Konknni is language of the heart By Pratap Naik, S.J.


Pratap Naik, S.J.

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Konknni is language of the heart By Pratap Naik, S.J.

When Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi gave recognition to Konknni there was no mention of its script in the minutes. On 21 November 1981 the Advisory Board of Konknni, which consisted of a majority of Devanagari proponents, through their shrewd manipulative skills recommended that Devanagari should be the script for Konknni. Since then Sahitya Akademi accepted Devanagari script as the official script of Konknni. Konknni speakers, writers and leaders of various scripts were not consulted for such a major decision. There was no public debate to come to a consensus on this important issue of script. The entire process was a clandestine exercise of a few. Subsequently whenever the question of script was raised, the proponents of Devanagari script silenced the voice of their opponents by vociferously proclaiming that Sahitya Akademi has recognized Konknni, only in Devanagari script! When Konknni was included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution of India on 20 August 1992 there was no mention of its official script.

Sahitya Akademi awards are given exclusively to books written in Devanagari script. Sahitya Akademi’s recognition to Konknni first sowed the seed of division among the supporters of Konknni and supporters of Marathi. Secondly, it created a rift between supporters of Devanagari script versus the supporters of other two major scripts of Konknni, namely, Roman and Kannada scripts. This gap is widening day by day. Prior to the recognition, these three groups lived and worked together with dignity. Sahitya Akademi’s recognition did more harm to the unity and harmony of Konknni than good!

In 1985 the Goa Government founded Goa Konkani Akademi (GKA). GKA was filled with Devanagari proponents and they interpreted Konknni means Konknni in Devanagari script.

Till 2005 the GKA hardly did anything to fulfill its primary objective. In 2005 due to the demands of Roman script supporters, the Government ordered the GKA to give financial assistance to books written in Roman script. Since the inception of Goa Konknni Akademi, not a single Roman script writer has been appointed as the President of it. Kala Academy stopped to give awards to Konknni books written in Roman script from 1987. So far not a single book published in Roman script has been given Sahitya Akademi award. Why the Devanagari lobby is silent about this injustice? They used Devanagari as a tool to suppress and oppress the minority community to perpetuate their supremacy in the field of language and literature and to grab awards, felicitations, positions, jobs, power and government funds.

On 4 February 1987 Goa Legislative Assembly passed the Official Language Bill. In the Official Language Act (OLA), under definitions 2c it is stated “‘Konkani language’ means Konkani language in Devanagari script.” Who created this deliberate mischief to include the definition of Konknni? What was the need to include such a definition?

The main objective of the State Language is to give preference to native speakers for government jobs. The OLA is biased towards one section of the Goan community. In Goa for government jobs the knowledge of Konknni in Devanagari script is essential and the knowledge of Marathi is desirable. With this policy those who know Konknni in Devanagari script and Marathi are given preference for jobs. Due to this, the present OLA does not promote unity and harmony in Goa. Instead it has created disunity, mistrust and division in Goa. Prior to the OLA, the situation in Goa was much more cordial and friendly. It was falsely presumed that Konknni in Devanagari script would promote unity in Goa. But the reality is that the Hindu community continues to use Marathi for religious services, education, mass media and cultural domains. In Goa neither the Hindu community nor the Catholic community has fully accepted Konknni in Devanagari script. It is nobody’s baby, yet this unwanted baby is artificially kept alive through generous grants of the government. In Goa, Konknni for oral communication and English for written communication will definitely unite all Goans irrespective of their caste, creed and region.

Whatever may be the medium of instruction, the proponents of Devanagari script should have demanded from the government to make Konknni a compulsory subject in schools. So far they have not done so. Why? The reason is crystal clear. As per the OLA, Marathi has been safeguarded in educational, social and cultural fields. Therefore, Konknni cannot be made the compulsory language in Goa in schools. Fighting against granting the official status to Konknni in Roman script and cursing the impact of English in Goa will not help the cause of Konknni in Devanagari script. Rather it will lead to the natural death of the Konknni written in Devanagari so-called the ‘natural script’ of Konknni.

In Karnataka Konknni is included in the school curriculum in Kannada script. In this context what prevents the Goa Government to recognize the Roman and Devanagari scripts as the official scripts of Konknni in education?

In Goa literate Hindus know the Devanagari script. Yet they prefer to read Marathi and not Konknni. 10 Marathi dailies are sold in Goa. While the single Konknni daily in Goa has very poor circulation after 25 years of its existence! Catholics who read Konknni prefer to read it in Roman script. Since liberation, Konknni in Devanagari script has not united the entire Hindu community. Why the majority of the Hindu community which speaks Konknni has rejected Konknni written in Devanagari script? Konknni in Devanagari script has failed to unite the majority and minority communities of Goa. Prior to Goa’s liberation, written Konknni meant Konknni in Roman script. Spoken Konknni alone is the uniting factor in Goa. Konknni in Devanagari script is kept alive mainly due to State and Central Governments grants. If the government stops or if the Roman script is given the official status will Konknni in Devanagari script survive?

If Marathi which is only a written language in Goa, has a place in the OLA, and Konknni in Devanagari script which the majority of Goans do not want has secured a place in it, then Konknni Roman script which is the most popular has a right to be in the Goa’s OLA. The question is not only scripts but the dialects in use. Devanagari script is heavily dominated by the Antruji dialect of Ponda region. While the Roman script promoted by the Catholics use Bardeshi dialect of North Goa. Both these Konknni dialects vary at the phonetic, lexical, morphological, syntactic and semantic domains. Since Konknni is the language of identity, both these groups want to maintain their identity through their own different scripts and dialects. It is a language politics for identity (linguistic, cultural, social, psychological), power, prestige and economical control. The good of Goa and Goans is far more important than mere language, dialect or script controversy. Language, scripts and dialects have become emotional and cultural dimensions of people here in Goa.

Those who care for Konknni should be open to the ground reality and not be led by mere theoretical idealism or language/script chauvinism. In democracy mutual respect, understanding and unity in multiplicity and other values must guide any action. According to a Hasidic saying, “The culture of the heart is greater than the culture of the mind”. Konknni is primarily a language of the heart.

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