To many, it does not matter whether Shivaji is a God or not; whether he is a saint or not. History books have it that he was a great warrior and a good man, and it is a pity that a sermon from a pulpit enabled many to create a mountain out of a molehill.
Fr Bolmax Pereira, a noted academician, in his eighteen-minute homily dwelt on Shivaji for a few minutes, expressing his belief that “Shivaji was not God” while stressing his positives as an administrator.
And from his speech, that one statement about Shivaji was enough fodder for a few with political affiliations to try inciting communal tensions in the state. That they failed is testimony to the tenacity of Goans from all religious denominations.
Through his sermon, Fr Bolmax Pereira was attempting to establish a connection and awaken the faithful to the fact that silence is the ancient language of defeat, as Salman Rushdie once wrote.
His thoughts spilt onto Shivaji, and he inadvertently gave politicians an opportunity to do what they were waiting for – a chance to create communal discord.
The incident that followed the sermon – people gathered outside the Vasco police station and parishioners gathered outside the Chicalim church – did set off panic in parts of Goa.
After the silence of the present dispensation on the turmoil in Manipur, people were bound to be worried, and that worry was shared by the majority of Goans and not just people of a certain community. It showed Goa is Goa.
The incident and its aftermath showed the Goan mindset and the ability of the community to look at such incidents as avoidable blunders. Many months back, when one Subash Velingkar spoke about St Francis Xavier, Goa’s favourite saint, few felt he was worth a second thought.
That the people protesting and demanding Fr Bolmax Pereira’s arrest had a political leaning was evident in the manner Chief Minister Pramod Sawant resorted to whataboutery during the debate.
It is a pity that a police complaint needed to be filed when it is clear in the recorded sermon that there was no harm intended to any community let alone Shivaji.
Fr Bolmax Pereira spoke about the good that Shivaji did and while doing so chipped in with his belief that he cannot be termed a god. The reaction shows that dialogue with those with horse blinkers is wasteful and should be food for thought for Fr Bolmax Pereira.
The police have registered a case against Fr Bolmax Pereira, obviously to soothe the minds of the protesters and political masters, and the accused has gone to court to seek anticipatory bail.
In time, the drama will die down and attempts may be made to create another charade where religion will be the tool again; where attempts will be made to disrupt the communal harmony in Goa. And, like in the past, they will fail.
Now that he is in the spotlight, whatever Fr Bolmax Pereira says will be heard keenly and in a way, he will start a dialogue with brethren from other religions that he was extolling the people he was preaching to on Thursday to do.
Fr Bolmax Pereira is known as an activist, educationist and perhaps a lot of other things. But, he is first a priest, one who was misunderstood by many in his own community. The mistake of others was seen as his, and as a man of God, it will not be difficult for him to forgive, forget and move on.
Starting dialogues with nincompoops will take right-thinking society nowhere. It is best such people are left alone with the hope that someday they may start their journey of self-discovery.