Of Social Smugglers, Spiritual Fascists, and Intellectual Goondas

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd can teach us a thing or two about Goa. The passionate Ambedkarite, social scientist, civil liberties activist, and retired professor of political science at Osmania University, Hyderabad, has been in the news for receiving death threats, and then for being physically attacked, because of his description of the baniya/vaishya community as ‘social smugglers’. The professor complained to the police, but it appears that their only action has been to file a case against him for ‘hurting religious sentiments’ with his writing. The only bit of good news is that the Supreme Court has ruled against a petition demanding a ban on the writing in question. The danger has however not stopped Prof Ilaiah Shepherd from speaking out and explaining his ideas in detail.

 

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Shaiva versus Vaishnava in Portuguese Goa

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

Among the many myths that pass for history in Goa, a popular one is about how Hindus were relentlessly oppressed under Portuguese colonial rule. Not only were temples broken, rituals banned, and conversion enforced, we are told, but Hindus were also humiliated and tortured (via the Inquisition), so much so that everyone had to either convert or flee the Old Conquests. Most Goan Hindus are brought up on stories of religious oppression, along with religious heroism, i.e. of Hindus who had to fight valiantly for their religion and their idols.

 

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The Continuing Saga of Goa’s Reservations Scam

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

Since 2014, when a reservation scam at Goa University hit the headlines, there has been some effort on the part of citizens to get the reservations policy, as mandated by the Constitution, implemented in Goa. But 3 years down the line, as a recent petition to the University from the Social Justice Action Committee (SJAC) shows, things haven’t changed. The problem is that, behind Goa’s liberal and cosmopolitan bonhomie, is a brahmanical society, alive and kicking. Caste-based reservations are supposed to ensure representation of all communities, and especially traditionally discriminated-against ones, in government and educational institutions. But not only does the establishment, dominated as it is by upper castes, refuse to implement the law, it tries to brainwash us with a lot of propaganda about how reservations run counter to merit.

 

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The Goan Temple: A Unique Architecture on Its Way Out

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

The architecture of Goa is a heterogeneous one, the result of its long and cosmopolitan history as an Indian Ocean port, a part of the Islamicate Deccan, and then of the Portuguese empire. And one of its most distinctive and heterogeneous developments is in the realm of temple architecture. The Brahmanical temples that were built in Goa from the seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries were creatively inspired by Renaissance Europe (via the churches of Goa), the Bijapur Sultanate, the Mughals (via the Marathas), and the Ikkeri Nayakas, along with the local architecture. These varied vocabularies came together to produce a recognisable architectural ensemble by the end of the 19th century which spread across the region of Goa and beyond.  This is why the Goan temple should be seen as an architectural type in its own right.

 

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Cuncolim was not Goa’s First Rebellion against the Portuguese

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

It’s that time of year again. The anniversary of the Cuncolim incident of 15 July 1583, with its regular demands to commemorate the gauncars who were put to death by the Estado da Índia for lynching 5 Jesuit missionaries and several native Christians, provides a great example of the prevailing amnesia about Goa’s past. The amnesia is at least partly deliberate, as can be seen from how the popular Cuncolim narrative has been woven to satisfy all the nationalist tropes possible. The Portuguese as relentless oppressors, Goa as a Hindu land, religious conversion as forced and violent, natives as Hindus alone who were united against the foreign Christians, elite Goans as martyrs for Hinduism, and no mention of caste or land relations at all. All of which makes this incident the first ‘War of Independence’ not only in Goa but also India. What better history can any nationalist ask for?

 

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Cow and Nation: A Brief History

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

The Modi government clearly wants to keep the heat on, regarding the issue of beef. In the wake of a number of lynchings of mainly Muslims and Dalits by gaurakshaks on the issue of cow slaughter, a normal government would have at least claimed concern and talked about taking action. But this government chose to pass a national directive against cow slaughter instead. In other words, let the violence continue. It was followed by some virulent hate-speech in Goa, demanding death to beef-eaters, which has met with the expected lack of response from the Goa government; we can expect worse to come.

 

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Ayurveda and the Ills of Nationalism

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have set up Ayurvedic centres for producing ‘ideal progeny’, in terms of gender, skin colour, height, courage, and so on; this RSS-backed Garbh Vigyan Sanskar project has already delivered 450 ‘customised babies’, according to the office-bearers, is part of the University curriculum in Jamnagar, Gandhinagar, and Bhopal, and plans to set up base in every Indian state by 2020. In Maharashtra, meanwhile, one of the textbooks prescribed for the 3rd year of the Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine, and Surgery (BAMS) course explains various methods to produce a male child.

 

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The Invisible, Unimportant, Expendable Pedestrian

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

While walking home in Panjim on the riverfront road from Campal to Miramar recently, I found I could not walk on the pavement. Now this road, originally the Rua de Boa Vista, renamed the Avenida de Republica, and re-renamed the Dayanand Bandodkar Marg, is perhaps the nicest road in Goa, perhaps even in all South Asia, thanks to its broad and accessible pavements, canopy of shady rain trees, road dividers, and service roads. But the pavements were completely occupied that night by parked cars. Pedestrians were forced to walk on the road, squashed between the parked and the speeding cars.

 

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Racism: Theory and Practice

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

How can we forget Atithee devo bhava (the guest is god), that pillar of Indian culture? Such was the lament from some sections of the Indian media following the latest murderous attacks on Africans, this time in Noida and triggered by the death of a local teenager. Five Nigerian students in the neighbourhood were arrested after being accused by locals of everything from drugging the boy to eating him, following which mobs began to search for and beat up other Africans, grievously injuring four men who were cornered in a mall. Except for arresting the Nigerians on charges of murder (they were later released for lack of evidence), and thus adding credence to the wild rumours going around, the police did nothing.

 

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