Wednesday, 18 February 2015

CONVERSIONS AND THE SOUL OF INDIA



Due to the recent rise of anti-minority politics and violence, several of my columns over the last few months dwelt with, or at least tangentially mentioned, the issue of conversion and its faulty understanding within Indian nationalism. As things stand today in India, and also in Goa, this will, unfortunately, not be the last time I will write about conversions and its tortured relationship with Indian nationalism.

The reflection in this column is occasioned not only by the protests that followed the vandalization of the fifth church in Delhi, but also by some recent articles in the press that tried to tackle the issue of increasing communalization of the Indian public sphere. Let me make a particular reference to an article that appeared in The Guardian written by Aman Sethi, “‘Love Jihad’ in India and one man’s quest to prevent it” (29 January, 2015). Sethi talks about a Hindutva activist in Uttar Pradesh, Vijaykant Chauhan, and the increasing communal polarization following the Muzaffarnagar riots and the electoral victory of the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) in the last Lok Sabha elections. One of the issues that were highlighted in this article was that of ‘love jihad’ and how Vijaykant Chauhan understood Hindu-Muslim couples eloping and/or getting married as “deception and forcible conversion”.

While Sethi’s article, written in the voice of the secular-liberal Indian and with a touch of sarcasm, tried to show the obvious error in the ways of Vijaykant Chauhan, the larger issue of how conversion to Islam and Christianity is seen as a problem within Indian nationalism was not explored. In other words, while the much sensationalized issue of ‘love jihad’ got center-stage, what was missing was an explanation of the source of the problem. Though there is a very serious problem with the activism of persons like Vijaykant Chauhan, one wonders if such naming and shaming in the international press would ever address the fact that there are thousands of communities that have been systematically kept away from positions of power and privilege and the cause of increasing communalization may be traced to this systemic discrimination in social, economic, and political spheres. What needs to be understood is that within the framework of Indian nationalism, conversion is understood as an essentially violative act that destroys the soul of the nation. Thus, the loyalty of Christians and Muslims to the nation is held suspect. Within this understanding Christians and Muslims are required to continuously prove their Indianness and patriotism, as I had noted in a previous column.

Christophe Jaffrelot, focusing on the politics of the so-called re-conversion of Adivasi Christians to Hinduism, refers to the debates in the Constituent Assembly on Article 19 of the Constitution that guarantees the right to practice and profess any religion of one’s choice. Jaffrelot particularly refers to the comments of Loknath Misra, the then Congress MP from Orissa, who among other things stated that India would have been perfectly “secular” and “homogenous” if Islam had not imposed itself and if Christianity had not entered India peacefully by the back door. Such an understanding of Misra that was and is in no way confined to a small number reflects, as Jaffrelot points out, “a view of religious affiliation as a political act. It calls up an ethno-nationalist conception of religious membership: for an Indian to be Christian means that the person attaches himself to the Western world and is therefore a potential traitor to the Indian nation. This reasoning also applies to Muslims, who till Partition were readily accused of paying allegiance to Middle East-based religious authorities…[and since 1947], Muslims are also suspected to be Pakistan’s fifth columnists by the most militant Hindus”.


Seen from this perspective one can see how the issue of ‘love jihad’ and the vandalism and desecration of the churches in Delhi (as well as other churches in India) are connected. One particularly revealing instance was the protest that followed by some Christians in Delhi at the Sacred Heart Cathedral. This time around there was some ‘national’ media coverage of the protests. The Delhi police came in large numbers to this protest to disperse the crowd, bundling them in droves in buses. One of the protestors had a placard that said the following: “I am proud to be an Indian Christian”, and another one said, “Thank You Jesus I am an Indian”. These placards aptly describe what can be called as the ‘double bind’ of minority identity in India, wherein one is damned if one does, and also damned if one doesn’t, when it comes to adhering to dominant norms of Indian nationalism.

The question that needs to be asked is why does a community which is obviously the victim here, need to prove their Indianness, indeed profess it like it is a confessional faith? The reason is that both Christianity and Islam are even today seen as foreign religions. If one needs any convincing then he/she only needs to be directed to the incident wherein two bishops from the Vatican who were to travel to India to address a conference organized by the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), were denied a visa. Under such circumstances, Christians in India – even if a wrong has been done against them – need to first prove their loyalty and patriotism to the nation. At a time when ‘ghar wapasi’ is demanded to purge India of all ‘foreign’ influences and culture, is it surprising that churches are being regularly vandalized?

In the final analysis, I would suggest, the solution of increasing communalization in India might not lie in pointing to the obvious errors of activists like Vijaykant Chauhan, but in re-defining the secular understanding of conversion in India. One needs to see the problems that Indian nationalism has with conversions and one also needs to realize that the concentration of power and privilege in the hands of a few might itself also contribute to the growing communalization. As I have argued previously, and emphasize now, a truly secular public sphere in India should ideally be one where there is always an emphasis on a greater sharing of power and privilege amongst the marginalized and oppressed sections of the society.

(First published in  O Heraldo, dt: 18 February, 2015)

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

READING REGINALD: FLIGHT FROM AFRICA



In my previous engagements with Reginald Fernandes’ works of fiction, I had mentioned that Africa occupied a very important place in the imagination of writers like Reginald. This was largely because of the nineteenth-century migration of many Goans to places in Africa like Kenya and Tanzania. Thus, to understand the importance of Africa for writers like Reginald, one would essentially need to think of the circulation of influences as a network where stories about Africa circulated through different means and modes and were then used by writers like Reginald to write their romans. How this circulation worked is something that needs to be charted in greater detail in the future through meticulous research.

Like many of the orientalist novels from the nineteenth-century, for writers like Reginald, Africa was simultaneously a place that was utterly unknown and a place of many mysteries, riches, and adventures. While it is true that writers like Reginald were drawing on such orientalist and colonial fantasies, it is still interesting to see how romi writers engaged with these stories, and indeed re-worked them for a Goan cultural milieu. Today, we rightly acknowledge people like Peter Nazareth (of the General is Up fame) as writers who wrote about Goanness in an African location, but we seldom think of romi Konkani writers as engaging with Goanness and Africa. In the same breath allow me to also note that the depiction of Africa within the romi Konkani writings may share a problematic relationship with colonial engagements with Africa.

Like Khoddop Ranni (1955), Africa occupies an important place in Bhirancull Barrabas (1962) though one cannot say that in this novel Africa is central to the plot. The novel depicts the love story of Raul and Clotilda. While Raul does not seem to hail from a lower social position, his family falling on bad days becomes the pretext for Clotilda’s father to refuse to bless their union. To make matters worse, the government office that Raul works in is headed by Clotilda’s father, and as such the question of whether Raul can match the ‘dignidad’ of Clotilda’s family arises. Thus, economic reasons rather than one’s location within a social hierarchy become the cause of much heartburn.

Unable to bear the insult to his high position, Clotilda’s father hatches a plan to falsely accuse Raul of theft. The plan being successful, Raul is first sent to the Aguada prison and when an attempt to escape from there fails, Raul is deported to a high-security prison in Mozambique. Sailing on the high seas, Raul finally manages to escape and ends up drifting on an island: The Nameless Island. Though this island is not endowed with any magical qualities, Raul comes across a large palatial building. Though The Nameless Island is deserted, Raul soon learns that only two persons live there: a woman named Rebecca and Dr. Barrabas.

Magic is introduced into the novel to bring about bad and good deeds. Like many of Reginald’s novels, Bhirancull Barrabas too has a love triangle. Since the other man who seeks the love of Clotilda cannot convince her, he resorts to magic to confound her. On The Nameless Island, Raul learns about the three secrets of Dr. Barrabas: that he has a potion that can bring the dead back to life, that he has a magic mirror that can project images about the person whom one wishes to see, and that Dr. Barrabas possesses a mechanical contraption that is shaped like a giant bat. The machine eventually helps Raul to escape from The Nameless Island.

While trying to survive the evil Dr. Barrabas, Raul also learns of a treasure of gold bars and three very valuable diamonds. Raul manages to bring back with him many bars of gold and the three precious diamonds. The problematic relationship that such a genre of Konkani writings may have with Africa, as alluded to earlier, comes to the fore when the story takes this turn. Though the treasure of gold and diamonds was acquired by Dr. Barrabas through not-so-honest means, yet Raul seems to spare no thought when taking some of it with him. Here the relationship seems to be a peculiar one, wherein one person from a colonized context (in a way) loots riches from another colonized context. But as far as Reginald is concerned it might be more to do in keeping with the idea that love and wealth is deserved after an arduous struggle, an idea that animates many of his novels. Though we do not come across any Africans, and the identity of either Dr. Barrabas or Rebecca is left vague at best, yet one cannot help but think of Africa as a place of simultaneous danger and riches. Raul finally manages to exonerate himself from the crime he did not commit and also succeeds in marrying Clotilda, whose beauty and character is matchless.


Reginald and other writers like him frequently mentioning Africa also allows us to link trajectories of Konkani literature to a larger African world. While making this point I am falling back on the argument of Isabel Hofmeyr who in the context of South African literature argues that Hindi should be seen as a language of South African literature as many texts in Hindi are available from the twentieth-century that speak of South Africa. Can we make a similar claim that the productions of romi Konkani can also be seen as part of the African literary landscape? Though, I cannot help but emphasize the critical distance that one would need to understand the problematic relationship.

Though many of the writers – including Reginald – did not have the benefit of post-colonial critiques of racism and orientalism in Africa, nonetheless their engagement does point to a certain complex network of the flow of stories from Goa to Africa and back. Perhaps, it points to the skewed understanding that Goans had (and still do) of Africa in general, and issues of race and racism in particular. By trying to understand this genre of literary imagination within romi Konkani literature we might arrive at a better understanding of Goa and Goanness.

For more Reading Reginald, click here.

(First published in  O Heraldo, dt: 4 February, 2015)

Monday, 2 February 2015

GHORACHO ‘OWNER’ KAI ‘CHAKOR’?



borovpi DALE LUIS MENEZES ani AMITA KANEKAR

Lok Sobhechea venchnukam uprant, BJP-cho sorkar sodrer ailolean olp-sonkhechea lokancher ani tanchea dev-mondirancher hol’le chodda promannan zalole amchea khobra-potrancher ani TV news-acher amkam disun yetat. Fattlea don mhoineanchea kallant ‘ghar wapasi’-che chollvollicho bhorpur bovall amkam aikonk yeta. Tor hem ‘ghar wapasi’-chem prokoronn kitem? Tache fattlo itihas kitem? Ani xevottak Hindutva zome ‘ghar wapasi’- itlea nettan kiteak fuddem vhorunk mukhar sorleat? Hem zanna zaunk kaim itihasik khinnancher ani ghoddnnukancher hea lekhachea survatekuch nodor ghalop gorjechem thorta.
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1818 vorsa, Janer mhoineant Peshwa rajshahi ani British soinikam modem tisrem ani xevottachem Anglo-Maratha gher’r pettlem. British soinikam borobor, hea gher’rant zaite Mahar soinik-ui zhogoddle. Hem gher’r bhov ‘heroic’ zaun aslem, ani hachem karonn mhollear British foujent fokot 250 ghoddekaranchi poltonn (cavalry) ani 500 pãy-soinik (infantry) asle, ani hantuntle choddxe soinik Mahar vortoule. Dusre vatten Peshwa Bajirao Dusro hache fattlean 20,000 ghoddekaranchi poltonn ani 5000 pãy-soinik asle. Bhima Koregaon hea zagear zalolea zhuzant, Peshwa rajshahi tea dis harli.

Punn hea gher’rak aiz ami titlem mhotv dinant. Hachem karonn mhollear hea gher’rant Mahar soinikamni Britisham borobor ravon Peshwa (vo Bharoti) soinikank haroilole dekhun. Amche ‘textbooks’ Peshwanchi har hi amchea raxttrak ek dukhachi gozal oxem manun choltat. Amkam sodanch sangot aileat ki vosnnukponna (colonialism) udexim British Raj amchea raxttrachea lokank damun dovortale mhunnon. Punn amchea ani dusrea kaim borovpianchea mota pormonnem, Britishanchem zoit asa titlench tem Mahar somudayechem zoit-ui aslem. Ami hem monant dovrunk zai ki Peshwa rajshahi hache khal Mahar lok chidd’ddon aslolo, ani 1818 vorsa zalolea gher’rant tankam suttka mell’loli, oxem amcheamni mhonnom-ieta.

Tor osli suttka ji lokank koxtt korun ani zhogddun mellta tachi ami dobajean ugddas dovrunk zai aslo nhoi? Punn ami oxem korinant. Hatunt amchea raxttrvadi (nationalist) itihas likhnnent unneponn disun yeta. Unch zatinchea mon’xank vosnnunkponnacho kall (colonial period) ho zaun aslo opman ani lojecho kall; jea kallant tanchem boll unnem zalolem ani rajniticher tancho probhav komi zalolo. Punn dusre zatinchea lokank hoch vosnnunkponnacho kall niticho ani suttkechea survatecho kall zaun aslo. Dekhik, jea disa Vasco da Gama, Calicut pavlolo, to dis aiz zaite Dalit lok tanchea suttkecho oromb zaun asa oxem man’tat (polle Aditya Nigam, The Insurrection of Little Selves, 2006, pan 182).
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Arya Samaj Ani Tanchem Karya
1880 hea doskant Arya Samaj hi sonstha zolmant aili. Tancho mukhel hetu Hindu dhorm’ ‘reform’ korpant aslo. Hie sonvsthecho promukh mhollear Swami Dayanand Saraswati. Swami Dayanandachea mota pormonnem tea kallacho Hindu dhorm’ matso pirddear zalolo. Hindu dhorm’ adle bhaxen ‘pure’ ani ‘Vedic’ sounskruticho ascho ani dekhun tachem ‘reinterpretation’ korunk Swami Dayanand fuddem sorlo. Atam Hindu dhorm’ ‘reform’ kiteak korchi goroz poddli haka sabar karonnam asat, punn ami tim bariksannin hanga niyallpache nant. Itlench mhollear puro ki ho ‘reform’ ek ‘reaction’ aslem (1) sabar ‘untouchable’ ani sokoilea-zatichio somudayo Kristi dhorm’ apnnaitolea karonnak lagon, (2) Musolman somaz rajkaronnant apleak manyatay magta dekun, (3) Hindu dhormant zativad asa to kabar korunk, ani (4) British-anchem vosnnukponn. Arya Samajacho vaur chodd korun Panjab prantant kherit bhaxen yexosvi zalo.

Swami Dayanand ani Arya Samajachea mon’xank hem sot somzolem ki dhormantoram zait ravlim zalear unch-zatinchea Hindu lokancho Bharatachea rajkaronnant probhav unno zatolo mhonn. Haka lagon Swami Dayanand-an êk yevzonn sodun kaddli ani ti mhollear shuddhi pod’doticho rosto. Shuddhi pod’dote khala Arya Samaj lokank porte Hindu dhormant haddunk vavrunk lagle. Tanchea hie yevzonnek zaitem yes mell’llem karonn atam Arya Samaj Kristi misionaram bhaxen lokank xikxonnachio ani bholaikechio sovlotio divunk lagle, ani vorna-vevosthechea (four-fold hierarchical system) faske bhitorleanuch thoddi bhov ‘social mobility’ ani ‘self respect’ diunk lagle.

Shuddhi pod’dot Swami Dayanand hachea poilim savn pasun asloli. Ti fokot unch zatinchea lokank ‘purify’ korunk uzar kortale. Swami Dayanandan tika novem rup dilem, ani atam shuddhi mhollear dhormantor korpachem sadhon zalem (polle Maria Misra, Vishnu’s Crowded Temple: India Since the Great Rebellion, 2008, panam 70-3).
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‘Ghar wapasi’-cho sarko orth ‘re-conversion’ nhoi punn ‘conversion to Hinduism’
Aiz zor ami ‘ghar wapasi’-chi khobor kortanv zalear, ami tacho itihas sarke toren zanna zaun ghevpacho proyotn korinant. Mahar soinikanche khobrek ani Arya Samajak  kosloch ‘direct’ som’bondh nam, punn hio don itihasik ghoddnuko amcheamni ‘indirectly’ zoddunk zata ‘ghar wapasi’-chem pulitik zanna zaun ghevpak. Jednam kaim Dalit somudayo Peshwa rajshahi harovpant aplem gorv ani suttka asa oxem somzotat ani Vasco da Gama Calicut pavlolo tednam apleak ani aplea sangatiank suttka mellpacho oromb zalo oxem somzotat, tednam hio somudayo ‘ghar’-antlean bhair sorunk proyotn kortat, oxem disun yeta. Dusre vatten jednam Arya Samaj sarkio sonstha shuddhi sarkea pod’doticho vapor kortat tednam heach lokank te ‘ghar’-ant haddun, tankam damun dovorpacho proyotn-ui amkam disun yeta.

Khoreponnim choddxea lokanchi shuddhi vo ‘ghar wapasi’ zata te Hindu dhormant poile suvater kednanch nasle. Dekun, ‘ghar wapasi’-cho sarko orth ‘re-conversion’ nhoi punn ‘conversion to Hinduism’ oso zata. Why I am not a Hindu (1996) hem Kancha Ilaiah hachem pustok oso vichar manddtta ki zaitio porompora ani rit-roviso jio Dalit-bahujan lok palltat taka unch-zatinchea Hindu lokam koddem kainch sombondh nam. Dekhun, Dalit-bahujan lokank ‘Hindu’ oxem vollkhop sarkem nam, oxem to sangta. Punn Dalit-bahujan lokank ‘Hindu’ mhonn vollkhotat tem rajki, ani nhoi dhormik karonnank lagon.

Toxench Christophe Jaffrelot sangta te bhaxen, British Bharotant yeunche poilim, sabar karagiri korpi somudayo (artisanal castes) Islam dhormant bhitor sorlolio, zativada pasun pois vochonk. Jaffrelot-achea mota pormonnem hi osli rajkornnik halchal korop mhollear Hindu hacho ankddo vo lok-sonkhya vaddovpacho yotn. Dekunuch anti-conversion kaideanchi magnnim fattlea kaim vorsam savn zait asa (polle Jaffrelot, Christophe. “India: The Politics of (Re)Conversion to Hinduism of Christian Aboriginals.” Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion hea pustokant, sompadon korpi Patrick Michel and Enzo Pace, vol. 2: Religion and Politics:197–215. Leiden: Brill, 2011, pan 205). Hea ‘ghar wapasi’-chea prokoronnant ek mat thavem zaun ailam: ‘anti-conversion’ kaide zai hacho orth oso-i zaunk xokta ki hozaramni lokank hem ‘ghar’ soddun diunk zai. Ek xekddo adim zoso Arya Samaj vavurtalo Hindu ‘ghar’ ani tachi lok-sonkhya samballun dovrunk, tosoch aiz Raxttra Seva Sangh (RSS) vavurta oxem mhollear, otitay zaunchi nam. RSS ani her sonstha ‘ghar wapasi’ kortat dekun zaito lok atam Buddhist zaunk lagla, zoxe porim Gaya (Bihar) hea ganvant halinch disun ailam.

‘Ghar wapasi’-cho ‘target population’ mhollear, zoxem Dalit zannkar Kancha Ilaiah Asian Age hea potracher boroun sangta, Dalit, Adivasi, ani OBC hea vorgantle lok je aiz ‘evangelical Christianity’ ani ‘prayer groups’-ant vanttekar zatat. Hea lokam modem RSS akant toyar korunk sodta, oxem to mhonntta. Kancha Ilaiah amkam fuddem sangta ki jea disa savn Dr. B. R. Ambedkar-an Nagpur xarant aplo dhorm’ bodol’lolo tea disa savn Dalit-bahujan lokank dhormantor mhonnche ek otmik ani lokxahik (spiritual and democratic) hok’k zaun urlo. Kancha Ilaiah fuddem mhonntta ki adim Dr. Ambedkar-an Buddhism appnailolem, aiz chodd so Dalit-bahujan lok Kristi dhormak akorxit zalolo asa.

Arya Samaj-an ji shuddhi pod’dot chalu keloli ti aiz RSS-an tika ‘ghar wapasi’-chem nanv dilam. Ek amkam saf disun yeta ki shuddhi ani ‘ghar wapasi’ vorna-vevosta ani zativad  posraita, ani dhormantoram (conversions) eka mon’xak hantuntlean bhair sorunk adar dita. Katolk ani Islam dhormantui zativad asa, amkam to lipoun dovrunk naka. Punn Katolk ani Islam dhormachi ‘theology’ sogleank ekuch nodrentlean polleta. Tor hea dhormanchea ‘theology’-intlean zativadak addavunk zata, dekunuch aiz amkam ‘Dalit theology’-cher sahit’ya vachunk mellta.
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Sogllinch  dhormantoram zobordosten kelolim oxem nhoi
Hem soglem jem ami voir sanglam tem Gõychea lokank ani Gõyank lagu zata. Karonn ‘ghar wapasi’ amchea kallar kiteak korunk zai haka ek ‘argument’ oso asa ki sogllim dhormantoram jim sollavea xekddeant savn kelolim asat tim ‘forced’ asat mhunnon. Gõyant tor soglleamni aikolanch astolem ki koxem porim Purtugez kallant amkam soglleank Kristanv kelole te. Novo sôd-vavr zo itihaskaramni laila tachê udexim amkam oxem disun yeta ki sogllinch  dhormantoram zobordosten (forced conversions) kelolim oxem nhoi. Hacher itihasant purave asat (polle Ângela Barreto Xavier. “Disquiet on the Island: Conversion, Conflicts and Conformity in Sixteenth-Century Goa.” Indian Economic & Social History Review vol. 44, no. 3 (2007): 269–95). Soglinch dhormantoram tor zobordosten zalolim zalear aiz lakhamni lok (Kristanv toxech dusrea dhormache) Gõychea Saibachea bhoktek yetole asle, vhoi?

Fuddem, Gõyant zobordosten dhormantoram zalolim hache purave diunk zaite lok oslio kannio sangtat: konnui xit (cooked rice) gheun Hindu lokanche bãynt khoim tea kallar uddoitale, ani hea karonnank lagun to monis (ani tacho kuttumb) bhoxttovtalo ani taka kaim upay nam zaun Kristanv zaunk poddtalem. Hie kannientlean ek disun yeta ki hio oslio kannio chodd korun unch zatinchea bod’dol uloitat mhonnon, kiteak ‘private’ bãycho ani bhoxttavpacho ul’lekh kelolo asa dekun. ‘Private’ bãyio khonnpak khorch khub aslo ani thoddeach lokam koddem tem zomtalem. Fuddem, bhoxttovpachi bhirant chodd korun unch zatichea mon’xak astali, karonn ek favtt bhoxttovlo zalear vorna-vevosthent to sokol poddtalo. Punn oxem astonam ami haka ‘forced conversion’ mhonnpachem kai Hindu dhormantlean ‘excommunication’ korop vo bohixkar ghalop? Kristi dhorman oslea bohixkar ghatlolea ani bhoxttovlolea mon’xank zago diun, tankam man dilo, oxem amcheamni mhunnonk zainam?

Zoxe toren ami aiz Gõyant dhormantoram somzun ghetat, ti somzovnni ‘ghar wapasi’ korpant Hindutva rajkaronnak protsahon ditat. Konnakui hie dhormantorachie somzonnent unneponn asa tem soroll disun yeta. Gõyant ami dhormantoram mhonnche kitem, ani tim koxim zatat, ani lok dhormantoram kiteak kortat hacher bariksannin kednanch vichar korunk nam; tacher bhasabhas-ui kednanch zaunk nam.
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Hea lekhant ami ‘ghar wapasi’ ani dhormantor he mud’de niyallun polleleat. Hea vorvim amkam ek disun yeta tem mhollear prosn jednam dhormantorancho aslo tori khoreponnim zhogddem ani zhuz zata tem zativadak lagon. Hatunt ‘ghar wapasi’-cho ‘secret’ vo ghutt liplolo asa.

(Dale Luis Menezes ‘medieval history’-nt sod-vavr korta Jawaharlal Nehru Universidadint, Novi Dill’li; ani Amita Kanekar-an A Spoke in the Wheel hi Gautam Buddha-chea jivitacher adarloli kadombori boroilea)

(Ho lekh Gulab, Voros 33, Ank 2, Febrer 2015-cher uzvaddak aila)