Does Chief Minister Pramod Sawant really mean what he said about wiping out all signs of the Portuguese rule in Goa?
He made the statement at a function to mark the 350th anniversary of the coronation of Shivaji Maharaj. Sawant said Goa needs to start afresh, and we have to start thinking now about how the state is going to look when India celebrates 100 years of independence.
Does this mean that in 25 years Goa will have to bid farewell to dodol, chicken cafreal, bebinca and sorpotel? And what about the Goan chouris, essentially a Portuguese sausage brought to Goa and embraced by locals? I could go on and on.
What about the Portuguese language itself? Will that be banned too? Will Goans be jailed for applying for a Portuguese passport? Or thrown into the Arabian Sea?
And what about the old secretariat building, which was constructed on the site of Adil Shah’s Palace? Will it have to go? There are a number of Portuguese-styled buildings, some marked as heritage structures in the capital. Just think of what Panjim would look like when all are demolished to wipe out any sign of Portuguese rule.
Sawant definitely did not think this through. Or perhaps, he is not serious about going through with his plan because that would completely destroy the composite culture that developed over 450 years of Portuguese rule.
Without it, Portuguese Goa would have been a very different place. But, we cannot go back and change history. Time machines exist only in science fiction, not real life. And Sawant is not a mediaeval ruler who can order his army to destroy towns, cities and villages and rebuild them in his own image.
It is obvious that despite his best intentions the chief minister of Goa does not appear to be really serious about this threat. If he were, he would not have spent Rs 25 crore to renovate and upgrade Aguada Jail.
Instead, he would have demolished it. Also, he would have demolished Raj Bhavan and put up a new edifice in its place. But he is building a new one elsewhere while preserving the existing one as a heritage structure.
This is not Sawant’s first go at all things Portuguese. Some years back he launched a scheme with a budget of Rs 20 crore to restore all temples destroyed by the Portuguese. Fortunately or unfortunately there were no takers for the scheme.
However, there were several demands for funds to restore or beautify existing temples and the scheme had to be modified.
Goa is a place where there is no hunger for digging up the past. What is done — that is conversion and demolition of temples — was done a long time ago, and no one is in the mood to go back in time.
Besides, the converted and members of the original dharma, having recognised the conditions under which conversions took place, choose to live together as Goans. So, digging up the past seems like really bad politics.
The composite culture which evolved over the last four and half centuries has made Goa a magnet for tourists. Let’s face it, there are better beaches in Karnataka and Maharashtra, but they are not Goa and never will be because they have a different history.
If you ask me, Sawant should do the easy thing — delete a few chapters from school textbooks, claim victory and move on because wiping out all traces of Portuguese is an impossible, if not silly task.
Perhaps, he would have thought differently if he liked sorpotel.