Why this Kolaveri Di

By Prabhakar Timble
16 December 2011 07:58 IST

A recent press conference addressed by the spokesman of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman complaining of step motherly treatment due to clash of International Film Festival of India (IFFI) with the novenas and the feast of St. Francis Xavier and hitting at Centre and State governments as insensitive and further warning that the clash would not be tolerated from next year amounts to bringing a non-issue centre stage. The 42nd IFFI also witnessed threats by the right-wing Hindu groups like the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) which led to the postponement of the screening of a documentary by the legendary painter, remembered as the “Picasso of India”, Maqbool Fida Husain. As the IFFI concluded, the Village Groups of Goa took to the streets demanding death sentence to the Regional Plan-2021. Later, the Church, the invisible mentor of the village groups officially joined the bandwagon giving ultimatum to scrap RP-2021 lock, stock and barrel. Baba Ramdev who is supposed to have developed a clean and clear vision through deep meditation and ascetic discipline roared with abuse and hatred on every aspect of Goa’s economic, social and cultural development exhorting his blind followers to work for political change. His verbal and body language was deplorable and unexpected as coming from a man drunk with yoga and penance. At the national level, Anna Hazare and his ‘clean’ dozen still continue to hold that the entire astuteness of the world is with them. They expect that everything they utter should be converted into law and have no respect for dissenting opinions.

IFFI & Goencho Saib

3rd December brings to me childhood memories. My father used to religiously take us to Old Goa bundled in a cramped bus. Our first halt used to be at Mhalsa temple (Mardol), followed by Lord Manguesha. The tour would finally culminate on the lawns of the Basilica at Old Goa. I remember joining the long queue braving the hot sun to pay reverence to the “Goencho Saib”. The novenas and the Feast of St. Francis Xavier draw visitors and devotees in thousands every day. As compared to the thousands faithful who throng Old Goa to pray, IFFI is an event attended by those few who desire to celebrate creativity through films and learn the magic of this art to mirror society. I am tempted to put on record that one great film can turn and tune million hearts than a thousand sermons from the pulpit. It is a visual festival of ideas and creativity in content and communication. Doyen of French cinema, director Bertrand Tavernier, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award at IFFI 2011 rightly, exhorted artists and writers to focus on the imminent evils in the form of dictatorship of globalisation, dictatorship of fundamentalism and dictatorship of ignorance.

The Church as an institution has manufactured the issue of IFFI v/s St. Xavier’s feast, when it could be both together. The Church should not be adamant to decide on the dates of IFFI and the right-wing Hindu organisations who are attempting to enter the area of cultural policing should in no way determine the calendar of events at IFFI. The film festival is not pure entertainment or glamour and neither a State event, though it is projected in this manner. IFFI is serious business and a mega school of learning. The event is organised in Goa but meant for serious lovers and players of the art of cinema in India and abroad. The Church should not make a joke of secularism raising the issue of minority sensitivity over a trivial matter. In reality, saints, sinners and ordinary mortals like us have no egos or rage. I have reasons to submit that it is the clergymen who are self-centric and the Church as an organisation turning out to be egoistic and gauging its power over the faithful by putting forward trifles as bones of contention. Such a stand is an uncalled for tantrum akin to the stubbornness of a child. The only difference here is that the child is not ignorant of the consequences.

No freedom without dissent

The same story is reflected in respect of RP-2011. How can it happen that every village group without a single exception demands scrapping of the RP? This appears to be crafted and managed. The intentions may be fair; the channel is dangerous for democracy and freedom of expression. This reminds me of the medium of instruction issue at the primary level of education. I am not going into the merits of the medium i.e. whether English or home language. I am worried that in the name of freedom of choice, there is no single instance of dissent. Not a single educationist or a teacher or a parent rooted in the schools administered by the Diocesan Society of Education has a contrary view. This is unsafe and hazardous if considered as freedom of choice. There cannot be freedom of choice if people are not free to dissent. These are emerging signs of dictatorship over the gullible and faithful. This could best be described as “unfreedom” in the name of freedom of choice and expression.

I am not averse to the Church dabbling in social, political and economic causes. As I gather, the Church is committed to carry the message of Jesus Christ in action, not just in preaching. And so be it. With this comes greater responsibility to function respecting the tenets of the Constitution, democracy, freedoms and dissent. With this the Church also opens the doors for public debate and criticism and if matters become unpalatable, it should refrain from taking the shield of religion including minority bashing and insensitivity.

Sanity prevails

Despite this Kolaveri Di, and threats to freedom of expression and dissent from vested groups, there are equally strong forces which hold fundamental freedoms in high esteem. That’s the reason why the majority of the Hindus are not with the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. However, HJS is perceived as a force being vocal and nuisance-oriented, though in minority. There is democratic sanity amongst the Catholics and they are wise not to fire the shots as dictated by Archdiocese.  Hence, there are voices in the same community questioning the extended authority of the Church. However, they are subdued and hence less noticed. The secular group Goa Bachao Abhiyan (GBA) immediately reacts to the unethical christening of the so called crusade by Baba Ramdev exactly with the same name. Team Anna Hazare brought life and fervour to anti-graft movement at the start but continued to trade “hate speeches” and stuck to unreasonable demands leading to alienation of thinking masses and classes from the Team but not from the cause. Such checks and balances free us from the dictatorship of vested groups.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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