Has people’s power prevailed over corporate interests and government ambivalence?
In the case of the Sunburn dates, it does appear to be so, as the government, bowing down to the wishes of the people has refused permission to organisers of the electronic dance music (EDM) festival to hold the festival on December 31.
Reports appearing in the media say that tickets for Day 4 of the festival that had been already sold will be refunded by the organisers.
While the government may be applauded for taking this decision, one can’t help but wonder whether its hand was forced by the Comunidade of Anjuna that, at an extraordinary meeting of its gauncars, decided to rent out the land for the EDM festival only up to December 30 and not till December 31.
This was in response to the villagers’ demand that December 31, being New Year’s Eve, there is already a fair bit of extra vehicular traffic on the roads, and the EDM on that night would add to the congestion, besides the fact that the local hotels and restaurants feared losing New Year’s Eve business to the festival.
The Comunidade of Anjuna could easily have rented out their land to the festival organisers for another day and earned from this.
It is not a small amount that the comunidade is charging for the use of the land, and the loss of one day’s rent is a substantial sum that would have benefitted the very gaunkars who decided that they didn’t want the festival for another day.
What prevailed over everything else was the desires and wishes of the people of Vagator and Anjuna.
The sequence of events is thus – the people demanded, the cominudade acted, and the government followed suit. Would this have been the government response had the comunidade not taken the stand it took?
While one has to admit that government ministers did say that the EDM would not be allowed on December 31 even before the comunidade decision, there are instances when the government has not heeded the people’s demands. The question, therefore, can be answered either way – with a yes or a no.
Yet, Goa has seen often in the past how governments have given corporate interests more attention and acted on them, rather than on the people’s demands and requests.
That’s not just in Goa but everywhere, and so, when the people’s demands are met without any major protest or agitation – and there have been many of that sort in the past – it could signify that a new direction is being taken and gives hope for the future.
The difference here, what could have led to the government action, was that the people in Anjuna all wanted the same thing.
Perhaps there were different reasons for that they wanted, but the ultimate goal was the same, and that is where the strength came from. At least publicly, there was no demand made for the EDM on December 31.
This is not, by any manner, a major victory for the people. What has ultimately happened is that a festival has been reduced from four days to three, but it can have an important lesson for the rest of Goa.
The takeaway from this is that if the people are united, if they know exactly what they want, and why they want it – the inverse too works as to what they don’t want or why they don’t want it – then the government will have little option, but to act as per the people’s wishes.
Goa’s many agitations, especially those in recent years, have not succeeded precisely because of the lack of unity among the people on the issue.
That elusive agreement has resulted in opposing opinions and thoughts and it is not just among the people, but also within comunidades.
It is rare that a general body meeting of a comunidade can arrive at such a unanimous decision, but it is only when such agreements on issues are spread across comunidades and villages of Goa will the people’s strength actually show.
There is, therefore, a lesson to be learnt from the Anjuna Comunidade, which is one of strength lies in unity. It would be good to end the year with that thought in mind as we look forward to another year and more challenges.