CONTRIBUTION TO GOAN POLITICS
“When we met Mrs Indira Gandhi, outside her 10 Safdarjung Residence, the then Prime Minister of India in this connection, she asked us to decide first about the language, since States in India were carved out on linguistic basis,” ~Luizinho Faleiro.
So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, but not at the age of 26. Unmindful of the challenges before him, at 26, Luizinho Faleiro, was ready to take the political plunge, little knowing that one day he would have to don the mantle of Chief Minister of the beautiful state of Goa. His desire to join politics was enkindled from his pain at seeing Goans being marginalized, and irreparable damage being caused to the State, its ethos, beliefs and culture. Even as one of the youngest MLA, he firmly believed that ‘People are the Masters’ and that a politician should be clean and efficient to bring about progress, and most importantly, abide by people’s aspirations.
Reclaiming the Soul of Goa
THE BATTLE FOR OFFICIAL LANGUAGE & STATEHOOD
So after the Liberation of Goa from Portuguese Rule in 1961, and the tumultuous tenure of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party government, where the party tried to divide the people by misrepresenting that the language of Goa was Marathi, and were fixated on merging Goa with Maharashtra; like all proud Goan youth, Luizinho worked as a youth volunteer for the success of the Opinion Poll of 1967, which was granted to Goa by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Determined at improving the self respect and livelihood of Goans, Luizinho was elected for the first time to the Goa, Daman and Diu Legislative Assembly, on a Congress nomination, at a turning point in Goan history, when the people ended the 16 year divisive and corrupt MGP rule. There was a need to redeem Goa from the disastrous policies of the MGP between 1963 and 1979. Would the Congress which was elected with overwhelming majority do it? Luizinho was ecstatic as he made his debut in Goa, Daman and Diu Assembly. As recounted earlier, when Luizinho along with other Congressmen went to pay a courtesy call to Indira Gandhi, she put the poser to him outside her 10 Safdarjung Residence–to first decide the Official Language of Goa, if they wanted Statehood. Hence, Luizinho’s mission was to first put the demand for Official Language status for Konkani, high on the Congress agenda by tabling a Resolution in the Goa Pradesh Congress committee.
Even though Luizinho Faleiro was not a Minister, and well knowing the fate of Private Members’ Resolutions, Luizinho Faleiro took the courage to table a Resolution in the Goa Daman and Diu Assembly, on March 31, 1982, that urged members to ratify Konkani as the mother tongue of Goans, and declare it as the official language. The Resolution also envisaged the creation of a Konkani Academy to develop the language. This historic resolution was one of the first ever Private Members’ Resolutions to be passed unanimously by the Goa Daman and Diu Assembly, irrespective of party affiliations of the MLAs.
STATEHOOD RESOLUTION: Buoyed by his success, Luizinho proceeded to consolidate the gains of the Opinion Poll and moved a resolution on January 14, 1983, to urge the Government of India, to grant Statehood to Goa and fulfill the long cherished dream of all Goans. This historic resolution which would allow the State to determine its own destiny, too was passed unanimously by the Goa Daman and Diu Assembly.
Even with people’s expectations running high from the new Government, in its very first term, the first Congress party government was wrecked with dissensions. Understandably, and sadly, the two principal points on the Congress manifesto –the promise of making Konkani the official language and securing Statehood for Goa, remained unfulfilled. To make matters worse, the first tenure of the Congress rule saw a split in the party, with a section led by Dr Wilfred DeSouza breaking away to form the Goa Congress.
FIGHT CONTINUES: Luizinho continued the fight for making Konkani the Official Language and securing Statehood for Goa, from the Opposition benches. It was a relentless fight, now that he was the lone flag-bearer of these causes. But fight he did, as seen from the issues he raised in the Goa Assembly and outside. The road blocks for grant of Official Language status to Konkani were many: The Congress party feared that once Statehood, based on language was granted, the financial bonanza to the Union territory would stop. If Konkani was declared the official language, a section of the Congress also ‘imagined’ communal unrest. The Central Congress government feared that if Konkani was given official language status, it would open the floodgates for campaigners of Maithili, Bhojpuri and other languages, who would demand inclusion of their language in the Eight Schedule and there would be no end to these demands. Secondly, there was a fear that the demand for Konkani would trigger a demand for Statehood by other regions and this would set off a wave of ‘divisive’ forces in the country.
The KONKANI Bill: Since the First ever Congress government was unable to pass the Konkani as Official Language bill during the 1980-1984 tenure of the Goa Assembly Luizinho Faleiro intensified his fight for Konkani. Luizinho Faleiro appealed from various fora — the Goa Legislative Assembly, the media, face to face meetings, public platforms– and urged people to make Konkani the official language of Goa. The Goa Congress made this its principal goal. Luizinho tabled another bill –the Goa Daman and Diu Official Language Bill of 19 July 1985. This time the Congress government of Pratapsingh Rane brazenly threw it out.
Within 10 days of this event, on July 29, Luizinho, decided to seek public support and led a movement of Konkani lovers, writers, thinkers, playwrights and actors and courted arrest, in open defiance of the government and his former colleagues. This was followed by the arrest of 3000 writers, poets, dramatists, and intellectuals. It was here that the defining People’s Konkani Movement — the Konkani Porjecho Avaz was born on 29th July 1985. The meetings of KPA were held at Luchel, Caminho de Monte, the residence of Luizinho Faleiro to chalk out course of action.
This movement galvanised the Konkani lovers and in many ways set off a tidal wave that engulfed the state and its politicians, and forced fence-sitting Congress MLAs to take courage and come out and support Konkani as the Official Language.
THE AGITATION DEMANDING OFFICIAL LANGUAGE STATUS FOR KONKANI:
Words are sorely inadequate to capture the passion, the rage and the selflessness of the people who stood as a sea of humanity, at the countless public meetings that were organised to rally for the cause of Konkani. The years 1985- 86 saw the biggest agitations Goa had ever seen. The Rane government cracked down on the agitators who were going for the meetings, by impounding buses on the alibi of checking documents. “But people were instructed to cycle, walk or do anything and reach the meeting venues,” Luizinho recounts. To offset the State repression, which used its police force, the people blocked the roads and dug trenches resulting in lathi-charge and firing tear gas by police. During these protests, an army of selfless advocates sacrificed their practice and had parked themselves at the residence of Luizinho Faleiro, only to bail out Konkani lovers who were arrested by the Congress government.
Convenor of the meeting, Luizinho Faleiro addressing the first historic meeting at Lohia Maidan on 10 November 1985 under the banner of the Konkani Porjecho Avaz.
The KPA organised two massive meetings one at Lohia Maidan on 10 November 1985 and the second at Azad Maidan Panaji, on 14 November 1985. At the first meeting at Lohia maidan, Luizinho Faleiro, Dr Wilfred de Souza, KPA Convenor Pundalik Naik, Jyotindra Sarmalkar, Uday Bhembre and others addressed the meeting of over 40000 people, demanding Official Status for Konkani and Statehood. People came in large groups from Mobor, Curtorim, Betul, Borim, Cortalim etc.
The second meeting organised by KPA at Azad Maidan Panaji attended by over 1 lakh people, where some travelled by trawlers.
The second meeting at Azad Maidan, Panaji was addressed by Dr Wilfred de Souza, Uday Bhembre, MLAs Francisco Monte Cruz, Luizinho Faleiro, Francisco Branco, and Minister Dr Luis Proto Barbosa, while Konkani Litterateur Ravindra Kelekar administered the oath to the crowd on 14 November 1985, which shook the capital city. People from all over Goa attended the meetings, some travelled by trawlers to attend the meet from Salcete and blockaded the Mandovi River opposite the then Secretariat located at Adil Shah Palace. The Navelim Constituency Citizen Committee under President Felix Dias mobilised support for the meetings. People came out in such large numbers that the meetings were a resounding success. The government was brought to its knees. Goa had never seen and may not ever see such largely attended meeting again.
The movement reached its climax in December 1986 with massive agitations across the state to counter the propaganda of the rival Marathi Rajya Bhasha Prasthapan Samiti led by the MGP. Florian Vaz became the first Konkani Martyr, a victim of police bullets. Subsequently, six others were also martyred. To these and other brave souls, who braved the government hostility, attended and mobilised for the meetings and agitations, Konkani owes its redemption, as it finally ascended the throne as the Mother Tongue of Goans.
THE TRIUMPH OF KONKANI: Then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi understood the angst of the Goans and conceded to the demand of Official Language Status for Konkani. On the eve of Goa’s Silver Jubilee of Liberation Rajiv sent a emissary to Goa and the House passed the historic Official Language Bill, at the one day session, by 21-8 votes on 4th February 1987, with only the MGP opposing it. Rajiv Gandhi thus fulfilled the promise made by his mother Indira Gandhi to the people of Goa.
To Luizinho’s joy, Rajiv Gandhi called the Goa Congress leaders to Delhi and acknowledged that they were a force to reckon with. He also invited them to join the Congress party, now that Statehood would not be far away.
This historic and exhilarating event, was followed by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi offering Luizinho a full-fledged cabinet post. But Luizinho politely declined and instead chose to work as for the party organisation and accepted the post of General Secretary of GPCC and oversaw the smooth merger of Goa Congress with the Congress party.
STATEHOOD FOR GOA: After the Official Language bill was passed the Congress Government put forth Goa’s case for Statehood, before the Centre. The (Constitution 57th Amendment Bill) Goa Daman and Diu Reorganization Bill 1987 was passed by Parliament and Goa finally became the 25th State of the Indian Union on 30th May 1987, under the Premiership of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Statehood was a redemption of the pledge first made in 1963 by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to protect the unique identity of Goa and then reiterated by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Luizinho takes tremendous pride in the fact that, declaration of Konkani as the Mother Tongue and Statehood for Goa which seemed impossible under the MGP rule, were made a reality, through a relentless fight by the people, and of which he was a leader and an inseparable part. Thereafter, the Congress (I) was returned to power after the first Goa State Assembly elections after Statehood in 1989.