Comunidades were formed in Goa thousands of years ago to bind us with the earth. Comunidades set fundamentals on which humans lived with each other and nature and espoused the concept of caring is sharing with divinity being the core.
The system of Comunidade living was discovered by the Portuguese when they came to Goa and its basics were primarily left untouched because the threads of societal involvement were clear and clean.
Land in Goa before the advent of the Portuguese belonged to Comunidades and all the inhabitants were recognised as Ganvkari. A Ganvkari was given land to build a dwelling for him and land to cultivate. The produce from the land cultivated was shared with the Comunidade, which, in turn, shared it with the Ganvkaris of the Comunidade and this was termed as “jono”.
Comunidade land cannot be sold but can be handed over to an inheritor for use. In case the lineage ends, the land needs to be reverted back to the Comunidade which then would allot it to another Ganvkari. Comunidades have earmarked land to build infrastructure for the benefit of respective communities.
Comunidade land can never be sold or leased. The Supreme Court of India in a judgement mentioned that Comunidade land is “inalienable”. Comunidades have a ‘Codigo de Comunidade ‘ a constitution of their own.
The Code of Comunidades existed in spirit and it was put into letter by the Portuguese in 1961 a few months before they left Goa. This Codigo of Comunidades became the ‘Code of Comunidades’ after the Government of Goa translated it to English in June 2012 and the authenticity of the translation is debated even today.
There are 223 Comunidades in Goa and each elects a president, attorney and treasurer for a four-year term. The Governor appoints an administrator. The Comunidades are run by the Committee elected during the AGM.
A council of Comunidades is then elected for a period of five years and this council is the General Body capable of making amendments to the Code of Comunidade and recommending the same to the Governor of Goa.
Land in Goa is vested with Comunidades and still is. Comunidades before the Portuguese used to pay protection money to the feudal lords and the latter started collecting money in the form of taxes for protection.
Folklore states that a Ganvkari would not pay his tax to the Portuguese if his produce was robbed and that explained why theft and robberies were unheard of during their reign. After the departure of the Portuguese, The Governor of Goa became the administrator of Comunidades and taxes are still being paid.
Comunidades in Goa originally consisted of Ganvkaris. Through time, some Comunidades incorporated the system of having shareholders. Shares could be sold and bought between Ganvkaris but the Ganvkari was supreme – only Ganvkari had the right to vote and be part of the Executive Committee.
Through the years, there has developed a strained relationship between Ganvkaris and shareholders with the former drawing a parody between child and adopted child.
The ethos of the existence of Comunidades has changed and not evolved through the years, with the premium on land in Goa increasing. With the demand for land and with most land in Goa belonging to Comunidades there are instances wherein Comunidade land has been usurped. And, we are not talking of small areas but lakhs of acres of Comunidade land that has fallen out of the preview of Ganvkaris through misappropriation where some Ganvkaris are also involved.
Comunidades in Goa started being eyed by those keen on growing overnight rich by exploiting Comunidade land for private benefit and it led to many Ganvkaris wanting to distance themselves from the mess which led to an alienation of the basics of community living -- where love for one's land was the seed of happiness.
Noticing the disquiet, the Government is trying to step in and take control of Comunidades. The government is trying to take control by attempting to make amendments to the Code of Comunidade through the Legislative Assembly which per se is illegal as Comunidade is an entity protected by the Constitution of India.
This attempt by the Government has awakened the silent Ganvkaris and other components of Comunidades with over 283 members physically attending two fellowships and 60 following online. Ganvkaris and shareholders have now decided to take the fellowship to every taluka in Goa with an aim to awaken the spirit of Ganvkaris in all.
Comunidade was formed by our elders to foster a bond between land and almighty to sculpt the identity of Goans. Ganvkaris are in the process of awakening that identity.