Blacklisted: Racism and the Injustice of Popular Violence



On 31st October, the local media was saturated with news of a group of Nigerian nationals who, it was claimed, had removed the corpse of their murdered compatriot from the hearse carrying it, thereafter placing the body on the road, effectively blocking traffic on NH 17 in protest. Policepersons intervening in the protest were said to have been assaulted and, to complicate matters, the Nigerians were subsequently set upon by a mob and viciously beaten up, such that two Nigerians suffered life-threatening injuries. The statements made by some of the Nigerians, that the protest was spurred by their fear that the police were not investigating the murder seriously nor paying heed to allegations that two prominent Goan politicians were involved in the drug trade of which the murder was a possible fall-out, were largely ignored.


Public reaction was astounding. Instead of being horrified at the mob lynching of the protesting Nigerians, most persons tended to respond with the simplistic question, what else were the locals supposed to do? This question implies that the Nigerians deserve what they got, not only because they were causing a nuisance, but primarily because of their alleged involvement in the drug trade in Goa. It is precisely this sort of rhetoric that demonstrates the double-standards at work in our society and as especially evidenced in this particular case. The assault on the Nigerians as well as the subsequent reportage, not to mention comments on social media, reek of a barely concealed, when not blatant, racism.


Incidents of mob lynching are often presented as spontaneous eruptions of anger against an ineffective government, but are in fact almost never so. Usually the manifestation of a shared local sentiment against a weaker opponent, they tend to happen only when it is convenient and ‘safe’ to take the law into one’s own hands. Why should a blockage of the highway lead to murderous assaults by people armed with lathis and iron rods? If this lynching was really a response to the government’s inaction against the drug mafia, as some claim, why have we never seen such attacks on the police or the politicians who have been frequently accused of protecting or patronising the trade? The answer is that most participants in the lynching are aware that attacking the police or politicians would have very serious legal and extra-legal implications. Lynching is never directed at the powerful but at the powerless. This ugly phenomenon is often directed at the innocent, as in the case at Arambol a few months ago, when a person mistaken for a thief was tied to a pole and then beaten almost to death – again by ‘locals’ – before he was rescued by the police. Media images showed a bound and bloody semi-naked figure whom bystanders were laughing at and taking pictures of on their cell phones. Social sanction for lynching is deeply troubling, and it cannot just be blamed on an unresponsive government.


Next is the issue of the ‘common sense’ that seems to prevail in Goa: that Nigerians are drug peddlers. It should be obvious that the entire population of Nigerians who visit or are resident in Goa cannot be peddling drugs. Such an assumption gains credibility only when supported by a racist logic that tars an entire community based on the actions of a few. Substantial examples of racism can be found in media reports and editorials, while the viciousness of social media is almost beyond description. Nigerians have been described as “hefty”, “boisterous”, “Uncivilized, uneducated pirates”, and one commentator proclaims, “we can’t forget what they did to us during Idi Amin times”. As the latter quotes demonstrate, the identities of distinct nationalities – Ugandans, Nigerians, and others – have been conflated while venting frustration. The only common feature between these nationalities is that they are all African and black. Even Goan diasporic history – the 1972 expulsion of Asians from Uganda by Amin – is roped in as reason for retribution. Further, there is the almost classic racist fear of the savagery of African men. One particularly telling comment on Facebook describes them as “massive Afzal Khan brand African giants,” intertwining the fear of the Muslim along with that of the African.


This is not surprising given our caste culture, which can surely teach racism a thing or two about violent discrimination on the basis of birth. Our society nurtures a biased belief in hierarchy and discrimination, all of which is also tied to skin colour, so that it is very normal for black people to be treated worse than whites. In an interview many years ago, an African living in Mumbai pointed out that while apartheid in South Africa was the law, in India it is human nature. This results in the khapri, or African, being relegated to the bottom of the caste ladder, lower than the lowest – not least because of Goans recalling their times in Africa as colonial collaborators, but also due to the legacy of slavery in Portuguese Goa, both of which have given Goans unacknowledged African bloodlines. Ganging up on Africans, whether physically or politically, brings Goans ‘together’ against the lowly outsider, creating a fake and racist unity. How convenient this racism is can be seen from the immediate attempts to cash in by MLAs like Rohan Khaunte and Vijai Sardessai, with their open defence of the lynching and avowed support to defend those responsible.


The calls for “rounding up” and deporting Nigerians are disturbingly reminiscent of the pogroms carried out against the Roma and Jews in Europe, and against other ethnic minority groups across the world. It is all the more ironic given the contemporary and routine racial profiling of South Asians, Goans included, who travel to or live in other countries. While many citizens see profiling as a logical response of the State, the fact is that such assertions of tough administration invariably come after an incident such as this; they are merely spectacles and knee-jerk responses, not evidence of good governance. In fact, the inherent jingoism conceals the rot in the system that has produced the problem in the first place. If some Nigerians are involved in drug peddling, can they have been doing it without local assistance? Indeed, the incident that commenced in Parra and concluded in Porvorim is an example of how institutions of governance have been systematically dismantled over time to serve the personal agendas of the locally powerful. Some foreigners may have benefited from the space that opened up, but the truth is, as so amply demonstrated on 31st October, that eventually they are as much the victims as locals. Tragically, these victims set upon one another while the kingpins laugh all the way to the bank.


In the face of this popular support for mob violence, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s assertion that it cannot do for citizens to take the law into their own hands is well placed, and one hopes that his statement that his government may prosecute those responsible for the life-threatening attacks on the Nigerians will be realised. Lynchings become precedents for more violence and, to reiterate, they invariably mete out unjust punishments.


(First published in The Navhind Times on 6 Novemver, 2013


Ser ou não ser Gawda



“O Senhor dá-me licença?”, perguntei ao entrar no gabinete do Talathi[1] de Curtorim, a minha aldeia.


“Sim, entre”, respondeu o Talathi, levantando os olhos dos papéis que tinha à sua frente.


Entrei no gabinete e, percebendo que havia outras pessoas à espera, pousei os meus documentos na secretária e sentei-me sem dizer uma palavra.


Tinha ido ao Panchayat[2] da aldeia para pedir um relatório ao Talathi, o primeiro passo para conseguir um Scheduled Caste Certificate.[3]


Queria candidatar-me ao departamento de Sociologia da Universidade de Goa e o número de vagas era limitado. Alguns dias antes, tinha ido visitar uma amiga que vive por trás da minha casa. Ao ouvir-me falar sobre o curso com tanto entusiasmo, a mãe dela perguntou-me por que razão eu não pedia um certificado de casta para assim aumentar as minhas hipóteses. A primeira coisa que me ocorreu foi: “Como é que ela sabe que a minha família pertence à comunidade Gawda? Isto só pode querer dizer que todo o bairro sabe”.


Enquanto eu digeria esta informação, a mãe da minha amiga disse-me que uma outra pessoa da vizinhança conseguira entrar no ensino superior com a ajuda de um certificado de casta. Mais um choque! Eu não sabia que essa família também pertencia à comunidade Gawda. Voltei para casa e perguntei à minha mãe se isso era verdade. Ela disse que sim e que essa mesma vizinha a aconselhara a não pedir um certificado de casta, uma vez que seríamos discriminados, de múltiplas formas, para o resto da vida. Estranhamente, contudo, ela própria tomara a iniciativa de pedir um certificado de casta para o seu filho.


Mas eu não queria um certificado de casta apenas para conseguir um lugar na universidade.

“Sim, diga?”, perguntou o Talathi enquanto pegava nos meus documentos. Sem me deixar responder, folheou-os e continuou: “O que é que a menina faz? Trabalha?”.


“Sim, trabalho como assistente de investigação para o Centre for Global Health Histories”, respondi.


Depois de um breve silêncio, perguntou-me: “Onde mora, ao certo?”.


“Perto da capela, ao lado da escola”, respondi.


“Humm… Dias… Não creio que haja tribais [Scheduled Tribes][4] nessa zona, ou há? E com este apelido?”


Esta pergunta deixou-me sem resposta. Estava com algum receio, pois pouco sabia sobre a presença de tribais na minha zona. Mas lembrei-me do que a minha mãe e a minha tia tinham dito e respondi com firmeza: “Sim, existem tribais nessa área”.


“Tem a certeza? Quantas casas de tribais existem lá?”, perguntou-me.

“Sim, tenho a certeza. Há umas três ou quatro casas”, respondi-lhe.


Fui ficando cada vez mais nervosa, pois não sabia quase nada sobre as famílias tribais da minha localidade. Nunca me interessara muito por saber essas coisas. Fiz os primeiros anos de escola na St. Joseph High School, em Shiroda, no taluka[5] de Ponda. Estudei nessa escola até ao terceiro ano, altura em que a nossa família se mudou para Curtorim, a cerca de trinta quilómetros de distância.


Tinha mais ou menos oito anos quando nos mudámos. A vida era muito diferente em Curtorim. Era grande o entusiasmo com os novos amigos, a nova escola, os novos vizinhos e todas aquelas novas caras. Quando me matriculei na escola de Curtorim, precisei de um período de adaptação não só para me familiarizar com os outros alunos e professores, mas também para fazer novos amigos. Mais tarde, quando passei para o ensino secundário, percebi que não éramos conhecidos apenas pelos nossos nomes e notas, mas também pela nossa casta. Eu conhecia bastante mal a questão da casta. Foi a primeira vez que reparei na sua importância. A minha turma tinha alunos de diversas castas. Havia um grupo de alunos que era conhecido por “atrasado” [backward], mas sempre achei que eles eram ricos e queria fazer parte da sua comunidade. O outro grupo de alunos não era “atrasado” e, segundo a minha percepção, era, em alguns aspectos, mais “culto” e “desenvolvido”. Ocorreu-me, naturalmente, uma questão: a que grupo pertenço eu? Eu achava que fazia parte do grupo de alunos cultos e desenvolvidos.


Mais tarde, à medida que fui avançando nos estudos, comecei a ter uma ideia mais clara sobre dois tipos de comunidades – Shudras e Gawdas. Certa vez, numa conversa entre amigos, os meus colegas quiseram saber a minha casta. Respondi-lhes que era Shudra. Tinha chegado a essa conclusão ao comparar a forma como vivíamos com o que observava na escola. Na verdade, venho de uma família que pertence à comunidade Gawda, mas a minha mãe é Shudra. Em casa, nunca se falava de Gawdas ou Shudras. No entanto, fazia-se sempre comparações com os Brâmanes, pelo que tinha a perfeita noção de que não era Brâmane. Nessa tarde, acabei por perguntar à minha mãe qual era a nossa casta. Ela ficou boquiaberta. Porque queres saber a nossa casta? Quem te perguntou? Não deves acreditar nessas coisas… Falou sem parar. Mas, por fim, disse-me que pertencíamos à comunidade Gawda. Fê-lo apenas porque a minha prima mais nova começou a rir e disse: “Ami ani khuinchi ami gawdi” (Nós também somos Gawda). Fiquei sem saber o que dizer aos meus amigos. Pensei em dizer-lhes a verdade mas acabei por desistir porque me senti desconfortável com a ideia.


A questão da casta só voltou a ser assunto de conversa entre os meus amigos quando chegou ao nosso grupo um rapaz que pertencia à mesma comunidade que eu. Estávamos todos a conversar informalmente quando o tema das castas veio à baila. Fiquei em silêncio e este novo amigo disse: “Hanv baba gawdi” (Eu sou Gawda). Foi então que anunciei, atabalhoadamente, que também era Gawda. Os meus amigos não tiveram qualquer reacção. Notei, contudo, que embora tivesse revelado que era Gawda, o meu novo amigo fizera-o em voz baixa. Percebi que se sentia tão pouco à vontade em revelar a sua casta como eu.


“Quem é o seu Panch?”,[6] continuou o Talathi.


“O Sr. Cardozo”, respondi.


“Ele conhece-a?”

“Sim”, respondi prontamente.


“Conhece o Sr. e a Sra. Fernandes? Eles conhecem-na? A Sra. Fernandes foi a sua ex-Panch, não foi?”. Bombardeou-me com perguntas.


“Sim, conheço-os. E eles também me conhecem. Moramos no mesmo bairro”, respondi.


Em tempos, o Sr. Fernandes tinha aconselhado a minha mãe a pedir um certificado de Scheduled Tribe. Tinha, portanto, alguma esperança de que ele pudesse confirmar que éramos Gawda. O Talathi decidiu telefonar a algumas pessoas para investigar a identidade da nossa família.


“Ninguém atende”, disse o Talathi depois de algumas tentativas. Fiquei um pouco desanimada. Foi então que entrou na sala uma senhora com o seu filho. Percebi, pela maneira como falava concani, que era Brâmane. Lembrei-me que quando a minha família paterna nos vinha visitar, a minha tia, que passou a maior parte da sua vida em Bombaim, costumava dizer: “Não usem a palavra tiyani (termo coloquial para o pronome eles, que permite identificar prontamente um Gawda); nós dizemos tenni (palavra mais sofisticada para “eles”)”. Dizia-nos também “Gawdi te Gawdi uttole kennach sudorpana” (“Vocês sempre serão Gawdi e nunca hão-de subir na vida”). Percebo agora o que eles devem ter sentido naquela altura. A minha prima mais nova contou-me uma vez um episódio que me incomodou muito. Ela ofereceu uma camisa verde a um amigo e ele respondeu-lhe: “Só o vosso tipo de gente é que usa essas cores, nós não”. Tive em tempos uma proposta de casamento de uma família de Brâmanes cristãos e a primeira reacção da minha mãe foi: “Avoi…Bamon…Chamti te!” (Ó, os Brâmanes são sempre forretas). Mas depois também me disse que não levantaria quaisquer objecções se eu quisesse aceitar.


“O seu Panch também não atende. A quem devo pedir informações sobre si?”


“Entre”, disse o Talathi para alguém.


Voltei-me e vi o primo de uma amiga que vivia perto de nossa casa. Estava a entrar com um formulário na mão. Fiquei com receio de que ele visse os meus documentos e fosse contar a toda a gente. Para meu alívio, saiu pouco depois.


Estava no gabinete do Talathi há já meia hora e começava a achar que ele não ia dar-me a carta de aprovação, uma vez que não havia provas de que eu pertencesse a uma comunidade tribal.

“Quando os pais têm um certificado, é tudo muito mais fácil”, disse o Talathi, quebrando o silêncio.


“Os meus pais tiveram vergonha de pedir um por causa da discriminação. Mas a minha prima tem. Se quiser, posso trazer o certificado dela”, disse.


Sei que os meus pais devem ter tido boas razões para não pedirem um certificado ST. Talvez tenham querido poupar os seus filhos ao estigma de serem identificados como Gawdi. Por isso, não os censuro. De facto, lembro-me de a minha mãe me ter dito que teve de enfrentar o seu pai para poder casar com o meu, só porque ela era Shudra e o meu pai era Gawdi. Quem devo culpar por termos sido excluídos da comunidade dos primeiros habitantes de Goa? Julgava que era algo de que nos devíamos orgulhar; se é assim, por que razão devemos escondê-lo? Aprendi a admirar as danças e canções Gawda à medida que fui lendo coisas sobre o assunto. Mas não tenho um conhecimento profundo sobre a comunidade. Se tivesse, as coisas teriam sido diferentes.

“Bom dia”, ouvi uma voz conhecida dizer, enquanto estava perdida nos meus pensamentos. Voltei-me e vi que era um amigo do meu pai, acompanhado de um vizinho.


“Eu conheço-os. Ele é amigo do meu pai e o outro senhor é meu vizinho. Pode perguntar-lhes sobre mim”, apressei-me a dizer ao Talathi.


Este vizinho também pertencia à Scheduled Tribe. Mas eu não queria que ele soubesse que estava a pedir um certificado ST, porque sabia que ele ia contar a toda a gente. A minha mãe tinha-me dito que fora este vizinho quem aconselhara os meus pais a não pedirem um certificado ST. Mas eu já não queria saber. Só queria terminar o que tinha ido fazer e sair dali o mais rapidamente possível. O Talathi não mostrou qualquer interesse em perguntar-lhes fosse o que fosse a meu respeito. Estava ocupado com um telefonema. Estava a tornar-se insuportável continuar sentada naquele gabinete.


Antes de ir ao Panchayat, tivera já de pedir um Samaj Certificate e entregá-lo, com muitos outros documentos, ao Mamlatdar.[7] Não foi muito complicado. Depois disso, tive de ir pedir um relatório ao Talathi. Nunca imaginei que fosse tão difícil convencê-lo. Nem sequer disse ao meu irmão o que andava a fazer. Quando ele me perguntou para que servia toda aquela documentação, a minha mãe disse-lhe que era para pedir a renovação da carteira de emprego. Fiquei em silêncio. Não sei porquê. Quando o meu pai quis saber por que razão eu queria um certificado de casta, a minha mãe disse-lhe, fazendo fé nas minhas palavras, que era para o exame do NET (National Eligibility Test).[8] De qualquer modo, ambos me apoiaram incondicionalmente.


“Vá tirar uma fotocópia disto e volte cá”, disse-me o Talathi enquanto me entregava o formulário de aprovação.


“Há alguma casa de fotocópias aqui perto?”, perguntei com entusiasmo.


“A menina é mesmo de Curtorim?”; o Talathi parecia, uma vez mais, intrigado.

“Sim”, respondi.


“A menina mora aqui, estudou aqui e não sabe onde é a casa de fotocópias?”


“Só conheço as do mercado. Não conheço nenhuma aqui. Talvez seja uma loja nova”, respondi. E saí rapidamente do gabinete.


Fiz a fotocópia do formulário de aprovação numa loja ao lado do Panchayat e voltei ao Talathi.

“Preencha”, disse-me ele. “Mas espero não vir a ter nenhum problema, está bem?”, acrescentou.

“Não, de maneira nenhuma”, garanti-lhe. E, passado pouco mais de uma hora, saí do seu gabinete.

O último passo para conseguir o certificado de ST era entregar este formulário de aprovação no gabinete do Mamlatdar. Tudo correu sem problemas. Tive de entregar o certificado no Tribal Welfare Office e, por fim, consegui o meu certificado de ST.


Terminado o processo, ainda me interrogo se estarei realmente preparada para anunciar ao mundo que sou uma Gawdi.


Falo abertamente sobre a minha identidade tribal apenas com pessoas que sinto que me compreendem. Tive um momento de hesitação quando escrevi num formulário de entrevista que pertencia à comunidade tribal, ponderando se deveria realmente fazê-lo. Havia naquele local algumas pessoas que me conheciam e, naquela altura, tinha alguma vergonha da minha identidade ST. Mas ganhei coragem e escrevi a verdade. Às vezes, falo abertamente sobre a minha identidade tribal; noutras ocasiões, apetece-me escondê-la. Parece-me, por vezes, que coloco a máscara de Gawdi quando vejo a possibilidade de retirar daí algum beneficio, removendo-a quando regresso ao mundo real. Ao fazê-lo, sinto que estou a perpetuar a discriminação… Concordo que as pessoas não devem ser discriminadas com base na tribo, na casta ou na religião. Mas, por outro lado, talvez eu também discrimine os outros. Lembro-me de ter recusado propostas de casamento só porque os rapazes eram de famílias cristãs de casta alta. Também já reparei que as pessoas da minha aldeia e da minha família ainda chamam “certificado de casta” ao “certificado de tribo”. Eu própria usei as duas palavras, ao longo deste texto, como se fossem equivalentes. Concluo que as pessoas não sabem a diferença entre casta e tribo. Usam muitas vezes palavras como Casta-che (de casta) mas nunca Triba-che (de tribo). Não tenho qualquer problema em usar a expressão Scheduled Tribe, mas o meu certificado diz CERTIFICADO DE CASTA. E, no final, acrescenta “pertencente à scheduled tribe Gawda”. Por conseguinte, eu também não sei que termo utilizar.


Aguardo para ver o que esta nova identidade me reserva. Nem sequer sei se os meus primos, que sempre viveram em Bombaim, têm a noção de que somos Gawdis. Se sabem, como se sentem em relação a isso? Terá alguma importância para eles? Por que razão fiquei em silêncio quando o meu irmão perguntou o que se passava? Li uma vez no jornal que a minha aldeia tem três bairros maioritariamente habitados pela comunidade Gawdi. Até hoje não sei quais são. Não sei se quero que os meus pais saibam que estou a estudar ou a escrever sobre a minha identidade tribal. Será que o faço para eliminar as diferenças de casta ou para esconder a minha casta? Não sei o que significa ser Gawdi. Por enquanto, não tenho um sentimento forte de pertença em relação à minha tribo. Tenho vivido como uma não-Gawdi mas não posso dizer que não sou Gawdi.


Estarei numa espécie de crise de identidade? Será que a minha vida vai continuar a ser a mesma, ou será que mudará para sempre? Quererei, de facto, esta identidade? Se sim, será apenas pelos benefícios que me traz? Não estarei eu a encorajar a discriminação? Os meus pais sempre me mantiveram longe das diferenças de casta/tribo. Serei capaz de enfrentar a discriminação, se alguma vez tiver de me confrontar com ela?


Agora que assumi a minha identidade tribal, penso muitas vezes na reacção de outros Gawda. Irão aceitar-me ou pensarão que sou apenas uma oportunista, alguém que adquiriu o certificado tribal apenas pelos seus benefícios? Sinceramente, não tenho resposta para isso. Não vou mentir e dizer que não usarei o meu certificado para fazer valer os meus direitos. Mas, mais importante do que isso, tenho o certificado para me ajudar a chegar a uma conclusão sobre a minha identidade. Como posso escrever nos formulários, ou noutro local qualquer, que pertenço a uma categoria geral quando sei que isso não é verdade? Além disso, se eu escrever que pertenço à comunidade Gawda, terei de prová-lo. Não ficarei, por conseguinte, de consciência tranquila se não tiver um certificado, mas se o tiver é a sociedade que não me deixa em paz. Na verdade, temo que a minha própria comunidade possa questionar as razões que me levam a querer adoptar uma identidade Gawda, uma vez que nunca sofri qualquer tipo de discriminação e sou assolada por todos estes receios. Podem pensar que sou como aquelas pessoas que obtêm certificados falsos para lhes roubarem as suas oportunidades.


Se pensam que nunca fui vítima da discriminação de casta, tudo o que posso dizer é que não estaria aqui a escrever sobre a minha experiência se não fosse esse o caso. Na verdade, posso vir a ter de enfrentar uma dupla discriminação: primeiro, por parte dos não-Gawda, por ser Gawda; e, segundo, por parte dos Gawda, que podem pensar que eu estou a usar a minha identidade Gawda apenas para daí retirar benefícios pessoais. Se o tratamento fosse igual para todas as castas, ser-me-ia perfeitamente indiferente saber que sou Gawda. Mas como não é esse o caso, sinto que sou vítima do sistema de castas.


Agora que passei o meu exame NET, penso que há mais probabilidades de ser rotulada como uma oportunista. Vão dizer que passei o exame apenas por causa do meu certificado e não por mérito próprio. Sei que alguns dos meus amigos que pertencem à categoria geral não foram aprovados, embora tenham conseguido uma classificação mais alta do que a minha. Pergunto-me como se sentirão em relação a isto. Também devem sentir-se discriminados. Devo, portanto, sentir-me mal por eles ou feliz por ter passado o exame? De certa maneira, sinto que o facto de ter adoptado a minha identidade tribal pode criar problemas, não só a mim mas também a outros membros da comunidade tribal. Poderá haver maior oposição ao sistema de quotas.


Há momentos em que gostaria de ser conhecida apenas por Favita. Em que preferia não ter descoberto a minha identidade tribal e não ter de enfrentar esta situação. Mas este processo marcou-me. Transformou-me numa nova pessoa. Uma pessoa com um conjunto de novas questões que requerem novas respostas. Espero apenas ultrapassar esta confusão e perceber com maior clareza o que quero fazer e onde me quero posicionar. Também gostaria de saber se há outras pessoas a enfrentar crises semelhantes à minha.

Traduzido por Dr. Monica Saavedra e Manuel J. Magalhães


(This Portuguese translation was published in Boletim da Casa da Goa, September-October 2016. The original English version first appeared here)


[1] Funcionário do corpo administrativo da aldeia, encarregado de funções burocráticas.

[2] Órgão administrativo de uma dada aldeia, constituído por um grupo de cinco pessoas democraticamente eleitas.

[3] Documento que prova a pertença a uma determinada casta ou tribo, mais especificamente as que são consideradas socialmente desfavorecidas (scheduled ou “classificadas”), de acordo com a Constituição Indiana.

[4] Termo que, no caso de Goa, se refere aos indivíduos pertencentes aos grupos populacionais normalmente tidos como autóctones.

[5] Subdivisão de um distrito,[o concelho do antigo Estado da Índia Portuguesa]. Grupo de várias aldeias organizado para efeitos de administração fiscal.

[6] Um dos membros eleitos do Panchayat.

[7] Samaj Certificate – Certificado emitido por um organismo não governamental com o objetivo de garantir os direitos de uma determinada casta ou comunidade. Mamlatdar – magistrado nomeado de acordo com o artigo 20º do Indian Criminal Procedure Code de 1973. É um funcionário superior nomeado pelo governo estadual e preside ao Taluka.

[8] Teste que avalia os candidatos a lugares de ensino nas faculdades e universidades indianas, bem como a atribuição de bolsas para investigadores em início de carreira.

When Malaysia Looks like India and Vice Versa



Malaysia’s Bersih movement was in the news recently. The Bersih movement is a movement for free and fair elections.  It has raised questions of how electoral rolls come to be drawn, and how constituencies come to be delimited in ways that ensure that the ruling party’s vote banks are appropriately configured within each constituency so as to give the ruling party a lead. This is so familiar to us in Goa where such constituency delimitation has been reorganised to facilitate the ruling party.


The similarities don’t stop there. The Bersih movement was said to be an urban movement, which could well have been the case, however Bersih activists have demystified the process of elections and governance in Malaysia to the extent that even ordinary people from the rural areas have participated in the annual Bersih rally. The Government had been playing the racial card of divide and rule throughout, which is so familiar to Goa. The Government asserted that the Malays are the original people and whoever else has migrated, no matter how long ago such as the Chinese and Indians, are the ones who are fuelling the Bersih movement.


This all too familiar strategy plays out on the basis of religion and caste in India. The people are sought to be polarised so that they cannot unite and organise. We know what happened during the Baina evictions. People were polarised as sex workers, Fakirs, migrant trawler workers, fisher people, local people from Vasco so that they may not organize against port privatisation and the multi lane highways to Verna meant to benefit a high level of trade from the Marmugao port to the Verna industrial estate.


Another familiar strategy was the raids conducted on the Bersih office on the eve of the rally of 19th November, ostensibly looking for incriminating material Bersih’s use of foreign funds to challenge the parliamentary sovereignty of Malaysia. As a matter of fact, the Bersih leader Mandeep Singh was arrested on charges of sedition, just the day before the rally. The offence of sedition forms a part of the same Penal Code that is a legacy of the British in India as well, except that Malaysia has moved to modify the Code to include more sub provisions within ‘sedition’.  This again was reminiscent of India, where human rights defenders are being harassed and the ‘foreign funding’ flag is being waved to mislead.


As if this was not bad enough, the Malaysian Police applied the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, 2012, (SOSMA) against Bersih leader Maria Chin Abdullah, and arrested her from the Bersih office on the eve of the Rally. The SOSMA law is something akin to India’s National Security Act and does not require the arresting authorities to produce the accused before the Court in 24 hours as is otherwise necessary under the law. This is similar to the draconian laws that are enacted in India in the name of curbing terrorism and ensuring security; while the same are invoked against marginalised sections of society who resist oppression, and human rights defenders. Abdullah upon being arrested was kept in solitary confinement with a plank for a bed, two light bulbs switched on the whole night and no immediate access to lawyers or even immediate information as to where she was finally whisked away to. It was said that, as is possible in SOSMA, she would be detained for 28 days without production before the Magistrate.


But this is where the plus side begins. With global solidarity, it was possible to apply the necessary pressure on the Malaysian Government which finally resulted in her release. As we brace up for elections in Goa, where there is intense dissatisfaction with a Government that rode to power on an anti-incumbency wave, there is every chance that political dissenters and activists exposing harsh realities will be tormented. It is important to be aware of possibilities of global, regional and national solidarity and human rights standards that countries are committed to by their Constitutions and by the International Treaties that they have signed and ratified.


The Malaysian Government reneged on its promises by enacting a law replacing the Internal Security Act, which it promised to repeal with a law called the Peaceful Assembly Act which has all the trappings of a law meant to curb political dissent.  For instance, the law does not allow street rallies, which are defined as rallies started from specified meeting places and then marching in support of a cause!  And then a couple of months ago, Malaysia enacted a National Security Act, which the Malaysian Government was also threatening to invoke against Bersih leaders as they were organising towards the rally. It is therefore important to watch out for possible legislation or policies that are getting enacted/adopted under some benign covers such as curbing black money.


(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 1 December, 2016)


Goa: A Poster State for BRICS


When BRICS leaders will converge in Goa mid-October, it is believed that they will be discussing industrialisation, counter-terrorism, tourism, banking, bio-technology, cooperation… And typical to summits such as these, broadening of roads and ‘connectivity’ have preceded.

Naturally, people are asking what are these summits for, who are the broad roads for and who is the connectivity for? The irony of this cannot be lost, given that Goa is a poster host for such summits and also a poster state of the very kind of BRICS-perpetrated development, and, yet, is also a case in evidence that this development model is not working. It would be important therefore for the BRICS leaders to take a peep into how this ‘development’ is panning out in the host state.

The nature of industrialisation that the BRICS leaders are talking about has however also pushed a lot of people towards migration because the industries that were set up did not match or harness the skills of the people in Goa who most needed the jobs. Even as this industrialisation displaced people from the only livelihoods they knew and had. For instance, around 4050 hectares of land under de facto tribal occupation in the central belt of Sancoale, Loutolim, and Cansaulim, was forcibly acquired for an industrial estate in which the community found little space.  The other side of this coin is the in-migration of poor non Goans, who votebank politics has bred illwill against while distracting from the colonisation by the big corporates from within and without.

Tourism development has also been the cover for casinos, golf courses, and the like. These make Goa the playground of the Indian and foreign rich at the cost of water resources, lengthening of women’s work days, and hikes in land and food prices, among other things.  The kind of support, for instance, that the corporate Leading Hotels has enjoyed from the State to set up a golf course at Goa’s Northern tip of Tiracol, in the face of stiff opposition from local people is unparallelled.

Land for homes and livelihoods goes beyond the reach of even the average Goan. Staple food is taken away from the plates of Goans. The proposed IT Parks and biotechnology Parks have been decoded to show that they are nothing but real estate scams that seek to sneak in townships and gated communities where the rule of law is specially dismantled in the guise of ‘development’.

As for the proposed BRICS New Development Bank, who will be the beneficiaries of such a Bank? Will it again be wealth-begets-wealth with the kind of acceptable collaterals that only the super-rich and the big transnational corporates possess? Will it be for only those kinds of activities and on that kind of scale that simple local people and their cooperatives do not and cannot engage in?  In other words, old wine in a new bottle?

Counter-terrorism laws? Behind each time the National Security Act or the TADA was invoked or threatened to be invoked in Goa, there is a story of economic and political dissent that the ruling party wanted to quell by hook or by crook.

And broad roads? They have meant displacement from the livelihoods of people who occupied the land that the roads took over. Huge trees have been cut. Thus they have meant inroads into Goa to make it beyond recognition, environmentally and politically.

Connectivity? It is about doctors roped in by the ruling party to connect their dots by addressing a press conference about the safety of mobile towers, no prizes for guessing which company, in the run up to BRICS to ensure connectivity for the Official BRICS delegates in South Goa. One such oncologist was known to be a super-Dean of the Goa Medical College as far back as 2001, and never brought this up then. That says it all!

As for REAL cooperation, it seems more about cooperation between or with big corporates. Smart cities, model villages are being founded on the backs of marginalised communities.  The recently announced MOU of Environment Ministers to cooperate, to conserve ponds rivers and ponds seems more like greenwashing the extractive mining policies and mega environmentally destructive projects actively facilitated by these Governments. While necessary, it is akin to planting trees, while sanctioning tree-slaughter of entire groves.

Why not cooperation to address trafficking of women? Or to ensure that local labour is gainfully employed and not rendered vulnerable by the kind of trade agreements the countries’ leaders sign, waiving off even minimum labour guarantees? Even Goa’s approximately 35% organised labour force has reason to be concerned.

Ever so many questions, as the Summit nears, straight out of people’s mouths, or mediated through civil society groups, a couple of whom have constituted themselves into a People’s Forum on BRICS. If BRICS was formed as a counter to a certain power hegemony that sought to exclude certain countries, shouldn’t it challenge that kind of hegemony even within?

Goa is a poster case for the BRICS summit for foregrounding the pangs of the present development model. It poses a challenge to interrogate democracy, justice and development, from the yardsticks of equity, people’s participation, decent wages and dignity for all. Goa wants development that is people-centric and is rooted in a creative engagement with its land and its resources. Goa wants peace. And so do BRICS countries and peoples the world over.

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 6 October, 2016)

Caste Atrocities in Goa: Give Us this Day… Our Land!


Gayechi shepdi tumi doura,amkaam amchi zamin diya – such is the slogan (translated into Concani) of the Una Dalit Atyachar Ladayi Samiti, formed in Gujarat after the recent atrocity where 4 Dalit men were tortured by Gau Rakshaks, for disposing of dead cattle. Atrocities on Dalits are of course not new for South Asia; indeed they are the way of life for the brahmanical societies here. But, even as India rang to this new slogan, and other inspiring news from Gujarat where a vow has been taken by Dalit communities to forswear this occupation that they have traditionally been forced to do, leading to the dumping of cattle carcasses in front of government offices, Goa has been mostly silent. There was a small protest on 15 August in support of the Gujarat struggle, but, apart from this, one would imagine that Goa has nothing to do with such atrocities.

But this is not true. Atrocities against Dalits (and others) are part of not just Goa’s history, but contemporary culture too. Just a few days earlier, the people of Shahu Nagar wado in Ibrampur village, Pernem, had invited lawyers and others to their village to discuss the serious caste discrimination rampant there. Ibrampur has seven wados with a total population of 1800, of which the Mahars comprise 166 persons. As is the case with most Goan villages, the wados are caste-based, with the Mahars living to this day in a separate wado, known to the village and the government as the Maharwado or Harijanwado, though the residents have decided to change the name to Shahu Nagar. And although they have lived here for generations, toiling on the land and growing many fruit trees and other crops there, the land is not in their name, except for their houses. The rest is in the control of the Communidade of the village. And this Communidade is dominated by members of the Gawas community, who consider themselves higher than the Mahars.

The recent grievance of the Mahars concerns the Prime Minister’s Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, under which Ibrampur is one of three villages selected to become a ‘model village’. Funds have been laid out for these villages to invest on various kinds of infrastructure. The Shahu Nagar residents had applied 2 years ago for a community hall and children’s park in their wado, individual (private) toilets and water connections, and a proper road to all houses in the wado. The Gram Panchayat apparently said that a No-Objection Certificate (NoC) was required from the Communidade, which the latter had refused to give. When the villagers approached the Communidade, they were told that the NoC would only be provided if the people of Shahu Nagar took up all their old occupations again. They had been permitted to stay on the land, the Communidade members are reported to have said, only in return for providing ‘seva’ to the village. In other words, the Mahars had to go back to beating drums at temple festivities, beating the dhol through the village at other times, clearing carcasses, delivering messages, etc, all of which they had given up years ago.

The people of Shahu Nagar protested that many of them were employed otherwise now. The Communidade however remained adamant. the Mahars had to do the work. Only then would the development of their wado be considered.

Meanwhile, the funds released under the scheme are being utilised in the other wados, where roads, gutters, taps, toilets, and wells are being built. In Shahu Nagar however, even a deep and dangerous hole which has developed in the main road remains unrepaired.

And this is not the only atrocity being faced by the Dalits here. They are not allowed to build new houses, extend their old ones, or even build new sheds or barns; one person was threatened when he tried. And they are, even today, not allowed to enter the village temple. There are some houses, including that of a teacher of the local school, where they are offered water in separate glasses. This school conducts a Satyanarayana puja every year (itself a questionable activity—why should a government school hold religious programme, and that of only some faiths?) in which Mahar students are not allowed to play a role. The villagers say that they have complained about all this to BJP MLA Rajendra Arlekar, who represents Pernem in the Assembly, but to no avail.

And Ibrampur’s story is not a unique one. Avinash Jadhav, an activist of Dalit Ekta Samiti, carried out a one-day hunger strike in Panjim on 15 August, in solidarity with the Gujarat movement and also to highlight atrocities in Goa, especially in Sattari. Jadhav described Dalits there as living ‘in custody’. They lived, he said, completely at the mercy of the bhatkars, i.e. the Rane family, with no title to the land on which they have lived and toiled for generations, without the freedom to harvest the produce from their own trees, sometimes even with barbed wire fencing put around their houses by the bhatkar’s men to prevent them ‘trespassing’ on the sprawling lands controlled by him.

In other words, our ‘progressive’ land of Goa is rife with caste-based atrocities, most of them directly connected to the practices and beliefs of Hinduism, as pointed out ages ago by Jyotiba Phule as well as Dr Ambedkar. And a critical element of this oppression is through control of land. Thus the slogan given by the Dalits in Gujarat, challenging the Hindu obsession with the cow and also focussing on land, is the slogan for Goa as well – Keep the cow’s tail for yourself, give us our land!

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 25 August, 2016)

Goa’s Civil Code Shows That Uniformity Does Not Always Mean Equality


For probably the umpteenth time, there are whispers in the air that a uniform civil code (UCC) is in the offing. Occasionally, Goa’s UCC is brought up during these discussions.


But even as the UCC is being touted as the panacea for the violations of women’s rights, nobody asks what really is the UCC in Goa. What is meant when the civil code is said to be ‘uniform’? Why was it retained in Goa? And how is it working for different sections of women?


An examination of Goa’s tryst with the UCC reveals much. It shows, for example that ‘uniformity’ can take different shapes. It provides a stark reminder that uniformity is not per se a rights-loaded word. It can also mean uniformity in discrimination in that you can have discriminatory provisions applicable across all religions – uniformly. It calls attention to the fact that imposition of uniformity amongst unequals can create inequality, and that the existence of plural systems, both formal and non-formal, is actually ideal for the diverse constituents who need to strategise with the limited knowledge and within the limited power they have. Above all, it reveals nationalist agendas can shape the trajectory of UCC to the detriment of human rights.


Alert: Different shades of uniformity

Thus, it would be useful to see here how the so-called UCC pans out differently for different communities in Goa. We must not forget the procedures for registration of marriage are different for Catholics as compared to the procedures applicable to non-Catholics. Even if civil registration of marriage has been compulsory for Goans, what is actually considered marriage, customarily and socially across all religious communities, is the religious ceremony and reception. The paper registration before government authorities is seen as a formality to be complied with, for legal purposes.


For this to effectively happen, people, and particularly women, are not even familiar that two signatures with a minimum gap of fifteen days are generally entailed, one for declaration of intent which is applicable for everybody and the other for confirmation, which is signable before the Church for Catholics and the civil registrar for non-Catholics. The second signature can end up being not appended because of lack of knowledge about it. However, with the Catholics, the law allows the tie up of the state with the Church. This means that after the first signature is appended before the Registrar of Marriages, the very solemnisation of marriage in the Church and signing of the Church Marriage Registration Book there and sending of the extract of the Church register to the civil registrar, has come to be considered the second signature required for the confirmation of marriage. So the socially acceptable religious practice is accounted for in the law, when it comes to Catholics. That is the up side of the law recognising the popular relevance and significance of religious marriage.


In a situation where universality of marriage is seen as a norm and women are not cultured into acquainting themselves with the procedures of registration of marriage, and may be led into the same, they can be deceived into believing they are married, when they actually are not because they have not appended the second signature, and a marriage is not ordinarily recognised if there is no civil registration of marriage.


But on the other hand, the legal acknowledgement of socially accepted religious forms of marriage, if not qualified, has consequences by way of differing procedures and grounds for annulment of marriage, or for divorce. A marriage solemnised in the church has had the option of being annulled in the Church, for specific reasons, such as non-consummation of marriage. Once a marriage is annulled by the Tribunal of the Church, the said annulment is then confirmed by the high court mechanically, only at best ensuring that there was no bias in the decision making in respect of any of the parties to the case. On the other hand, if the matrimonial petition were to be filed in the civil court, non-consummation of marriage is not a ground for either annulment or separation or divorce, for any community.


The way the word ‘uniform civil code’ is bandied around, it presents a chimera of uniformity being equated with equality. Laws can be uniformly applicable to all in respecting women’s rights, and they can also be uniformly applicable to all communities in disregarding women’s rights. In other words, they can also be uniform in discrimination. That is also a lesson to draw from Goa’s Family Laws.


There are many uniformly applicable provisions, as, for instance, that the right to will for a married man or woman is limited to half of his/her share in the properties, and the will has to have the consent of both the spouses. Which means that at least on paper a couple cannot will away all their properties to their male offspring because of a preference for sons. This is a positive provision that is present in the uniformly applicable provisions (though it is quite another thing that there are ways of circumventing this provision).


Then there is the unique concept of matrimonial property rights, which is not found in the personal laws of the rest of India. In the rest of India, there is no formal concept of matrimonial property and hence the property ends up being in the names of males and therefore the property of the male only, which he can mortgage, or sell, as he pleases. In Goa, if nothing is spelt out at the time of marriage, the default system is the regime of communion of assets, which means that upon marriage, couples will hold whatever assets they have each or jointly acquired or inherited before or after marriage as co-owners of property. Couples do have an option of contracting themselves out of this default system of communion of assets at the time of marriage, by entering into a pre-nuptial contract where they decide whether the properties before marriage will be held separately and those after marriage will form the communion or if properties, whether acquired before or after the marriage, will all be held separately.


However, irrespective of which system of holding the matrimonial properties the couple opts for, the right to administration of the properties of the couple, without exclusion of the exclusive properties of the wife, is the prerogative of the husband. Thus the law makes the ‘control’ button available to the husband. This provision is uniformly applicable to all communities. Is this the uniformity to aspire for where one gender is privileged to control across all communities?


Also, uniformly applicable is the visualisation of the concept of property. The women that can avail of the matrimonial property provisions are those whose marital families have owned property. This means that for a woman whose husband does not have ownership rights in property, dividing matrimonial property at the time of divorce can mean she gets half of nothing. So, for instance, if a woman divorces and her husband is an agricultural tenant or is tenant in the marital house, she has no right to 50 per cent of the tenurial interests.


 It presents a chimera of nationalism guaranteeing equality. But the very nature of the nationalism is such that it seeks to retain privilege for the dominant sections – be it Indian nationalism or Goan nationalism. Hence a UCC driven by such nationalism, cannot guarantee equality. Therefore introduction of any provisions in the law which will challenge that badge of existing male and privileged identity will not be acceptable to these dominant sections either in India or in Goa.


Goan and Indian nationalism – two sides of the same coin

The manner in which voices have spoken post 1961, highlights the attempt to retain privilege for the dominant Goan communities, which includes dominant caste Goan males. Therefore maintaining the portions of the family law from the Portuguese Civil Code and resisting any efforts to change that law, arises from that perspective. There is consequently a hesitation to change any of its provisions, even if any of the existing uniform provisions be denying of equality to women, or to any section of society.


Goan nationalism as it has emerged and the Indian nationalism as it has been and continues to be, both seem to be the two sides of the same coin of Brahminism, characterised by the desire of the dominant sections of society to protect their privileges and not disturb the status quo.


 The UCC is thus seen as a badge of Goan identity as against the identity of ‘Indian’. The ‘Goans’ (meaning the dominant class/caste Goans) on the one hand have been wanting to distinguish themselves from the Portuguese, and from the mestiços (mixed race of Portuguese and Goan parents), and on the other hand also want to distinguish themselves from the rest of India, while maintaining all the distinctions that they have already made between themselves. It suited the Goan to distinguish himself from the non-Goan (the rich ‘Indian’) and the migrant by whom he felt overwhelmed either because of larger power potential or numbers. Be it in the field of law, music, song and dance, cuisine, games, language, art, architecture…..the story is the same. In and through all these fields of life, there is a desire to consolidate the existing power equations. This has been further strengthened by the economic driver of tourism, which has taken the form of neo-colonialism, and where it was essential to stereotype the image of an exotic Goan with a different image of a hybrid between Indian and Iberian culture.


Therefore, even if people would secretly admit that there are provisions which are crying for change and for an introduction of a rights perspective, they are wary of the law being touched, lest it dissipates in the bargain. An USP of Goa, that makes Goans a cut above the rest of India, such as the Family Laws of Goa cannot be lost. So nobody wants to let go of this badge of ‘honour’. Thus the predominant mood is that one should not try to change the law, even to the extent of changing the unjust equality-violating provisions. This can be a foreboder of how nationalist sentiments for ‘uniformity’, that is, retaining privilege, can trump rights of substantive equality, guaranteed by the Constitution of India.


(First published in, dt: 8 August, 2015)

Can Upper Castes fight Brahmanism?


fistWhile in Panjim’s Campal area the other day, I passed the Luis Francisco Gomes Garden. Now this old public park is a pleasant place, partly for its setting under shady rain trees planted around a hundred years ago, but also for its friendly design of low walls, plentiful seats, and bandstand. Campal was an elite residential locality at one time, whose residents probably were not very welcoming of ‘commoners’, but the garden design certainly was. The low broad walls are especially notable, inviting one to sit or even nap on them, or easily hop over them into the garden without bothering to locate the (many) gates.

Or rather, they used to be. Now however, the top of the walls is covered with closed-spaced sharp stone pieces, set vertically. Touch the walls at your own risk.

What kind of public attitude does this renovation betray? Only someone who belongs to the elite, with private resources for relaxation and a car to commute in, and who is infused with brahmanical ideas of treating non-elites shabbily, could have come up with such a heartless transformation of a user-friendly space—where a tired pedestrian passerby might take rest—into something that will injure you if you try. But this is the norm nowadays, with the ‘public’ in public parks referring more to funding than usage. Our new parks—with their high walls, forbidding gates, no shade, water-guzzling lawns adorned with ‘keep off the lawn’ signs, and commercial events for the spending classes—are clearly aimed at elite users who come in the evening with cars and jogging shoes. All that remains are fees and those pipe-benches which discourage seating for more than two minutes.

amitaThis unfriendliness of our public spaces may seem unimportant when compared to the big issues facing Goa today, from rampant land grab, the MoI fight, malignant casino tourism, the marginalisation of nonHindu cultures, shortage of decent jobs, and so on. But, in the event of the forthcoming elections, all these issues are linked together by a question: can parties led and dominated by upper castes really bring change to Goa? Brahmanism is at the root of why India has not been able to create a real democracy. Can we solve this with people of the same privileged, conservative and elitist background sitting at the helm? The Aam Aadmi Party and Goa Forward claim to be alternatives to the BJP and the Congress in Goa. Their leaders talk about the need for change, but can they really bring change when most of them come from the same caste and class?

Almost all the issues facing Goan bahujans today see them up against Goan elites. For example, as Raghuraman Trichur pointed out in a recent lecture, Goa is becoming the Florida of India, with wealthy Indians buying second homes or setting up businesses that cater to other wealthy outsiders, even as many locals are fast losing their first homes as well as livelihoods. But at the heart of the land-grab in the villages, and the rash of real-estate development over the plateaux, are Goan land-owners, business partners, developers and brokers, eagerly flogging every last bit of Goa to the highest bidder. What stand would any of the upper-caste-dominated parties take on this conflict, especially when so many of their leaders are connected to real estate and related businesses themselves?

Another example is the MoI issue, where parents of children in government schools are not being allowed to choose the medium of their children’s education, and where the future of bahujan Goans is being sacrificed at the altar of the baman-bhas, Nagri Konkani. All because of the desire of Goa’s bamans to proclaim an Indian language of their own, even while their own families study in private English-medium schools.  What change can we expect here, when GF’s leaders are known to be close to the Nagri Konkani lobby, while AAP’s Valmiki Naik claims to support both sides?

Corruption is always a buzzword for those speaking of change. But corruption is of many kinds. One often condemned by upper castes is freebies during elections. But seriously, is it such a problem if poor people are provided free transport to political rallies, or money/biryani before they vote? It is only the elites who believe that such gifts swing elections, who think that the poor do not have the sense to accept gifts—perhaps the only things that these politicians do for them—and still vote as they wish. To demonise these gifts is to continue the illegalising of the poor which upper caste politicians and media have always done.

But another kind of corruption rampant in Goa is the subversion of the reservation rules mandated by the Constitution of India, in which upper castes have been blithely usurping the jobs and educational seats meant for the most deprived sections of Goan society, viz. dalits, tribals, and OBCs. Will these upper-caste-led parties take up this huge corruption issue?

One thing seems certain: Bahujan Goans are not going to benefit from another upper-caste-dominated party in power. What we really need is a party that is not just led by dalit-bahujan-tribals, but which sees dalit-bahujan-tribal interests as primary. Only through this can we have a meaningful and inclusive democracy, and the potential of development reaching all.

(A version of this post was first published in O Heraldo, dt: 2 June, 2016)