The Myth of ‘Unity in Diversity’

This campaign emphasizes unity among all Indians by employing a rhetorical strategy that erodes the contradictions in imagining India as a singular nation.

The phrase ‘Unity in Diversity’ is periodically invoked to express the spirit of post-colonial Indian nationalism. What this phrase seeks to assert is that irrespective of varied religions, ethnicities, linguistic affiliations and other such differences, India and Indians stand united. Following Ernest Renan’s argument that ‘unity [in the context of nations] is always brutally established’, the Indian narrative of ‘Unity in Diversity’ too needs to be critically scrutinized. In post-colonial India, several policies and programs have been formulated that seek to emotionally invoke the idea of ‘Unity in Diversity’ among people in India. In the wake of recent events that have sparked off debates over ‘nation’ and ‘nationalism’ in India, I was reminded of the national integration campaign Miley Sur Mera Tumhara, produced in 1986, that still evokes a feeling of a unified Indian nation.

Mile Sur Mera Tumhara was a campaign produced by the Council for Public Service Commission, an undertaking of Government of India, and promoted by Doordarshan, the state-owned television at that time. This video is intended to represent the true Indian spirit: the diversity in Indian languages, costumes, regions, religions, ethnicities, and celebrities. It starts with a slow Hindustani classical rendering by vocalist Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, then picks up speed and moves across many languages, cultures, and musical variations, fading at the end into a harmony with the final notes of India’s national anthem. All the participants sing Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, Toh Sur Bane Humara, meaning, if my tune synchronizes with yours, then the tune becomes ours, making it indistinguishable.

The Indian nation, in its post-colonial avatar, was confronted with the immediacy to address the linguistic differences across different regions in India. A Committee for Emotional Integration with a mandate to ‘‘study the role of education in strengthening and promoting the processes of emotional integration in national life”. This committee was responsible to introduce Hindi in school curriculum so that it becomes a common medium of communication binding the whole country together. This imposition of Hindi has received severe criticism as it imposed North Indian norms onto the rest of the regions, inorder to discipline them into nation-subjects. This song too starts with a Hindi couplet first, thus establishing that the ‘Mera’, or the first person privilege within the Indian polity is for the Hindi speaking community while ‘Tumhara’, or the ‘othered’ ones are communities with regional languages. What must be noted is how the Hindi language here is elevated to an all-encompassing representational category, embodying the ‘Indian’ nation, while other languages are reduced to categories that merely represent India’s regional ethos.

What is interesting to note here is how two regions, Goa and the states in the North East of India have been shown in this campaign video. While all other regions are represented through individuals singing the Mile Sur… couplet in their respective languages, the sections where Goa and the North Eastern states feature only have background music and no words. For the North Eastern region, the camera pans over a group of people holding each other by their waist. The video provides no other markers apart from their racial features and costumes to suggest that this group represents the North Eastern states of India. Similarly, for Goa, one can see people waving their hands and a family descending down the stairs of an old house with Indo-Portuguese architecture. The scene closes with noted Goan cartoonist Mario Miranda in the frame sketching a boat, fishermen, and coconut trees. There is something peculiar about this muting of voices from Goa and the North Eastern regions of India. It shows the discomfort that the narrative of Indian nationalism encountered to integrate these regions, with their own distinct histories, into its fold.

This campaign overtly emphasizes unity among all Indians by employing a rhetorical strategy that erodes the contradictions and cultural diversity inherent in the idea of a singular India as imagined by the Indian political dispensation. The trap in Mile Sur… is that it seeks to essentialise all differences within the Indian polity through languages and its regions. But it is a well known fact that regionalism and mutli-lingualism are not the only premises of difference that mark the social realities in India. The differences of caste, religion, color, race, ethnicities or even sovereignties often transcend the narrow and artificial regional-linguistic boundaries, and in fact, often challenge the very idea of India as a single unified nation. The campaign can be said to assert the Indian state’s version of imagining India as a post-colonial nation and does not necessarily reflect its lived realities. Just two years before Mile Sur… was released in 1986, India witnessed the state sponsored anti-Sikh riots, in response to Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguard. The polarization within the Indian polity has increased thereon, after the implementation of Mandal commission and the infamous Babri Masjid demolition in early nineties to the recent killings in Dadri and the overall political atmosphere in India that celebrates the masculine Hindutva rhetoric. The crisis, thus, as reflected in Mile Sur… is that of the ever increasing gap between Indian state’s projection of itself as a unified nation and its social realities that indicates otherwise.

Dayanand Bandodkar, Ambedkar and Nehru

Bandodkar’s politics show the potential of Dr. Ambedkar’s vision, but also the limits of the Nehruvian model of governance.

In his essay titled ‘A Warning to Untouchables’, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar appeals to the depressed classes to strive for two goals. The first one being the pursuit of education and spread of knowledge, for he believed that the power of the dominant castes rested upon the lies consistently propagated among the uneducated masses. Challenging the dominance of the privileged classes requires countering these lies which could only happen with education. Secondly, he asserts that the depressed classes must strive for power. Ambedkar says that “[w]hat makes one interest dominant over another is power [and] that being so, power is needed to destroy power”.

The rise of the Bahujan Samaj Party under the leadership of Kanshi Ram and Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh from the mid 1990s is considered a success story of Ambedkar’s aforementioned appeals. But Parag Parobo’s recently published book, India’s First Democratic Revolution (2015), could help us imagine Goa’s first Chief Minister, Dayanand Bandodkar, as a bahujan leader whose politics resonated with Ambedkar’s political scheme mentioned above, much before Kanshi Ram and Mayawati.

TGE snap

In the first three state elections (1963, 1967, and 1972), the Indian National Congress (INC) suffered most humiliating defeats in Goa while Bandodkar and his Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party single-handedly emerged as the most powerful political force. The reason for this, as cited by Parobo, was the INC’s dependence on reproducing feudal and caste hierarchies within the INC’s organizational structure. During the first Goa assembly elections in 1963, the INC gave candidature mostly to upper caste landlords and “freedom fighters”, leaving no space for the representation of subordinated castes. Bandodkar, on the other hand, placed an emphasis on giving tickets to the individuals belonging to the bahujan samaj, two significant examples being Kashinath Shetgaonkar, a loin-cloth-wearing farmer and Vijay Kamulkar, a tea-stall-owner, both from Pernem. Shetgaonkar and Kamulkar won their respective seats while defeating feudal doyens Raghunathrao Deshprabhu and Vaikunthrao Dempo. Deshprabhu and Dempo’s loss reflects the grit of the masses to reject the INC’s attempt to reproduce upper caste dominance within electoral democracy.

Bandodkar’s caste background not only informed his political strategy but also his vision. Parobo astutely elaborates on this aspect by analyzing Bandodkar’s educational policies for Goa vis-à-vis Jawaharlal Nehru’s educational policies for India. Nehru is uncritically considered as the architect of Modern India by a large majority of the Indian population. Nehru’s narrative of development was launched through investments in heavy industries and mega-projects and dams, which Nehru referred to as the ‘temples of Modern India’. However, as Parobo points out, Nehru’s development rhetoric emphasized higher education by downplaying the value of basic education in the country. At a time when a vast portion of the country’s population did not have access to basic education, Nehru made precious resources available to higher education in the process  starving primary and secondary schools of funds.

High resolution Image of book
Available for online order on Amazon

Parobo articulates it precisely when he writes that “at a time when investments in higher education were a priority being driven by [the] Nehruvian vision of India, Goa’s story was being scripted very differently”. Within one month of taking charge of the government, Bandodkar announced the setting up of 200 primary schools for the academic year 1964-65. The major thrust of his educational policy was to eradicate inequality by universalizing primary education and to make education accessible to everyone in Goan society by setting up educational institutions in villages, especially for those who belonged to lower ranks in the caste hierarchy. Under Bandodkar’s tenure, the number of primary schools increased from 274 to 492 in 1964-65 and further increased to 900 in 1967. According to Parobo, Bandodkar did not merely limit himself to opening up schools but also created conditions that would make Bahujan access to education possible. For example, Bandodkar’s land reforms liberated the low caste mundkars from feudal compulsions and responsibilities, thus easing their way towards acquiring education. The results of these concentrated efforts were seen in the census of 1971, wherein in the New Conquests, a region which had received relatively less attention in terms of education before 1961, the literacy rate increased from 18 to 51 percent.

Bandodkar seized political power which, according to Ambedkar, was the master key for the lower caste emancipation. Through his political strategies and reforms, Bandodkar was able to achieve two things. Firstly, Bandodkar disrupted the elite Goan establishment, both Hindu and Catholic, which was reaping benefits available to them through their support of the Portuguese colonial state. Secondly, he strategically rejected the INC’s hierarchical politics as well as the Nehruvian vision of development that catered to safeguarding the interests of the elites. Instead, he scripted a development narrative that prioritized the liberation of the lower caste communities. Thus, even though Bandodkar may not have engaged directly with Ambedkar’s political thought, he was able to demonstrate the potential of Ambedkar’s vision of subaltern emancipation. He did this by seizing political power and exposing the limits of the Nehruvian model of governance. This goes to show that a critical questioning of Nehruvian idea of ‘modern’ nation and coupling an inclusive version of Bandodkar’s strategy with Ambedkar’s political thoughts could help us to imagine possibilities of emancipating the subaltern in contemporary times.

FORCE and Bahujan aspirations

FORCE is a collective of parents of schoolchildren in Goa who want the state government to formalise the grants to English medium primary schools through an act of legislature. The collective seems to be the target of misguided criticism in Goa for past couple of weeks. In response to their protests for demanding grants, the Bhartiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM) organised a rally in Panjim to “show the strength of majority to the minority”. Given that the demands emanating from FORCE cuts across the lines of religion, caste and class, the vocabulary in which BBSM has been targeting the FORCE members has a disturbing communal tone.

There are certain fundamental issues pertaining to the Medium of Instruction (MoI) agitation that we often take for granted but need to be critically examined, the foremost being the idea of a mother tongue itself. In their book, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1987), French philosophers Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guttari argue that “there is no mother tongue, only a power takeover by a dominant language within a political multiplicity”. Now let us examine this statement in the context of Goa. The official language of Goa, according to the Official Language Act passed in 1987, is Konkani written in Devanagari script which asserts that it is the “mother tongue” of Goans. The other languages that Goans use are Romi Konkani, Marathi, Portuguese, Dakkhani Urdu, and English. In fact, the use of Romi Konkani and Marathi in Goa exceeds that of Nagari Konkani by a substantial margin. This argument could be validated by the recent shutdown of the only Nagari Konkani newspaper Sunaparant, which according to many, was struggling to sell even 300 copies a day. So, when you have these languages being used in a remarkable abundance, one must question why Nagari Konkani is made the sole official language of the state. Nagari Konkani has a distinct feature of being the dialect spoken primarily by the Saraswats in Goa. Thus the power takeover, as Deleuze & Guttari suggest, is that of this upper caste group which wants to assert their version of language as the official version, coercing the rest of the masses into believing that it’s a vehicle of Goan identity. Catholics in Goa do not use this Nagari version of Konkani, both in terms of writing and reading. Neither does the average Hindu bahujan who identifies more with Marathi because of their historic opposition to Nagari Konkani. This allows us to conclude that Nagari Konkani is more foreign to a large section of Goans than English, as far as usage is concerned.

BBSM seems to suggest that it is only Catholic parents that want their wards to learn English while Hindus are all for regional languages. This is not entirely true. There’s a sizeable population of Hindus (both Bahujans and elites) who want their wards to study not only in English medium schools, but in “Convent” schools specifically. Hence, giving the MoI issue a communal angle is a desperate attempt by BBSM to gain political mileage. The desire to have one’s child train in an English medium school is a post-globalisation aspiration of the rising middle class so that they can grab the opportunities offered by the neo-liberal economy. Its validity or futility could vary depending on one’s subjective opinion, but many see English as an egalitarian and neutral ground which would help them break away from their traditional class/caste backgrounds and claim space in the globalised world.

The Goan bahujan are not alone in this demand, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar himself referred to English as the milk of the lioness and said that only those who drink it will roar. Contemporary dalit thinker, Chandrabhan Prasad too, relentlessly argues that English is the key for emancipation for the marginalised communities. The demand for grants to English medium schools comes from the dalit bahujan section of Goan society, both Catholic and Hindu, and hence the state must pay heed to them. Traditionally denied education by the dominant brahminical socio-political setup, it was only with the arrival of western modernity via colonialism that these marginalised sections could gain an access to education.

The elites in Goa on the other hand have had cultural and economic capital to send their wards to privately-run English medium schools for decades now and some of them are BBSM sympathisers today. In light of this ironic situation, one needs to ask why only bahujans must carry the burden of culture and nativism, while the elites can be as “western” as they wish to and still be regarded as guardians of culture.

Also, a closer look at the BBSM politics will indicate that though the BBSM members are mobilised under the banner of safeguarding Bhartiya Bhasha, they are, in fact, desperate to ensure the hegemony of Nagari Konkani in Goa. During the official language agitation, the Nagari camp used Romi Konkani supporters as footsoldiers but eventually cheated them by denying any recognition to Romi Konkani. Now they have turned to Marathiwadis for help on communal and nationalist grounds, as they perfectly know mobilising Hindu massess solely for the cause of Nagari Konkani is nearly impossible. During the official language movement, people who supported Marathi were asked to leave Goa and settle in Maharashtra. Now, people who are demanding English as MoI are being asked to settle in Portugal. Unpacking both the situations will tell us that, in either of the cases, interests of only one particular group are being safeguarded. Nagari Konkani is perennially on its deathbed and periodically requires bahujan blood to revive itself. Sometimes Hindu, sometimes Catholic!

Hence, any alliance with the Nagari camp would sound a death knell for Goan Bahujans. We have witnessed that during the official language movement it was the Catholic bahujan which suffered major amount of loss and marginalisation. In an ideal scenario, the brahminical coterie of Nagari Konkani should be kept at farthest distance possible as it is responsible for the systematic intellectual and cultural massacre of two generations of Goan Bahujans (both Catholics and Hindus). In a mission to impose Nagari Konkani over the next 50 years, Uday Bhembre, with a straight face will tell you that the further massacre of the subsequent generations of Bahujans will be a collateral damage. It is this nefarious project that FORCE is poised to challenge. Unlike the way it is being portrayed, FORCE does not represent only Catholics. But what it definitely represents are the aspirations of Goan bahujan masses.

(An edited version of this article was published in The Goan Everyday editorial on 16th August 2015. I would like to thank Jason, Amita, Albertina, Dale, Bene and Vishwesh for their insights and feedback on this article and also Kurt Bento for publishing this on the editorial page of The Goan.)

Theatre, Spectacle and Politics of “Indian” imagination

Attempts to rewrite, and often overwrite, historical narratives have to be always critically examined. This critical examination is especially important in times when people learn their history through mediums which are motivated by agendas of various hues and colours. In light of this context, Vande Mataram, a play that was recently staged in Goa must necessarily be understood in the context of the India’s current socio-political environment.

Vande Mataram, a play performed by Goa based cultural outfit Krutarth, claims to celebrate the revolutionaries who resorted to arms for India’s independence movement, since school textbooks and dominant historical discourses have been allegedly unjust to them. There is good reason to believe that the desire to stage a play having dangerous nationalist tones is not innocent given the antecedents of this group. Some years back, the same set of people under a different banner, were instrumental in staging a performance of the play Jaanata Raja. This latter play written by the Pune based writer Babasaheb Purandare, achieved notoriety for positing Shivaji, an iconic historical figure, as a reincarnation of Shiva and a saviour of the Hindu religion. Jaanata Raja was unmistakably a project to appropriate Shivaji by the Hindu Right. Hence, there is good reason to be critical when the same set of people stage a play championing the militants who formed part of India’s anti-colonial struggle. Also, like Jaanata Raja, Vande Mataram too is not an ordinary proscenium play but a spectacle that employs huge sets, stage gimmicks, large mobs etc. used as theatrical devices to create an impact on the audience. Spectacle performance was a genre that was heavily used by Fascist regimes in inter-war Europe. A number of scholarly works have pointed out that the effect of the spectacular is that it creates conditions that make reason subservient to passion. It is for this reason that one should always be alert to the use of the spectacular.

The play begins with showcasing how ‘Indian’ society was content and free before the arrival of British. The narrative suggests that it was only after the East India Company pitched their tent in Calcutta that the people of the land were deprived of their freedom. This assumption is fundamentally flawed as it totally neglects the modes of oppression existent in pre-colonial India, predominantly the caste system. Those at the bottom of the caste hierarchy were treated and discriminated in most heinous ways and deprived of their basic needs such as water and food. Knowledge acquisition and economic avenues were concentrated in the hands of a few dominant castes. As the English songwriter Billy Bragg famously said, “Freedom is merely a privilege extended, unless enjoyed by one and all”, freedom was indeed a privilege available to only a chosen few in pre-colonial India. Sadly it is only those chosen few who have had tools and avenues to write about the “history” of India’s freedom struggle.

Interestingly, the play does mention caste system as one of the evils that affected the Indian society. Somewhere in the middle of the play, actors portraying Mahatma Phule and Savitribai hurriedly make an entry on stage to eradicate caste along with other evils such as Sati, female illiteracy and widow tonsure. The list of reformers who tried to eradicate these social evils during British India is read out which includes Phule, Shahu, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Annie Besant. Conveniently ‘forgotten’ in that list is the name of Dr. Ambedkar. Perhaps Dr. Ambedkar would have been partly happy not to find his name alongside that of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Annie Besant for their problematic views on caste, especially the ways they both imagined to eradicate caste discrimination. However, it is surely a sacrilege to not mention him in a historical narrative that claims to be concerned with India’s Independence movement. The conscious semiotic choices made by the makers of the performance, for example, having a Muslim character appear in mobs at regular intervals,  to not come across as a propagandist Hindu narrative of Indian independence falls flat with this careful exclusion of Ambedkar.

The aversion towards recognising the role of Dalits in the Indian Independence movement is not a new phenomenon. The revolutionaries that the performance mentions have always been part of dominant historical narratives. Names like Mangal Pandey, Anant Kanhere, Vasudev Phadke find a mention in text books because the writers of these same books have never been unjust to upper caste revolutionaries. It is names like Jhalkaribai, Gangu Baba, and Avanti Bai that never find a mention in mainstream historical discourses. Ambedkar is not just an individual but exemplifies the entire Dalit consciousness that launched a strong rebellion against the Indian society that was infested with the rot of caste system. That he chose thoughts as his weapons makes him no less a revolutionary. But then, failing to mention him shouldn’t be surprising. Brahmins sunk in their Hindutva arrogance would never even utter Ambedkar’s name, let alone give him his due credit for an inclusive imagination of India.

The play celebrates those who resorted to armed struggle for achieving independence and at various junctures shows an apparent revulsion towards people like Gandhi who resorted to non-violent means to achieve freedom. That it essentially celebrates violence is as problematic as its reductive positioning of armed struggle vis-à-vis non-violence. Also, this positioning could be further complicated in the contemporary times when the people of Kashmir and the North Eastern regions of the country have resorted to armed struggle to separate themselves from the hegemonic Indian state and its army. If violence against the colonial state is celebrated, how is it, then, that people who take part in these “freedom” struggles against a state that they see as colonial are judged terrorists and not patriots?

The answer to this question is that the dominant imagination in the country sees India as the land of Hindus. Any individual or a movement trying to disrupt this imagination is labelled anti national, maoist, naxalite or terrorist. As and when this Hindu imagination is disturbed, discourses are manufactured and theories are spun to normalise this imagination through various networks. Performances like Vande Mataram are part of these normalisation scheme that want to restore this imagination by carefully side-lining contributions of people and systematically erasing discourses that essentially challenge this very imagination.

(This article was first published in Round Table India, dated 3rd April 2015)

Privilege, Equality and Caste

You cannot help but to upset people when you write about Caste. The reactions to my post on Rajdeep are really interesting and just a reminder that we need to constantly engage ourselves into this debate instead of not talk about it at all calling caste a passé, because it isn’t. This post was initially intended to address the twitter conversation I had with Nilay but now after having received more and diverse opinions on my post, will address some others too. The conversation between me and Nilay started after him tweeting this.

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To which I replied as above. I also asked him if his understanding of privileges was this shallow, I am not interested in carrying this dialogue any further and would rest my case. At this point, the debate suddenly turned into a You vs Me battle which I didn’t see coming. Did he get better education? I don’t know which school/college he went to so no comments there. Can I not buy land in Goa? Of course yes I can but from whom? Who is the majority land owning community in Goa? Temples (and hence Mahajans (Guardians) of temples, who coincidentally happen to GSBs). Are you denied entry to temple? It’s my choice that I’ve almost stopped visiting temples unless I’m with some friends or guests. But I’m allowed entry till a certain point where I can put in money into donor box, pray and leave. Entry to sanctum sanctorum is still denied to castes other than GSBs. But the point isn’t what privileges I’m allowed. Opinions about a big problem like caste cannot be held on such binary of “Me vs You” debates. Nilay further tweeted following tweets


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To be very frank, I was not at all offended by the “People like you” reference in his tweet but it’s interesting that a debate which gets consolidated to level of “You vs Me” from nowhere suddenly elevates to level of “People like you”. Also, people like him and many other have made me conscious about my caste too so that’s levelled. Also, nor do I (stress on I) need an acknowledgment of the injustice that has been done by upper caste towards other caste communities neither am I playing my caste sympathy card. I don’t think I have personal gains from it, apart from getting myself more engaged with debates of caste, class and identity. Also, one is entitled to their impulsive beliefs which were incepted into them. For ex. someone believing in ghosts is also impulsive and incepted by an external agency.

In the due course of the discussion that followed, Sagar mentioned something about “equal footing”, and I think this is where the crux of debate lies. Equality, at least in India, is deceptive. It reminds me of a quote from Swadesh Deepak’s seminal play Court Martial which says, “All are equal before law, but some are more equal than others.” We are equal by law, not by beliefs. And this is a behaviour common across caste and religious communities and not specific to any.

Caste, Privilege and Equality is a vicious cycle. The caste system in India privileged certain communities. Thus they could get themselves educated, acquire knowledge, seek and generate employment opportunities and hence their future generations could also live in a better condition. Equality as a necessary idea came much later into our societal understanding and that concept still struggles to find a space here. What did thousand years of oppression did to the communities who were at the receiving end of it? First and foremost, it injured their morale and self-confidence. My grandfather would recount that if a Bhaadkar (landlord) would walk by, no one was allowed to make an eye contact with him. They would have to remain in whatever position with their eyes fixed to ground. An eye contact with the upper caste landlord would signify breaking of the caste code. And many of these people were labourers in the landlord’s farm so they could not afford to upset him as that would mean no employment for rest of the life. This incident speaks volumes about the humiliation that these people went through. It affected their world view, capability to dream big or even afford to dream in first place. This sense of low self-esteem has passed on through generations. In real sense, we cannot speak of equal footing or merit unless we address this historical oppression of backward communities which hasn’t only affected social and economic emancipation of them but also emancipation of their individual self.

Hence when people cringe about reservations in educational institutes and jobs and instead lobby for merit and equality, I find it extremely problematic because our history doesn’t justify that cringing. “Your ancestors may have discriminated against my ancestors but you haven’t discriminated against me so I shouldn’t be holding that against you” is a flawed argument. Perhaps, in the process of discrimination, your ancestors have hampered my ancestor’s ability to overcome discrimination which might still be continuing in my family. Who knows?

 

PS: I’d pause all the caste debate here for a while due to mounting load of pending submissions that I’ve to do as its end of the semester. We can take the dialogue further on tweets, facebook, email or in comments section here but I will try to reply only when I’m relived of the submission load. My post on Rajdeep’s tweet is here.

Rajdeep, your caste is showing!

When I moved to Delhi from Pune, one thing I was relieved of was not having to answer condescending Punekars asking me my last name. It’s a “not so subtle” way of asking “What’s your caste?” and the tone of the conversation that would follow was largely dependent on whether I was a Brahmin or not. While I was aware of caste discrimination since my days in Goa, I became aware of caste atrocities and how it plays a major role (more than one can think of) in one’s life when I moved to Pune. Social segregation, ghettoization of dalit communities etc. were starkly visible in a Pune where the Brahmins have had a stronghold in shaping it as a city. My relief from being asked Pune’s typical conversation starter “What’s your last name?” didn’t last long until last week when I went to Goa Sadan for the annual “Goa Festival”. This time it was a Goan (a GSB) asking me the same question and all I could do is laugh and tell him what my last name is.

The reason for this post is the latest controversy that Rajdeep Sardesai has stirred by tweeting about his “Sarswat” pride after fellow GSBians, Manohar Parrikar and Suresh Prabhu were inducted into Modi’s cabinet.

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Well I had already called it a sick behaviour from Rajdeep’s side by tweeting that “There’s nothing great in taking pride in people inducted into power who already hail from privileged classes”. While I thought the controversy ended there, Rajdeep has now written a column in HT justifying the tweet thereby paving way for a fresh controversy. And in course of responding to that, GSB sentiments of a fellow twitter user, Nilay Bhandare (@kharobangdo) seems to have been hurt or disturbed. This post is to address the concerns after having read reactions by both and probably address larger problem of caste with particular reference to Goa.

Let’s look at Rajdeep first (Nilay deserves another post) because if not anything else, the article is a bit hilarious too at some level.

“GSB” refers to the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins, a tiny, but highly progressive community of fish-eating Brahmins that I belong to which nestles along the Konkan coast, across Maharashtra, Goa, through to parts of Karnataka.

A “Highly progressive community” that decides how they would talk to a person depending on his or her skin tone and last name. A highly progressive community that controls temple ownership in Goa and denies entry into sanctum sanctorum for other communities. A highly progressive community that asserts their own dialect as an official language onto rest of the state. This list of highly progressive attributes can go on but let’s stop here.

Rajdeep further mentions that

In his valuable book Saraswats, Chandrakant Keni traces the history of the Saraswat community, of the migration from Kashmir, of how they faced oppression from the conquering Portuguese, how they zealously held onto their family traditions and village deities, and placed a premium on education as a path to upward mobility.

While I have not read the book by Chandrakant Keni, I will refrain from making remarks on his arguments about Sarswats but only thing here is that I have problem with is GSBs placing a premium on education as a path to upward mobility. When you are the only community having access to education and knowledge systems and thus denying the right to education to rest of the communities, aren’t you the only one who’s going to ride on the path of upward mobility? It’s like running the race alone or with fellow racers who are handicapped by social structure which you’ve ensured remains intact for centuries and then claiming victory?

The next para would put any standup comedian to shame which read like

Despite the small numbers, the Saraswat community has contributed enormously to the country: In cricket, led by the big two Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar, Saraswats have scored more than a hundred Test hundreds; in cinema and the arts, we have the splendid Girish Karnad, Shyam Benegal, Guru Dutt and the latest Hindi film dream girl, Deepika Padukone; in education, the Pais of Manipal have led the way; and in business and finance, the likes of Nandan Nilekani and KV Kamath have been pioneers.

Of course there is no doubt about Tendulkar and Gavaskar’s legacy but when their hundreds translates into “Saraswats” scoring more than a hundred test hundreds, it does look ugly for reasons more than one. Also we need to think what societal setup that “allows” Sachin Tendulkar to score hundreds while Vinod Kambli’s career gets a halt and gets the tag of “characterless”. It looks like Rajdeep has no understanding of the privileges that upper caste communities in India have always enjoyed. He strengthens this belief further by saying

Casteism is when a caste identity is used to promote hatred and separateness towards the other, when it creates social barriers based on occupation, marriage or inter-dining.

Alas! Paisaa aaya par class consciousness nahi gaya! If it was only that simple. This is the urban elite understanding of “casteism” and Rajdeep seems like a frontrunner of such bullshit that gets disguised as liberalism. Casteism is what happened in Khairlanji and rising cases of atrocities against Dalits. It’s also ridiculing of the Ambedkar followers on 6th December and discussing how these “Jai Bheem” people need to be shown their place who crowd and litter the city of Bombay, which is otherwise clean and devoid of any crowds. It’s also Brahmin students cancelling their admissions from Aurangabad University when it was being renamed as Babasaheb Ambedkar University. It’s also asking someone their last name. It’s also advertising in a local Marathi Daily that It’s a celebratory moment for “Bamons” of Goa because after Parrikar, a Kamat has been made the CM. Reminding anyone of their deprivation by invoking a pride in one’s own caste or directly ridiculing the other, is casteism.

Will just share an incident that happened with my cousin few years back. She studies in an elite school in Margao and scores well enough to come first in the class. A fellow GSB classmate of hers comes second. On the day of results, the mother of this GSB girl asked my cousin, “Your last name is Naik, right? How do you then come first in class?” As if coming first in class (and hence being intelligent and worthy of acquiring knowledge) was a trait peculiar to GSBs. Perhaps Rajdeep never got asked this question. Perhaps he wasn’t denied access to education (and hence empowerment) because of his caste.

One can be ignorant about his or her privilege, it’s only by agency of caste one learns to be proud arrogant about it.

पॅलेस्टाईन

तिथे निरागसतेचा खून चाललाय

इथे त्या रक्तसंहाराचं समर्थन चालू आहे

निष्पाप जीवांच्या मरणावर टाळ्या पिटणारी येडझवी मानसिकता

कुठल्या जिहादापेक्षा कमी नाही

आपलं आयुष्य पोकळ म्हणून

दुसऱ्यांच्या दु:खात सण शोधणाऱ्यांना

जेव्हा आपल्या गांडीखाली पेटलेल्या सुरुंगाची चाहूल लागेल

तेव्हा दुसऱ्या बाजूला पॉपकॉर्न घेऊन तुमचंही मरण एन्जॉय केलं जाईल

आणि तुम्हाला मारणारे किंवा मरु देणारे लोक तेच असतील

ज्यांचा आजपर्यंत तुम्ही उदो उदो करत आला आहात

तोपर्यंत चालू राहू द्या तुमचे अखंड राष्ट्रांचे जिहाद

आणि मध्यमवर्गीय कोशातलं कुजकं जगणं

कारण इतिहासापासून धडे घेतले नाहीत

तर तो परत जगण्याचा शाप इथे प्रत्येकाला मिळालेला आहे

Ghashiram Kotwal never dies

This whole elevation of Amit Shah reminds me of Ghashiram Kotwal all over again. When Modi became PM, I had tweeted that Modi is RSS’ Ghashiram. Now the way Amit Shah has rose to the position, can’t help but to say that Shah is Modi’s Ghashiram. The sheer thought of it is very scary. And the possibilities are endless. All I can do is to revere Vijay Tendulkar for articulating this phenomenon of creating political puppets to serve a larger interest by those in power in his classic play, Ghashiram Kotwal. It’s not about Thakre or Saddam Hussain anymore, we have Nanas and Ghashirams around us even today.

Also read Rana Ayyub’s piece on Amit Shah here

Caste Away

The morning started with Vishnupuran announcing to start a Bahujan manch to unite all Goan Bahujans under one organisation. I was wondering whether we really need one in these times. Then logged into Facebook where Nagraj is doing a promotional countdown of his much talked feature debut “Fandry”. He had shared Jason’s review of Fandry from DNA.

While browsing through the twitter timeline, I found this tweet.

 

Last time I checked, Apple didn’t sell their gadgets to people based on their race or caste. I set out to write a blog post about my thoughts on reservations and ridiculing such attitudes. Didn’t come out quite well so I just erased the entire text and shut down my laptop.

Then while I was browsing my FB timeline, I saw someone post about the new Marathi film titled “Timepass”. And the post was as haunting as its potential humor.

लेखनची धाटणी , अभिनय ,चित्रण अश्या सर्व यांत्रिकी गोष्टींचा सुंदर मिलाफ आहे पण खटकणारी एक गोष्ट म्हणजे तो परब आणि ति लेले …. ति लेलेच का? दुसर कोण दिसल सुचल नाही ??????? दरवेळी ह्याना भटाच्याच मुली का सापडतात ? ह्या चित्रपटात तर हद्द केलीय…खरच ब्राह्मण कुटुंबातील मुली अश्या पटकन पाघळणरया असतात ??? कोणीही याव आणि टपलि मारून जावे ?? आधीच आपला समाज intercast लग्नाच्या समस्येने त्रस्त आहे . त्यात ब्राह्मण मुलीना बदनाम करणारे असे असंस्कृत सिनेमे आपण टाळावेत .

While I’m reading this post, ISRO is gearing up for the launch of GSLV D5 on the first Sunday of 2014.

This is the tragedy of times we live in. The girl who felt offended by her reserved category classmate who owned an iPhone and a Macbook probably didn’t realize that the caste based reservation still exists because of her own mentality that feels threatened by certain communities crossing the threshold of economic empowerment. In the hate campaign for film “TP”, Mr. Kulkarni thinks that a Parab can should never be allowed to fall in love with a Lele in a film made by a Jadhav. That Brahmins are the stakeholders of morality and ethical conduct and their daughters shouldn’t be flirting with street side Dagdu. That inter-caste marriage is a problem.

As I grew up, I’ve had very confused opinions about reservations. Anand Patwardha, in a post-screening discussion of Jai Bhim Comrade made an interesting remark supporting caste based reservations saying that “It’s a necessary evil. Till the day where all Indians would put their hands on their heart and say that they don’t believe in caste system, that’d be the time India can do away with reservations and we can truly call ourselves as a progressive nation.” That somehow made sense.  And looking at peers from my generation having such thoughts, it just enforces my support to caste based reservations in Educational institutes because Ambedkar’s struggle hasn’t reached to its logical end yet.

ISRO has launched GLSV D5 successfully now. The post made by Kulkarni is gaining more visibility on Facebook and being shared rapidly by fellow sympathizers. India is trying to survive its own contradictions.

दिशाभूल म्हणतात ती हीच, कळ्ळे मू भेंब्रोबाब?

श्री. उदय भेंब्रो, सरचिटणीस, कोकणी भाशा मंडळ, मडगाव ह्यांचे ११ एप्रिलच्या (महाराष्ट्र टाईम्स) अंकात आलेले पत्र वाचले. मी मराठी जनतेची दिशाभूल करत आहे याचे त्यांना दु:ख वाटते, ही त्या पत्रातली शेवटली ओळ वाचून मला मजा वाटली. मराठी लोकांची दिशाभूल करायचे किंवा भेंब्रोंना दु:ख द्यायचे मला काय कारण आहे?

बंगाली, मराठी, तामीळ, तेलुगू यांसारख्या इतर भारतीय भाषांइतकीच कोकणी हीही एक साहित्याने समृध्द असलेली भाषा आहे असा भास कोकणी लोकांच्या म्हणजे मुख्यत: गोव्यात कोकणी बोलणाऱ्यांच्या मनात निर्माण करण्याचा साहित्य  ऍकेडेमीचा निर्णय हा त्या जनतेची खरी दिशाभूल करणारा असा आहे. तज्ञ समितीचा निर्णय म्हणजे ब्रम्हवाक्य नव्हे आणि ऍकेडेमीने नेमलेल्या तज्ञांतल्या बाबूराम सक्सेना, मीनाक्षी सुंदरम वगैरे लोकांपेक्षा कोकणी ही साहित्याची भाषा आहे का नाही हे ऍकेडेमीतल्या प्रा. वसंत बापट, डॉ. रा. शं. वाळिंबे, डॉ. दांडेकर, डॉ. वेर्णेकर, रणजित देसाई, डॉ. मालशे ह्या लोकांना निश्चितच चांगले माहित आहे. मी स्वत: कारवारी कोकणी उत्तम बोलतो. सावंतवाडीची कोकणी, मालवणी कोकणी मला येते. मंगळूरकरांची कोकणी आणि अंकोलकरांची कोकणी यातला फ़रक मी ओळखू शकतो. आणि त्यात पुन्हा बामणांची कुठली आणि गावड्यांची कुठली हाही भेद मला ह्या बाबूराम सक्सेना किंवा मीनाक्षी सुंदरम यांच्यापेक्षा अधिक चांगला ठाऊक आहे. ’हांगा यो’ म्हणणारा आपल्या बोलीला कोकणीच म्हणतो आणि  ’हैसर ये किंवा ’हडे ये’ म्हणणाराही तिला कोकणीच म्हणतो. ह्यापैकी कोणीही आपआपली कोकणी ही साहित्य लिहिण्याची भाषा आहे आणि तिला साहित्याची उज्वल परंपरा आहे असे कधीही म्हटले नाही. मग साहित्य ऍकेडेमीने मान्य केलेली “कोकणी” म्हणजे कुठली कोकणी? आणि प्रश्न आहे, ही भाषा समृध्द साहित्य प्रसवलेली भाषा आहे का? तशा भारतात ज्या ज्या बोलल्या जातात त्या सगळ्याव भाषा. उद्या मी “चलातु चयका चळतेक?” असे वाक्य म्हटले तरी ते ’च’काराच्या भाषेतलेच असते. तेव्हा उगीचच तज्ञ समितीच्या निर्णयाचा बागुलबुवा उभा करायचे कारण नाही. सर्व मराठी सभासदांनी विरोध केला असताना, जी मराठीची बोली आहे तिच्या बाबतीतला हा असला निर्णय पंचवीस विरुध्द पंधरा मतांनी घेण्याचा नाही. आता श्री. भेंब्रोंनी जे निकष दिले आहेत त्यांची ह्या तज्ञांनी कशी तपासणी केली आहे ते पाहू या.

संबंधित भाषा ही भाषाशास्त्रीय दृष्ट्या स्वतंत्र भाषा आहे काय?

आता भेंब्रोंच्या माहितीसाठी ह्याचे उत्तर तज्ञ समितीतल्या डॉ. घाटगे ह्यांच्या ग्रंथातूनच घेतो म्हणजे दिशाभूल नको आणि दु:खही नको. ’अ सर्वे ऑफ़ मराठी डायलेक्ट्स’ ह्या ग्रंथमालेच्या पहिल्या खंडाच्या आरंभीच डॉ. घाटगे लिहितात, “कोकणी ह्या नावाचा अर्थ पश्चिम किनाऱ्यावरील महाराष्ट्र, गोवा, म्हैसूरचा काही प्रदेश धरुन केरळच्या पश्चिम किनाऱ्यापर्यंतच्या बोलल्या जाणाऱ्या अनेक मराठी बोली असा आहे.” (“अ नंबर ऑफ़ मराठी डायलेक्टस”)-म्हणजे कोकणी हि स्वतंत्र भाषा नाही हे असंदिग्ध भाषेत सांगितले आहे.

प्रश्न दुसरा: ह्या भाषेला साहित्यिक परंपरा आहे का?

आता साहित्यिक परंपरेच्या बाबतीत भाषाशास्त्रातले दुसरे एक पंडित आणि कोकणी ह्या बोलीसमूहावरील सर्वश्रेष्ठ तज्ञ डॉ. सुमंत कत्रे यांचे मत. कत्रे स्वत: मंगळूरकडील कोकणी बोलणारे आहेत. आपल्या फ़ॉर्मेशन ऑफ़ कोकणी ह्या ग्रंथात ते म्हणतात “कोकणीला प्रगल्भ साहित्याची (सीरियस लिटरेचर) भाषा किंवा दरबारी भाषा म्हणून कधीच स्थान नव्हते.”

वास्तविक हे सांगायला तज्ञ नकोत पण भेंब्रो तज्ञांचा हवाला द्यायला लागले आहेत म्हणून तज्ञांचे मत. साहित्यिक परंपरा तज्ञांनी आपल्या लहरीप्रमाणे आहे की नाही हे ठरवायचे नसते. तिथे हजारो ग्रंथ दाखवावे लागतात. इथे फ़ादर स्टिफ़न्सपासून सोहिरोबानाथ आंबिये आणि आधुनिक काळात कारे, लक्ष्मणराव सरदेसाई, डॉ. प्रियोळकर या गोमंतकीय कोकणी जाणणाऱ्यांपासून ते घरात मालवणी, कुडाळी, कारवारी कोकणी बोलणाऱ्या सर्व आधुनिक कोकणी लेखकांपर्यंत ग्रंथनिर्मिती झाली ती मराठीत! ते योग्यच होते कारण कोकणी लोकांना मराठी हीच साहित्याची भाषा हे कळत होते. आज सावंतवाडीतल्या घराघरांत वाडीचेच कोकणी कोकणी बोलतात मग “वैनतेय” मराठीत का निघत आला आहे? रत्नागिरी काय पुण्याशेजारी आहे? मग तिथला बलवंत कशाला मराठीत? तेव्हा कोकणीला साहित्यिक परंपरा नाही म्हणून हाही निकष कोकणीच्या विरोधात गेला.

तिसरा निकष: ही भाषा साहित्यिक आणि सांस्कृतिक माध्यम म्हणून वापरली जाते का?

आता जिथे गोयकारांची गोयाभायली वसणूक हे वामनराव वर्दे (वास्तविक ह्यांनी वरदो कसे केले नाही?) वालावलीकारांचे पुस्तक हा एकमेव अपवाद सोडला तर शिक्षणासाठी किंवा अभ्यासासाठी निर्माण झालेले असे एकही कोकणी पुस्तक नाही. तिथे साहित्यिक माध्यम म्हणून पुस्तक वापरणार कुठले? वामनराव मात्र पार्ल्यात राहून गोमंतकीय कोकणीतच लिहित व बोलत. ’न वदेन यावनी भाषा’ सारखी ’न वदेत मराठी भाषा’ अशी त्यांची प्रतिज्ञा होती. एखाद्या भाषेविषयी मन इतके कटू ठेवून वागणे हे काही ज्ञानी वृत्तीचे लक्षण नाही. पण गोवा स्वतंत्र होण्य़ापूर्वी तिथले जे जे हिंदू साहित्यिक होते ते मराठीतूनच लिहीत-अजूनही लिहितात. गोव्यातील धर्मांतरीत ख्रिश्चनांनी मात्र पोर्तुगीज अंमलात राज्यकर्त्यांच्या धर्माप्रमाणे पाश्चात्य संगीत, पाश्चात्य वेषभूषा, आचार यांचा स्वीकार केला. त्यातली श्रीमंत आणि स्वत:ला उच्च स्तरावरची मानणारी मंडळी आपला घरचा व बाहेरचा व्यवहार पोर्तुगीज किंवा इंग्रजीतून करायला लागली. कोकणी ही निरक्षर गावड्यांची भाषा, अशा रीतीनेच ते कोकणीकडे पाहत आले. महाराष्ट्रातल्या ख्रिस्ती समाजाने मराठीचा त्याग केला नाही. हा प्रकार गोव्यात झाला. हिंदू व ख्रिश्चन ह्यांच्यात धार्मिकच नव्हे तर सांस्कृतिक मतभेद निर्माण करण्यासाठी पोर्तुगिजांनी हा डाव टाकला होता. त्यांनी मराठी हि हिंदूंची भाषा करुन टाकली. मराठी भाषाच काय, पण देवनागरी लिपीशी संबंध राहिला तर पुन्हा हे धर्मांतरित ख्रिस्ती लोक मराठी वाचून विचलीत होतील ह्या भीतीने त्यांनी कोकणी लिहिलेच तर ते रोमन लिपीतून लिहीण्याची प्रथा पाडली. हिंदूंची मराठी नव्हे, तर हिंदूंची कोकणी बोलीसुध्दा गोव्यातल्या ख्रिस्ती लोकांच्या कोकणीपेक्षा निराळी आहे, भेंब्रोंनी हे नाही म्हणावे!

आता जे कोकणीवादी लेखक “कोकणी भाशा” लिहितात आणि तिला प्रमाणित भाषा करण्याचे जे प्रयत्न चालले आहेत त्या कोकणीचे ताजे उदाहरण देतो: श्री. नारायण देसाई यांनी लेनिनचे एक चरित्र १९७४च्या एप्रिलमध्ये प्रसिध्द केले आहे. त्यातले हे कोकणी (?) पाहा: “खुद्द मार्क्सान आशिया खंडातल्या विशिष्ट एशियायी उत्पादनपध्दतींची सूक्ष्म अभ्यास करुन ताचे योग्य ते महत्वमापेन करण्याची गरज प्रतिपादन केली. हे मार्गदर्शन मानूनच ह्या देशातले मार्क्सवादी-लेनिनवादी मुक्तिलढ्याचे डावपेच आखित आसतात.” आता ही भाषा जर मराठीहून निराळी आणि स्वतंत्र म्हणायची असेल तर बहुतेक मराठी साहित्य कोकणीतूनच लिहिले आहे, असे का म्हणू नये? ’भाषा’ असे मराठीत लिहितात ना? मग त्या ’ष’ चा शेंडीफ़ोड्या ’श’ करुन ’भाशा’ केली की झाली साहित्यिक कोकणी, इतके ते सोपे नसते. खरे तर गोमंतकीय कोकणीत ’भास’ म्हणतात. “कोकणी भास मंडळ” म्हणायला हवे. मराठी शब्दांनाच चार कोकणी वळणाचे प्रत्यय लावून कोकणी ही एक स्वतंत्र भाषा असल्याचा ’भास’ निर्माण करणारे मंडळ या अर्थानेही ते नाव समर्पक ठरेल.

आणि कोकणी म्हणजे काय फ़क्त गोयकारांचीच कोकणी? मालवणी, कुडाळी, चित्पावनी, कारवारी, मंगळुरी ह्यासारख्या स्थलपरत्वे आणि जातीपरत्वे बदलणाऱ्या कोकणीचे काय? माणूस उठून गेला की मालवणी कोकणीत “उठून गेलो’ म्हणणार; मंगळूरी कोकणी “वच्चू गॅलॉ” म्हणणार आणि कारवारी कोकणी “चमकलॉ” म्हणणार. ह्यातल्या कुठल्या कोकणीला ऍकेडेमीने मान्यता दिली आहे म्हणायची? तेव्हा जिथे प्रमाणित मराठी, गुजराती, कानडी ह्यासारखी प्रमाणित कोकणी नाही, तिथे तिचा साहित्यिक किंवा शैक्षणिक माध्यम म्हणून उपयोग कोण करणार? त्याच निकषात एक सांस्कृतिक माध्यमाचा भाग आहे. भारतातील लोकनाट्य, लोकसंगीत ह्यांच्या भाषा ह्या त्या त्या भागातल्या बोलीभाषाच आहेत. कुडाळ मालवण भागातले दशावतार मालवणी कुडाळी कोकणीतूनच होतात. बाणकोटच्या लोकांची गोमूची गाणी बाणकोटी बोलीत, कोळ्यांची गाणी कोळी बोलीत, घाटावरच्या तमाशाची भाषा सातारी-कोल्हापुरी, वऱ्हाडात वऱ्हाडी बोलीत शेकडो गाणी आहेत. म्हणून ह्या साहित्य आणि राज्यव्यवहारच्या भाषा मानल्या जात नाहीत. कारण त्यांचा वापर छोट्या छोट्या टापूत असतो. भारतीय संगीताची प्रमाण भाषा हिंदी नसून व्रजबोली आहे. तेव्हा आपण सगळेच भारतीय लोक आपल्या लोकनाट्य-लोकसंगीताची भाषा म्हणून आपापल्या टापूतल्या बोलीचाच उपयोग करत आलो आहोत. हे काही फ़क्त कोकणीचेच वैशिष्ट्य नाही. तेव्हा सांस्कृतिक माध्यम म्हणून ती भाषा वापरली जाते की नाही? -ह्या प्रश्नाला काहीच अर्थ नाही. ज्यावेळी आपण प्रमाणित भाषा म्हणून तिची योग्यता तपासत असतो त्या वेळी त्या भाषेत मोठे वैचारिक साहित्य, उत्तम दर्जाची नाटके, कादंबऱ्या, काव्य, महाकाव्य ऐतिहासिक काळातली कागदपत्रे, तिचा राजदरबारात झालेला उपयोग अशा गोष्टी पाहायच्या असतात. आज कोकणात अशी कोकणी साहित्याने समृध्द असलेली ग्रंथालये आहेत का? खुद्द गोव्यात नाटके होतात ती मराठीत. सारांश, हाही निकष कोकणीला लागू पडत नाही.

चौथा निकष: ही भाषा एखाद्या सरकारच्या शासनाची भाषा अथवा विद्यापीठाचे माध्यम आहे का? याचेही उत्तर “नाही” असेच आहे. गोवा सरकारने आपल्या टापूत गोमंतकीय कोकणी बोलले जात असल्याने कोकणीला उत्तेजन देण्याचे मान्य केले आहे. पण शासनाची भाषा म्हणून त्या भाषेचा स्वीकार केला नाही. लोकभाषांतील गीतांना, नाट्यपध्दतींना उत्तेजन देणे सरकारचे कर्तव्यच आहे. सातारा-कोल्हापुरी बोलीतील संवाद असणाऱ्या लोकनाट्याला महारष्ट्र सरकार उत्तेजन देत असते. म्हणजे सातारा बोली ही महाराष्ट्र राज्य शासनाची भाषा होत नाही. “कोकणी”चा विद्यापीठात माध्यम म्हणून उपयोग होत नाही, हे श्री. भेंब्रोही मान्य करतील.

ही भाषा बोलणाऱ्या लोकांची संख्या व ह्या भाषेत निर्माण होणारे साहित्य याचाही विचार होणे आवश्यक आहे, हा शेवटचा निकष.

१९६१च्या शिरगणतीच्या अहवालात गोवा, महाराष्ट्र आणि म्हैसूर ह्या विभागात राहणाऱ्या कोकणी बोलणाऱ्यांची संख्या सुमारे साडेतेरा लाख देण्यात आली आहे. ह्यात सगळ्या कोकणी बोली आल्या. गोव्यात १५ फ़ेब्रुवारीला भरलेल्या कोकणी लेखक परिषदेच्या एका उत्साही कार्यकर्त्याने ही लोकसंख्या आता अडतीस लाख झाल्याचे सांगितले. (परिवार नियोजन विभागाचे कोकणाकडे भलतेच दुर्लक्ष झालेले दिसते.) घटकाभर अडतीस लाख हा आकडा मान्य केला तरी अवधी, माळवी, संताळी वगैरे बोलणाऱ्यांच्या आकड्याहून हा आकडा कमी आहे. मग त्यांना का मान्यता नाही? “खासी” ही भाषा तर विद्यापीठात शिकवली जाते. त्या भाषेत महाकाव्ये लिहीली गेली आहेत. तिला मान्यता नाकारणाऱ्यात आली. सुरती, सौराष्ट्री बोलणाऱ्यांची संख्याही मोठी आहे. त्या मात्र गुजरातीच्या बोली आणि तज्ञांनीच सांगितलेल्या एकाही निकषाला न उतरणाऱ्या कोकणीला मात्र मराठीपासून वेगळे काढण्याची घाई कशाला?

याचे कारण सांस्कृतिक किंवा साहित्यिक नाही. “कोकणी” ही स्वतंत्र भाषा असल्याचा साक्षात्कार गेल्या काही वर्षातला. ज्ञानेश्वर, तुकोबा-सोहिरोबांचे अभंग आणि ओव्या ह्यांच्या गायनानेच गोव्यातली पहाट फ़ुटत होती. पण आता मात्र पणजी रेडिओला ज्ञानदेवांची वाणी ही “भायेल्ल्यांची” म्हणजेच “बाहेरच्यांची” वाटू लागली आहे. कोकणी लोकांच्या मुखीची कोकणी कोणीही बंद करत नव्हते. अर्थात “गोयची कोकणी” हिच कोकणी म्हणणारे कोकणीवादी वगळले तर उरलेल्या कोकणी माणसाला मराठी हि परक्यांची भाषा वाटत नाही. पोर्तुगिजांनी लादलेल्या संस्कृतिला आपली म्हणणारे गोव्यातील काही लोक वगळले-ह्यात हिंदू आणि ख्रिस्ती दोन्ही आहेत-तर शेकडो वर्षांच्या परंपरेने चालत आलेले मराठीचे नाते तोडायची गोमंतकीयांना मुळीच इच्छा नाही. त्या त्या टापूतली बोली आणि प्रमाणित भारतीय भाषा अतिशय सुखाने नांदू शकतात. ज्या महारष्ट्रवादी गोमंतक पक्षाचे सरकार बहुमतात आहे त्यांनीही सर्वांना मराठीतूनच लिहीले आणि बोलले पाहिजे अशी सक्ती केली नाही. उलट कोकणी शाळा काढल्या. त्यांत दीड टक्काही मुलं गेली नाहीत हे खुद्द बा.भ.बोरकरांनी “केसरी”तल्या आपल्या मुलाखतीत सांगितले आहे. पूर्वी पोर्तुगिजांनीही कोकणीतून लिहायला बंदी केली नव्हती. तरीही लोकात राष्ट्राभिमान जागृत करणारी वृत्तपत्रे मराठीतूनच निघत होती. त्या काळात कोकणीतून कथासंग्रह, कादंबऱ्या का लिहिल्या गेल्या नाही? त्या वेळी कोकणीचे प्रेम कुठे गेले होते? त्याचे कारण “कोकणी” हि भाषिक दुराभिमान जागवून सत्तेच्या जागापर्यंत पोहोचण्याची त्या वेळी राजकीय शिडी झाली नव्हती. कोकणीच्या प्रेमात मराठीचा दुस्वास आणून ही “भायेल्ल्याची” भाषा म्हणणारे लोक आज जे ऍकेडेम्यांना हाताशी धरुन मोर्चे बांधण्याचा प्रयत्न करत आहेत, ते भाषेच्या विकासासाठी नव्हे.

कोकणीवरच कशाला? कुठल्याही भाषेवर मला राग नाही. उद्या कोकणीतून एखादी कविता मला ऐकायला मिळाली तर ती कोकणी आहे म्हणून मी कानावर हात ठेवणार नाही. असला दुराभिमान साहित्यावर प्रेम करणाऱ्या कोणालाच नसतो. इचलकरंजीच्या मराठी साहित्य संमेलनात बोरकरांची “मंद मंद वाजत आयली तुजी गो पांयजणा” ही गोड कविता हजारो श्रोत्यांनी आनंदाने ऐकली. कारण मराठी माणसे कोकणी हि भायल्ल्यांची भाषा मानत नाहीत. मराठीच्या ह्या बोली म्हणजे आमच्या भाषेची अतिशय मुग्ध आणि सुंदर रुपडी आहेत. त्यांचे सर्व मराठी लोकांना अतोनात कौतुक आहे. ह्या कागदी व्यवहारापेक्षा माणसामाणसांमधल्या समोरासमोरच्या व्यवहारातल्या बोली-भाषा असल्यामुळे त्यांच्यात एक उपजत साधेपणा आहे. त्यातल्या म्हणी, गीते हे साज आम्ही आनंदाने आमचे म्हणून मिरवतो. पण त्यांचे मराठीशी असलेले नाते जर कुणी तोडायला निघाला तर मात्र त्याचा हेतू ते साज अधिक सुंदर करण्याचा नसून, आपला सुभा उभा करण्याचा अहे हे न कळण्याइतके कोणी दुधखुळे नाहीत. गोमंतकीय कोकणीच काय, पण अहिराणी, कोकणीतल्या इतर विविध बोली, वऱ्हाडी, त्यात जर सुंदर साहित्य निर्माण होत असेल तर मराठी माणसे त्याचे स्वागतच करतील. त्याउलट “कोकणी”सारखी बोली ही साहित्याने मराठी, गुजराती, बंगाली यांसारखी समृध्द साहित्यिक भाषा असल्याचे सांगून जर कोणी आमच्या कोकणी बांधवांची दिशाभूल करत असेल तर त्याविरुध्द आवाज उठविणे हे माझ्याप्रमाणे सर्व मराठी लोक आपले कर्तव्य मानतील याची मला खात्री आहे. खुद्द गोव्यातील नव्याण्णव टक्के जनतेने आपली मुले कोकणी शाळेत पाठवायचे नाकारुन त्या बोलीला प्रमाणित भाषा करण्याच्या प्रयत्नांची वाट लावून टाकली आहे. उरलेल्या कोकणात हा प्रश्नच कोणी निर्माण केला नाही. साहित्य ऍकेडेमीने भेंब्रो म्हणतात त्याप्रमाणे सगळे काही खूप नियमात बसवले असेल, पण खुद्द गोंयकार ते आपल्या जीवनात बसवायला तयार नाहीत त्याचे काय?

भेंब्रोंसारख्याच्या किंवा मराठी माणसांना त्यांच्या गोव्यात उपरे आणि “भायेल्ले” म्हणणाऱ्या लोकांच्या विषारी प्रचारामुळे मराठीबद्दलचा द्वेष निर्माण करण्यात त्यांना यशही लाभेल. द्वेषाच्या झेंड्याखाली माणसे पटकन जमतात. त्या सत्कार्यात अजून पोर्तुगिजधार्जिणे असलेल्यांचे, मूठभर श्रीमंतांचे आणि तात्कालिक राजकीय स्वार्थामागे लागलेल्या लोकांचे साहाय्यही लाभेल पण ज्या स्वतंत्र गोमंतक राज्याचे असल्या मंडळींना स्वप्न पडते आहे ते राज्य उद्या राजकीय कारवायांना यश मिळून झालेच तर त्या राज्याची भाषा मात्र कोकणी न करता इंग्रजी नाहीतर पोर्तुगीज करावी लागेल. कारण कोकणी शिकणार नाही, मराठी भायेल्ल्यांची, हिंदीचा अभ्यास करण्याची इच्छा नाही, अशा वेळी इंग्रजी ही भितुल्ल्यांची भाषा होते आणि ज्या मराठीच्या स्तन्यावर गोमंतकीय संस्कृती पोसली गेली ती भायेल्ल्यांची भाषा होते. दिशाभूल म्हणतात ती हीच, कळ्ळे मू भेंब्रोबाब?

-पु. ल. देशपांडे (महाराष्ट्र टाईम्स, १६ एप्रिल १९७५)

P.L. Deshpande-6The above article was an open letter from Shri. Purushottam Laxman Deshpande to Shri. Uday Bhembro, published on 16th April 1975 in Maharashtra Times in response to Shri. Bhembro’s letter accusing Deshpande of “misleading” marathi people on the Kokani Marathi issue. This letter was reprinted in Deshpande’s collection of letters titled “Ek Shunya Me”. Deshpande was an expert in Linguistics, apart from being the most read and celebrated Marathi writer.

PS: This was published in 1975 and hence some of the references he has made stand outdated. Also, I might not agree or subscribe to all the views expressed by Deshpande in this letter, partially or entirely.