Destabilising the idea of India

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Following the abominable lynching of Muhammad Akhlaq in Dadri, the beef bans, and the overall rise of the Hindu nationalist BJP’s rise to power in India, many are worried about the perceived threat to the ‘Idea of India’. The ‘India as a Hindu Rashtra’ rhetoric propagated by RSS is at loggerheads with the Nehruvian idea of secular, liberal and modern India. These are disturbing, but nonetheless interesting, times where these two imaginations of India, both originating from elite upper caste positions, are fighting for their supremacy. However, it is important to note that both these imaginations have failed to cater to the assertions of marginalized and subaltern communities in India.

A deeper probing into history would tell us that this Secular vs Communal, attributed to Congress and BJP respectively, is a false binary that the marginalized communities are forced to choose from. Both these political parties have operated largely to serve and safeguard elite interests in this country. While both the Congress and BJP have often tried to project a liberal image, their history tells otherwise. To believe that one of them is secular than the other would mean to live in a fool’s paradise. In such scenario, one can conclude that if we are to think of a political discourse focused around emancipating the marginalized communities, neither Congress nor BJP can be our best bet. The reason for this, as noted by the late historian Prof. MSS Pandian in an essay he wrote in the year 2000, is that both these groups populated by the modernizing elite cutting across the ideological divide of communal and secular, have a deep-rooted feeling against the Indian democracy.

Pandian provides examples of how the modernizing elites have repeatedly exhibited their contempt towards values of democracy. According to Pandian, the implementation of Mandal commission report by the United Front Government in 1990 that extended reservations in government jobs and educational institutes to non-creamy layer OBCs along with SC and ST communities, was a moment of deepening of democracy in India. While the so called secularist Congress government did not implement the recommendations of Mandal report for a decade, the opposition to the implementation originated from the modernizing elites of India across party lines. This is indicative of the fact that the then political establishment in India was united across false divisions to oppose a democratic decision. If one were to look within Goa, the denial of official language status to Roman Konkani and opposition to the state grants for English medium primary schools would be fitting examples to explain the contempt harbored by elites towards values of democracy.

Pandian further illustrates the anti-democratic urge of elites by drawing the reader’s attention to the attitude of the elites towards politicians who have come to occupy positions of power through the support of the rural lower caste voters. He specifically talks about how Lalu Prasad Yadav was parodied in mainstream press for being a village bumpkin unfit for the serious business of politics. Even after the recent victory of Grand Alliance in Bihar against BJP, Lalu’s ‘village joker’ image is constantly brought back into the mainstream discourse to perpetuate Lalu’s incapability to be a serious politician.

Soon after Laxmikant Parsekar succeeded Manohar Parrikar as the Chief Minister of Goa, a photo parodying Parsekar was being circulated on WhatsApp. The photo showed Parsekar’s face morphed on a monkey’s body while Manohar Parrikar’s face was morphed onto a man’s body that held a rope around Parsekar’s neck. Some of the seasoned BJP members shared this photo with utmost glee, exposing their discomfort to accept a non-Brahmin leader as the Chief Minister of Goa. In such situation, it was not surprising when recently asked to list achievement of his government on the account of completing one year as the Chief Minister, Parsekar responded by saying that people have stopped parodying him on social media.

The aforementioned articulations by Pandian show that the the idea of India perpetuated by its modernizing elites does not provide enough space for contesting power based on the existing disparities of caste, region, language and religion. Instead, it homogenizes the struggles of the subaltern on the lines of secular versus communal, forcing them to choose the so called lesser evil. In contemporary times where the Hindu right is establishing control over institutions of power in India, the Nehruvian idea of secular liberal India as a necessity to combat the Hindu right is also getting affirmed. However, it needs to be pointed out that the Nehruvian polity was no less compatible with a certain form of Hindu right and hence needs to be destabilized.

To rethink subaltern politics, in the wake of such situation, would first require us to avoid falling into the traps of these so called lesser evils and false binaries of communal vs secular. The recourse would be, as suggested by Pandian, to foreground a political strategy that is based on the perennial contestation of different forms of power by acknowledging and addressing difference as the fundamental reality of the social. Alternatively put, instead of relegating the differences of caste, religion, region, language etc. into one’s private domain as ‘taught’ to us by the modernizing elite, we must use these very differences as arsenals for contesting power.

(First published in The Goan Everyday, dt: 24 November, 2015)

When the Lion has its Say: A Review of Parag Parobo’s New Book on Bandodkar and the Goan Bahujan

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Parag Parobo, the author of India’s first Democratic Revolution: Dayanand Bandodkar and the Rise of the Bahujan in Goa, says that although the two scholarly narratives about Goa—Goa Dourada (the idea of a happy, or golden, empire) and Goa Indica (the nationalist idea which sees Goa as intrinsically Indian)—are commonly understood as conflicting, they actually have one fundamental thing in common: they both are the views of the Goan elite. Parobo’s own book, formally launched on Sunday 15 November in Panjim, breaks with the past for this very reason, that it looks at Goa from the point of view of the Bahujans, the many communities that make up the region’s so-called lower castes.


The point of view changes everything, turning much ‘common sense’ about Goan history on its head. Goa’s difference, or strangeness, has been noted ever since it became part of India, by Nehru among others. While this is usually put down to Portuguese rule, Parobo argues that it was actually the rise of the Bahujans in the 1960s that created a society that remains head and shoulders above most of India in education, health and other human development indicators. The end of Portuguese rule in Goa, though officially portrayed as a liberation, was hardly a liberation for the Bahujans who remained under the oppression of the upper castes. It was only after the 1963 elections, in which a new and Bahujan-based party, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) led by Dayanand Bandodkar, a low caste capitalist and philanthropist, swept to power, that things changed.


Portuguese rule was elitist, according to Parobo, benefitting mainly the upper castes, both Catholic and Hindu. And although it is popular wisdom nowadays to say that the Portuguese oppressed Goan Hindus, he claims the opposite: the Saraswats, the dominant Hindu community of Goa, not only thrived economically but also became more socially dominant under the Portuguese by taking advantage of the new laws, educational infrastructure, regulation of temples, voting rights, and other interventions. British rule in India in contrast provided more opportunity for Bahujans (probably because of the difference between an expanding industrial economy and a stagnating mercantile one).


The book traces the fascinating formation of modern caste identities in Goa, beginning with the Saraswats in the 19th century, when they comprised many disparate communities on and around the western coast. Although many GSBs outside Goa today claim to have left Goa due to Portuguese persecution, Parobo points out that they were already outside, working as traders and scribes, before the Portuguese arrived in South Asia. But their claims to brahminhood were challenged by Brahmins in Maharashtra, which led to the 19th–century ‘discovery’ of the (apparently fabricated) Sahyadri Khand, with its authentication of their brahminhood, its provision of a glorious origin myth starring Parashurama, and its addition of Gaud to their name, creating a link to the northern meat-eating Gaud brahmins, which also however necessitated a story of migration to Goa; Parobo says that although even much-respected scholars (and GSBs) like D D Kosambi have tried to historicise this migration, there is just no proof. The same period of the 1870s-1920s sees the Marathisation of many Bahujan communities, like the Kharvis, Bhandaris, and Gomantak Maratha Samaj, all of whom identified with the non-elite and warrior image of Shivaji.


In a gripping account of the post-1961 period, Parobo speaks of how the upper caste social location of the freedom-fighters of Goa (and India) ruled their approaches to the post-colonial project. When it came to economics, for example, their focus, right from Nehru in India to the Congress’ freedom-fighter-led Farmers’ Committee in Goa, was on modernisation, industrialisation, and big dams, rather than lower rents or mundkar rights. Nehru’s education policies similarly privileged higher education over primary education. The MGP had a different vision, and it was their candidates, farmers and tea-stall owners among them, who won definitive electoral victories over “weighty” candidates like the Deshprabhus and Dhempos. The years that followed saw not just legislation on, but also implementation of, land reform (unlike in India where the tendency was to neglect the latter). Schools went to the villages, along with a relatively (compared to India) holistic education approach that included grants-in-aid, integration of gram panchayats into the education system, playground development, midday meal schemes, frequent inspections, etc. A network of public health care institutions was also set up across the region, the biggest in India.


The book does not deal much with the post-Bandodkar era, but it is ironic to see how Bandodkar’s party has declined today, into little more than a powerbroker in the state, amidst a resurgence of the upper castes. This is visible in its distance from Bahujan aspirations in education, where it supports the Congress-BJP’s brahmanical medium-of-instruction policy, in which the demands of the Bahujan students for state-supported education in English and Marathi is opposed by the bamon bhas, or Nagri Konkani, lobby, even as upper caste students happily study English in private schools.


According to a saying from Zimbabwe, only when the lion tells its story will the true picture of the hunt be known. The lions have begun to speak. Everybody else should sit up and listen.


Parag Parobo, India’s first Democratic Revolution: Dayanand Bandodkar and the Rise of the Bahujan in Goa, Orient BlackSwan, 2015.


Also see Kaustubh Naik’s take on Parag Porobo’s book, here and here.


(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 19 November, 2015)

Subaltern Cultures as Commodities

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“Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav”, India’s national cultural festival, concluded last week at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Contemporary Arts (IGNCA) in New Delhi. This annual festival is organized by the Government of India’s Ministry of Culture in collaboration with its zonal cultural centers and various autonomous cultural institutions patronized by the state. The Ministry of Culture’s objective in organizing this cultural festival, as state on their website, is to ‘celebrate spirit of Tradition, Culture, Heritage and Diversity of our incredible country’.

(Image courtesy NCF2015 website)

The weeklong festival was host to performances from various parts of the country. In addition to these performances, each zonal center had set up stalls wherein handlooms and handicrafts from their respective zones were available for display and sale. Artists from various states took turns in showcasing their art forms and skills outside these stalls, while the metropolitan Delhi audience clicked selfies with these artists in background. These cultural festivals have become routine in the annual calendar of cultural events throughout the Indian metros. Supported by the State and Central Government’s Departments of Culture, these festivals invite troupes from various states to perform their ‘indigenous’ art forms for the pleasure of an urban audience. The aim of such festivals might be to provide exposure to various cultures of the country, but a closer reading allows us to unravel the curious relationship of the Indian nation with its subaltern cultures.

Most of the art forms that are performed at such festivals fall under the category of folk arts and are practiced by the subaltern communities of the land. Unlike the classical art forms such as the Bharatnatyam or Kathakali in India, the folk arts do not claim their origins in Sanskrit texts such as the Natyashastra or Rigvedas. Instead, the folk art forms are inherently linked with the livelihoods of the communities practicing these arts. The cultural policies in India have rather successfully attempted to establish a hierarchy between classical and folk art forms, wherein folk art forms are ranked lower than the classical art forms. What this hierarchy suggests is that art forms which do not celebrate Sanskrit pasts are not worthy of being considered high art. The claims of these so called ‘classical’ art forms and their alleged origins in the golden age of Sanskrit is questionable and deserves an independent discussion.

This hierarchy between classical and folk arts implies different standards of remuneration and treatment to folk & classical artists, with classical artists being the pampered ones. The exclusionary attitude of the Indian state towards the subaltern art practices is further visible in the way in which the state promotes the folk and classical arts. To understand the biased attitude towards the folk arts, one could look at the festivals of classical arts organized by the state, such as the Khajuraho Dance festival or the Surashri Kesarbai Kerkar Classical Music Festival in Goa. These festivals of classical arts are organized as independent events and the name of each classical performer is individually publicized. On the other hand, the festivals of folk arts are organized along with handloom exhibitions, handicrafts sale and food courts, rendering them more on the lines of a chaotic bazaar instead of a cultural performance. Needless to say, the names of the artists performing these forms are never publicized, thereby reducing the folk artists to nameless & ahistorical bodies that merely perform a regional culture.

Most of these folk performances are associated with local rituals which are performed at specific times of the year and in specific spaces. By making the communities perform these art forms at these festivals that happen throughout the year, the organizers strip these art forms of their local context and convert them into cultural commodities that can be circulated for the consumption of an urban elite across Indian metros. The implications of this commoditization demands serious attention as it systematically alters the aesthetic structure of these forms in terms of costumes, duration of performance etc. It is not to say that the folk forms shouldn’t undergo changes in response to the times in which they are being practiced. In fact, changes in the art forms is what keeps them relevant in contemporary times. But these changes should occur organically within the community and not as a result of trying to fit them into a frame imposed by the cultural policies of the nation-state or because of global capital.

Taking cognizance of the aforementioned issues associated with cultural festivals that claim to celebrate folk cultures, one cannot help but see a strained relationship between the Indian nation and the subaltern communities. The subaltern communities are brought into mainstream spaces to exhibit their art and skills only when the nation seeks to celebrate its so called heritage and tired claims of unity in diversity. It is the same ‘Indian’ tradition, guided by casteist and communal doctrines, that otherwise ensures that these subalterns never become part of the mainstream. The benefits of the nation-state are not uniformly available to these communities on whose labor the nation validates its cultural existence. On the contrary, it appears that the Indian nation wants the subaltern communities to remain trapped in the bubble of their traditions, so that India’s post-colonial desperation of establishing a pre-colonial cultural identity can be fulfilled.

(This article was first published in The Goan Everday, dt: 10th November 2015)

“What is the City but the People?”

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The quote above from the Shakespearean tragedy Coriolanus aptly sums the problem in envisioning the future of Panjim today. While hectic activity is afloat to garner ‘opinions’ of what needs to be done to make the capital a Smart City, one wonders if we have forgotten the meaning of ‘smart’ today, or for that matter what is meant by a ‘city’ itself.

The biggest problem of the ‘smart city movement,’ is that the promoters of such an approach tend to repackage the city in a generic global form without understanding the historical significance of the existing city (both the form and the people). The Smart City concept largely harps on using digital technologies to supposedly improve the quality and the performance of urban services. The issue is really which services? They normally mean roads, flyovers, parking, digital communication, etc, while what we in Panjim actually need are services like mass housing, wider pavements, barrier-free designs, shaded pedestrian pathways, reliable public transportation, and so forth.

Speaking at the event of a high level meeting on smart cities, organized by the European Union in Brussels in September 2014, architect and professor Rem Koolhas pointed that in the projection of the smart city concept, values of liberty, equality, and fraternity have been replaced by comfort, security, and sustainability. These values that the Smart City movement promotes are clearly of contemporary upwardly mobile and elite groups today. Reinforcing these values will have serious consequences for the poor who do not have access to ‘smart’ resources. As I have reflected in earlier columns, Goa is already facing the onslaught of the demands of elite groups that use Goa as a pleasure periphery and a getaway from the problems of India. It should not be that rather than addressing the livelihood issues of locals, the Smart City concept with its pro-elite values becomes just one more vehicle for appropriation of the city from the locals. In her article Is India’s 100 smart cities project a recipe for social apartheid? (The Guardian, 7 May 2015), Shruti Ravindran highlighted similar concerns. Ravindran questions whether the emergence of hi-tech prototype cities in India will override local laws and use surveillance to “keep out” the poor. One of the first designated smart cities in India is the Gujarat International Financial Tec-city (GIFT), in Gandhinagar. Ravindran notes that the beating heart of GIFT is its “command and control centre”, which keeps traffic moving smoothly and monitors every building through a network of CCTVs. She observes that in the country where more than 300 million people live without electricity, and twice as many don’t have access to toilets, GIFT city’s towers are like hyperthrophic castles in the sky.

The entrepreneurs of digital technologies have made the city their domain especially by referring these designated cities as ‘smart.’Often unnoticed is the fact that the metaphor of ‘smart’ in the concept of the smart city evokes the smart phone as a comparison for the development of the city. Such an approach is problematic, for it renders the city as a commodity, and a ‘generational’ one at that. This is how one thinks of technological developments, where preference is given to new generations of phones and computers, and the trashing of older generations.Rather than working with something, the existing object is rendered obsolete even before its time in favour of something shinier and newer.Following this logic, just because Panjim is designated as ‘smart’, are the rest of the cities in Goa condemned to being stupid?!

What is the need of the hour is the concept of ‘good city’. The good city is the ultimate memorial of our struggles and glories: where the pride of the past is set on display (Kostof:1991, p.16). The pride of Panjim as in other cities of Goa lies in the architecture of the city: in terms of the scale, the extrovert forms of the buildings, their unique architectural styles, and the sheltered spaces for pedestrians. We therefore must show extreme sensitivity in managing these assets and initiating pro-public and egalitarian infrastructural development. The city of cannot be designated as smart global city merely to push newer developments that do not pay respect to the historical context. Instead what we need is to build on Panjim’s past to make it even more open, accessible and friendly to its people.

(First published in The Goan Everyday, dt: 8 November, 2015)

Whither Women in Combat?

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Former Goa Chief Minister ManoharParrikar, and current Defence Minister, announced at the “MAN-O-LOGUE”, organised by Rotary Club of Panaji last month that his Ministry was considering opening up combat roles for women in the armed forces. Thereafter, Parrikar confirmed that the first batch of women fighter pilots would be serving the Indian Air Force from June 2017, with the Navy following suit with combat roles for women, too.

Parrikar’s current position is a turn around from barely five months ago, when he dismissed the possibility of women as combatants by saying: “Think of what can happen if a woman is taken as a prisoner in a combat operation”. This earlier argument was akin to the idea that lampposts should not be constructed because dogs would urinate on them! One might also wonder whether rapes or sexual harassment are not otherwise perpetuated – in homes, workplaces, or just about everywhere.

And if women’s rights were indeed on the agenda, shouldn’t Parliament have scrapped the impunity available under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to members of the Armed Forces for any crimes including sexual violence committed by them? We cannot have a situation like the case célèbre from Punjab where an IPS officer was caught bottom-pinching an IAS officer and the ‘Nation’ defended him because he was seen as our valiant fighter against terrorism.

Clearly, many of those who think women ought not to be in combat services are speaking from the mindset that women are physically and mentally incapable of such work,or are in the habit of seducing others at work, and hence are best kept at arm’s length.

It would be apt to quote a comment from the Dutch Defence Minister, a woman who, as The Guardian chronicles, said, “It doesn’t matter if you have a willy or not …I don’t think the military officers that we work with see us any differently than if we were men”. “And if they do”, she went on to say, “they don’t show it. But there is a public debate about women taking more influential political roles, and that’s healthy.”

But as a feminist, I am also seized by other questions. Would we want to fight for equal rights to something we don’t desire or appreciate in its present form in the first place? The devastation that the military industrial complex is causing worldwide is something increasingly hard to hide. The war machine is kept alive by the dictates of the arms industry and the power mongers of the day. War supplies, like alcohol, have a way of creating demand. The war machine is also sustained by constantly talking about the enemy next door, and the resources required to combat the enemy, which distracts from people’s scrutiny of governance. In the meanwhile, resources are diverted from the much needed sectors of education, health and development.

In a sense, by entering the domain of combat, women are being co-opted into this military industrial complex. As Professor Deepti Mehrotra, a feminist writer and political scientist aptly puts it, “Women are getting trapped in different ways by violent, hyper-masculine, patriarchal, capitalist, militaristic, exploitative ideologies and structures. It is painful to me to see women becoming aggressive, militaristic, exploitative, super-bossy, money-crazy, power-crazy; losing capacities of caring, creative skills, life-enhancing attitudes and commitments. I see it every day.

Women joining male soldiers in fighting and killing are logical in the continuum. We need to have and to focus on alternative feminist paradigms of liberation/ empowerment/ full humanity.”

There may be another way of looking at it. Europe now has five women Defence Ministers, and their tweet which made waves about a year ago, read: “Ironically I do think that having this group of female defense ministers can only prove constructive in the Ukraine case. From experience, women tend to find a more reasonable approach and could de-escalate the rising tension.”

But different women have different political approaches and practices and not all women are peace-loving or will do things differently, when in hitherto male bastions. One has seen or read about the active roles played by women in communal riots, for example.

So, how can we uphold women’s rights to equality and non-discrimination, while at the same time, not getting sucked into the military model of development? Our response cannot but be strategic and nuanced. If we uncritically acclaim the opening up of combat roles for women, what we are in effect doing is also simultaneously endorsing the war machine and the war mongering. If we oppose the combat roles only when it comes to women, we are lending ourselves to the charge of stereotyping women’s capacities and roles.

How about simultaneously engaging with a vision of women, men, transgenders, all, hammering swords into plowshares and laptops and spears into fishing hooks?

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 5 November, 2015)

Not Going, Merely Coming

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Sometime in the morning of 25 October, I received an SMS from a friend. The SMS contained the word ‘traitor’, followed by a link to an article in that day’s Times of India titled ‘Goan with the wind’. The article, authored by Lisa Monteiro and Andrew Pereira,offered figures and comments on the phenomenon of scores of persons from the former Portuguese State in India (Goans, for the sake of brevity) ‘migrating’ after claiming Portuguese passports. The article itself made no suggestion of traitorous behaviour on the part of these persons, leading to the conclusion that it was not the facts that were problematic but their interpretation. Such an interpretation requires that we supplement our analysis with additional information.

There is a suggestion that the migration of Goans holding a Portuguese passport is a unidirectional movement outside of Goa. This is not necessarily true. Goans have been migrating for centuries, whether to East Africa, to other parts of Asia or, more recently, to the Persian Gulf and Europe. Most of these migrationshave been marked by a return of these Goans’ earnings to erect the beautiful homes that are today mistakenly marketed as ‘Portuguese’. This is to say that Goan migrations have not traditionally been unidirectional. Rather, they have been marked by a back and forth between the two territories. If contemporary migrations with the Portuguese passport seem to have changed something—and, in fact, it is still too early to judge whether this is the case—then, we need to inquire as tothe circumstances that might have led to this change.

What is often overlooked is that the legal landscape that impinges on Goan migration has changed substantially. Yes, Goans have awoken to the fact that they can obtain a Portuguese passport and benefit from the status of the European Union, but the other fact that is rarely commented on is that Indian law has deprived them of their traditional rights. The rush to acquire a Portuguese passport may be a new, decade old, phenomenon; however, at least since the first quarter of the nineteenth century, all Goans were formally recognised as Portuguese citizens. Predating this date, too, varying sections of the Goan population were recognised as Portuguese citizens. For example, from the mid-1800s, those paying property taxes were able to vote in the elections to determine who would represent Goa in the Portuguese Parliament. When the Indian army marched into Portuguese India in 1961, the ability to assert this right was lost, and India unilaterally imposed not only its own citizenship on these Portuguese citizens but also the restriction that they could have only one nationality. This is an odd action for a state that claims to be a liberator. Logically, a liberator only adds to existing rights; it does not take them away.

Further, the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) regime is not really an option for persons who wish to have a continuing relationship with their country. We are often misinformed when told that the OCI card allows for ‘multiple entry, multipurpose life-long visa to India, granting…exemption from reporting to the police for any length of stay in India’,and that the only restrictions are voting in elections and the purchase of agricultural land. Recent events have highlighted that this is, in fact, not the case. Regardless of OCI status, persons engaged in research in India need a research visa. Further, one needs a business visa to work in India as an OCI. And finally, there is the social life of the law—the manner in which rules are actually implemented. Take the case of Christine Mehta, who, despite possessing a valid research visa, was recently deported from the country,or the case closer home of Saturnino Rodrigues, who in February 2014 claimed that he was prevented by the state administration from carrying out mutation of a property sold to him by an OCI.

Thus, if Goan migration seems to be turning into a one-way exit, it is because of the oppressive legal regime that the Indian state insists on. Goans are not obtaining Portuguese passports; they are merely reclaiming the Portuguese citizenship that they have always enjoyed. This is not a situation that most Indians would appreciate, because the British Raj never allowed for natives to enjoy British citizenship. Natives were always subjects, never citizens. A legal regime honest about history would undoubtedly allow for a more dynamic movement of Goans between Goa and other places. Indeed, the ongoing movement for Special Status for Goa should take cognizance of this fact and demand dual citizenship for Goans as an integral part of the Special Status demand.

Subsequent to pointing to the way the legal landscape has changed and impacted Goan migration, it is also necessary to point out the changed social landscape. The TOI article suggested that Goan migration was pushed by ‘rising unemployment and an uncertain economy’. This is only part of the equation. Left unsaid is the increasing intolerance in the country, initiated well before the current rise of the BJP, which has made Goans, and especially Catholics, scramble for alternatives, where they will not be made to feel like minorities. Indeed, the fact that the TOI article found it necessary to provide data regarding the religious make-up of those reclaiming their Portuguese citizenship and forced to give up their Indian citizenship speaks to the vitiated manner in which the matter is being debated.

Nevertheless, what most encounters with those migrating indicate is that the choice to migrate with a Portuguese passport is, in fact, economic. The problem, however, lies not in a lack of employment but in a lack of decent employment. The fact is that in India, and this includes Goa, the salaries for blue collar jobs do not allow for middle class lifestyles and options. While Goans migrating to Europe may be forced to work in sweatshops and live in slums today, the existence of a welfare state in the West, no matter how much under threat, will ensure that their children will have options that they could never imagine in Goa and India.

To conclude, the Goan migration via a Portuguese passport should not be seen as evidence of a traitorous relationship with India. On the contrary, Goans are merely asserting a pre-existing birthright first obtained by their ancestors. Further, if Goans are renouncing Indian citizenship, it is under the duress of the Indian state that refuses to recognise Goa’s peculiar legal history. A number of South Asian languages proscribe ‘going’—a word that indicates no return—preferring instead, as in Konkani, yetam (coming). Given a more accepting socio-legal regime, when migrating abroad Goans would very well be saying ‘I’m coming [back]’, rather than ‘going’.

(A version of this post was first published in the Times of India, dt: 3 November, 2015)