Is Goa’s reputation of being a peaceful state with all communities living in harmony under threat?
From recent events, it may appear so. It led to Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s statement on Independence Day, as reported in the media, asking people not to fall prey to attempts to disturb the age-old communal harmony prevalent in Goa.
In light of what did occur in the earlier weeks, this statement is definitely welcome. Every right-thinking Goan will and should endorse it. Nobody wants the friendship that all communities live in to be disturbed.
Communal harmony in the state is not merely a reputation but a fact, and that truth has to be maintained for Goa to survive and continue to be an example to the rest of the country.
Communal harmony is a reality that some may attempt to chip away at, but those attempts have to be dealt with at the very outset so that there is no damage to the very foundation of our peaceable living in the state, which Goa has come to epitomise.
If the foundation is cracked, then the rest of the structure of our communal harmony can easily crumble.
Goans of all faiths have lived in harmony that has not been disturbed for centuries. The sincerity of Goa’s communal harmony, which has endured decades and centuries, should not be permitted to fold up easily.
For again, if that foundation is allowed to be damaged, it could lead to undesirable issues and problems in the future.
There may have been some stray incidents in the past, but these have never been serious and also ended quickly. Any attempts to strike at this harmony must be dealt with a firm hand.
The people themselves should not fall for the attempts to create chaos. All disturbances have to be handled delicately. The authorities have displayed that deft handling of the cases reduces the impact of miscreants' schemes to incite individuals.
But, communal harmony cannot be left only to the state authorities. It is something that the people themselves should want and work to maintain. Given that we have lived in Goa in consonance with our neighbours of various faith, there is no reason to believe that we can’t continue doing so in the years ahead.
Here are a couple of questions to ponder upon. If Goan communal harmony disappears or is done away with, what will be left of the Goa we all know and love?
Could we in that case proudly call ourselves Goans any longer? Or would we be identifying each other based on each one’s faith rather than as Goans, as residents of the state we love?
Understanding and respecting the views of the next person is as important as holding on to truths that one holds dear. This is what secularism is about, and it should always be promoted, whatever the circumstances.
Goa has the opportunity to rise above petty notions and ideas and demonstrate to the rest of the country that it lives the communal harmony that it is reputed to have. Can we show this to the rest of the country?
For the rest of India, the name Goa conjures up images of a land that is not just a tourist paradise, but also one where there exists an acceptance of differing views without challenging the person who holds an opposing view.
It is called tolerance, a broadmindedness to diverse views and actions and an acceptance of them. It is that acceptance of diversity that makes us what we are today. Goa and Goans cannot afford to let that tolerance be dented even a little bit, for it would result in irreparable loss
Yet, there are times when this tolerance is sometimes confused with the thinking that Goa and Goans are relaxed and easygoing, lenient towards everything.
This leads to certain tourists abusing the openness of Goans by acting in ways they would not in their hometowns.
Those who come visiting and abuse that tolerance should also be dealt with firmly. These acts of tourists may not be communal, but it is them taking advantage of Goa. Something that should never be allowed.
It is for us, the people of Goa, to maintain the peace that we have lived in, and it is not very difficult. As the chief minister said, we should not fall prey to attempts at disturbing it.
That is not much to ask from the people of Goa who are intelligent enough to understand what is required of them in such circumstances. Goa’s communal harmony has to survive.