Language row may fizzle out

| 17 July 2000 23:52 IST

The language issue appears to have fizzled out with no possibility of the much agitated over controversial amendment bills to the official language act coming before the ongoing Assembly session, which is coming to an end by next week.

While at least two political parties including the BJP of the ruling coalition as well as a faction within the Congress had initially supported the move to amend the act, it appears now that everybody wants to get rid of the issue, in view of public perception against any change in the act.

The existing act states that Konkani is the sole official language while Marathi is allowed to be used for all official purposes besides providing full protection to it in the social, cultural and educational sphere. The move is now to also grant official status to Marathi.

While the amendment moved by the two-member Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party is to call Marathi the official language, the BJP's private bill proposes to grant equal status to the language on par with Konkani, though nobody disputes that 95 per cent people speak Konkani here.

The movement of Marathi protagonists had gained momentum after the high court had upheld the state recruitment rules to make knowledge of Konkani essential in jobs while rejecting the plea to make knowledge of Marathi essential, on the grounds that it is neither the official language nor enjoys equal status on par with Konkani.

Though the movement initially gained momentum, the Goa Hit-Rakhan Manch, a newly formed youth organisation, turned the tables by vehemently opposing the move on the grounds that it would facilitate non-Goan Marathi-speaking youth from Maharashtra to take up jobs here.

The GHM also alleged that it is a sinister design of Marathi lobbies across the border to make Goa a bilingual state and then merge disputed Marathi areas like Belgaum, Nipani and Khanapur – presently in Karnataka - into Goa by making it Vishal Gomantak (Greater Goa).

A huge GHM morcha of the students and youth that marched into Panaji on 5 July perhaps opened the eyes of politicians while there was lukewarm response for the movement begun by Marathi protagonists, except few Marathi newspapers propagating their cause.

While the BJP also feared the ruling coalition coming to an end with chief minister Francisco Sardinha remaining firm on his party's stand not to support any such amendment, the Congress faction led by Ramakant Khalap was also threatened with disqualification as the high command instructed local leaders to issue whip to oppose both the bills.

As Sardinha's 11-member Goan Peoples' Congress and 15-member opposition Congress overscores all other groups in the 40-member House, the solution found by Congress speaker Pratapsing Rane appears to have been looked as the only rescue point to get rid of the issue now.

The speaker learnt to have referred both the bills to the governor, stating that such an amendment would involve financial implication, though the bills state otherwise, on which the cabinet has to guide the governor.

The whole game appears to be to get both the bills lapsed as only one Friday of 21 July is left to introduce the bills on the private members' day in the House while the governor, who is presently away from the town, is expected to be back by 20 July.

With no session likely to be scheduled within six months, the bills may thus get lapsed on technical grounds while all the political parties which had initially sided the Marathi protagonists may have a sigh of relief with no danger to the coalition government or Khalap and company getting disqualified for defying the party whip.

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