI and the nation BHARAT is lacking of its own language SANSKRIT. No one is to be blamed. It's the selfish interest of the foreign rulers that

carried the blame. Both " KONKANI & SANSKRIT " were not allowed to be developed for the Educational System. We all can now do it with the help of NIS and reach 'inner pride and the National Pride as well. BETTER to be LATE than NEVER.

- Damodar (Shyam) V. Bale, East Brunswick, N J, U.S.A. | 05 th July 2011 05:59


Dear Dr. Ferdinando,

Let me lear the air on the Official Language of India. Please dont misquote articles and statutes. Allow me to quote the very statutes that you have mentioned plus some more.

Let me first quote the highest statute of all ,,, The Constitution of India ...

Part XVII Chapter I. Language of the Union

Article 343 Section (1) reads

"343. (1) The official language of the Union shall be

Hindi in Devanagari script."

There is also a provision that English may be continued to be used for official purposes for 15 years hence. (This is no way makes it the Official Language). This 15 year period was further extended for another 15 years on 10th May 1963 through "The Official Language Act 1963, (Act No. 19 of 1963). This is the very act you have referred to. Allow me to quote the first sentence, Article (1) of the said Act.

"An Act to provide for the languages which may be used for the official purpose of the Union, for transaction of business in Parliament, for Central and State Acts and for certain purpose in High Courts."

This entire Act refers to languages which may be used for official purposes ... and that in no way makes any of them the Official Language of the Union.

You have also quoted a wikipedia page. Again allow me to reproduce the opening lines of the very page that you have referred.

"The official language of the Indian Union is Hindi with English as an additional language for official work;[1] states in India can legislate their own official languages.[1] "

(An additional language does not enjoy the status of the Official Language, which is clearly specified and protected through Article 343 (1) of the Constitution of India.

Also, the Eighth schedule of the Constitution lists 22 languages as recognised languages of the Indian Union congruent to the definition and reference as provided under Article 344(1) and Article 351 of the Constituiton. Both these articles appear under Part XVII - Official Language of the Union. And the 22 recognised languages under the Eighth Schedule DO NOT contain English.

Hence, please do not create unnecessary confusion in the minds of the people by misrepresenting statutes.

Truly, there is no room for ignorance. So please read the laws carefully before quoting.

Thank you.

- Ameya Kamat

- Ameya Kamat, Curchorem | 04 th July 2011 22:24


Let me give all u learned people a piece of my average mind in three words, " FREEDOM OF CHOICE ". Thank You very much.

- Gilbert Fernandes, Margao | 04 th July 2011 21:52


At the outset, kudos to Dr.Oscar for a very well compiled article which is really worth reading by every individual Goan who has even a little concern about the present state of affairs in the state.

The socioeconomic condition of the people at large is deterioration with the chronic inflation resulting in a situation that rich becomes more richer & poor ..poorer.

It is these latter lot that decides the political equations in the state under the influence of easy money,flow of alcohol , frustrations etc which makes them absolutely imperative to go against their own will at times in exercising their opinions/franchise.

It is really painful to see that Today's MOI issue has rather become a talk of the table of those who are reluctant to come out of their comfort zone to protest but prefer to be silent spectators & certify xyz as good or bad with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a leg piece in the other...& still claim themselves as Konkani Lovers....

I am away from Goa..& therefore could only contribute by expressing my views..

God save Goa & our Mai bhass..

- Dilip Nayak, Bharuch, Gujarat | 04 th July 2011 21:31


In modern times there is no room for ignorance. English is an official Language of the Indian Union. Please read the history and the Official Language Act 1963 here:


The problem here needs to be diagnosed correctly. The possibilities are two:

1- The PHOBIA of the inferior or 'untouchables' becoming their superiors. It is in the mythology of a community who has inferiors and superiors and where knowledge was only imparted to the 'superiors'. Catholics here are just scapegoat.

2- Age related DEMENTIA. If they were young they would jump for English. The old do not learn new tricks; probity in public life, civic sense, etiquettes, etc. are all Colonial culture.

- Dr. Ferdinando dos Reis Falcão., Margao | 03 rd July 2011 18:18


What are the factors considered by the parents while selecting education for their kids? A survey of the views of the parents would definitely bring out the relevant factors.

The knowledge of English can not be underestimated in the present context of globalisation..But it is totally disgusting to see the importance of the English Language in Goa in our day to day activities.Right from the electricity and water bills, the language is shamelessly used in Government Offices, Assembly and Parliamentary deliberations, Court proceedings, arguments examination and cross examination in Courts, filling up of various Govt forms including Ration cards---Is this not a shameless and disgusting reality that too after 50 years of liberation...???

This blatant use of the English language needs to be stopped starting from top and then there will not be any need for anybody to force any MOI on the kids or their parents.....

- vishwas prabhudesai, loliem | 03 rd July 2011 10:27


Two wrongs do not make a right, Oscarbab. Do these people at the helm of our affairs ever bother about anything else other than money?

It is an issue that our elite is taking up English for primary. This will make their kids suffer. This problem needs to be fixed, rather than have the poor join them. One suggestion I have is to tax English pre-KGs, KGs and primaries heavily and use that money for development of Konkani. Another suggestion is to have konkani as a compulsory subject for CET and other entrance examinations for Goan professional colleges. Karnataka has done that --- kannada is needed here for CET, I think.

- Samir Kelekar, Bangalore | 02 nd July 2011 09:03


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