BJP, MGP move bills for Marathi

| 22 June 2000 23:04 IST

The ball of language row has started rolling in Goa with two parties moving separate notices to amend the Official Language Act in order to give equal status to Marathi along with Konkani, on the eve of a month-long Assembly session beginning next week.

Pandurang Raut, belonging to the two-member Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, has sought an amendment to the act stating that both Konkani and Marathi shall be the official languages. Though this is in tune with the ongoing demand, no party has supported it till date, except rebel Congressman Ramakant Khalap.

The tricky amendment however is the one moved by Manohar Parrikar, leader of the 10-member Bharatiya Janata Party, seeking equal status for Marathi, without calling it official language. The present act allows use of Marathi for all or any of the official purposes which, the high court has said, cannot be considered as the official language.

The BJP has proposed a separate sub section (2) for the purpose, stating that "…Marathi language shall be also used with equal status, for all the official purposes, as and whenever notified under sub section (1) with effect from the same date..". The sub section (1) states that Konkani shall the official language of the state.

Parrikar agrees that this amendment would make it mandatory for the government to give each and everything to Marathi which would be given to Konkani as the official language. Still he claims that Konkani remains the sole official language while Marathi simply enjoys the 'equal status".

"The BJP is fooling the people. By making it compulsory to notify everything in case of both the languages, they are ultimately proposing the dual language formula", opines Adv. Uday Bhembre, leader of the Konkani movement and former legislator.

But Khalap, former union law minister, criticises the BJP for fooling the Marathi protagonists. "It will not help in achieving official status for Marathi", he states, while appealing to the pro-Marathi MLAs not to support the BJP's amendment.

The historic issue has once again erupted in Goa with the high court refusing to make knowledge of Marathi essential along with Konkani in seeking government jobs here because Marathi is not the official language. The pro-Marathi leaders admit that they want to make knowledge of Marathi essential for jobs by making it official language.

Goa Hit-Rakahan Manch (organisation to protect Goan interest), consisting of youth and students, however has taken up a campaign in villages fearing that this amendment would deprive Goans from taking up jobs while opening the floodgates to the Marathi-speaking people from Maharashtra and Karnataka. Though quite a few Goans know Marathi well, no Goan speaks Marathi but only Konkani.

While the BJP's amendment bill states that it seeks to remove the lacuna in the high court order, it has been opposed by chief minister Francisco Sardinha himself, who is presently sharing power with the BJP in the coalition government. "We will not support any such amendment", confirms Sardinha.

The Congress is also a divided house on the issue with Khalap mustering support of some legislators for Marathi, though the party leaders have been consistently opposing any amendment to the existing act. "It is a direct threat to Goan identity", says Luizinho Faleiro, the Goa PCC president.

Though Faleiro swears by the party policy of supporting the existing act, he however still hesitates to issue a whip when it would come for actual voting. The Congress has 15 members in the 40-member House while Sardinha's Goan Peoples' Congress has 11 members, which is enough to defeat both the amendment bills. Dr Wilfred de Souza, the sole NCP legislator, is also opposed to the amendments.

But with Khalap claiming support of at least five Congress legislators and Sardinha's two ministers also supporting amendment to the act, the BJP-MGP combine is confident of achieving their demand. The only hurdle however is that both the camps are opposing the other amendment, calling it anti-people.

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