Aligning the Politics of Recognition with the Politics of Redistribution

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The politics of culture that churns identity politics across the globe and our country is profoundly a politics of recognition. We in Goa are also not free from this politics of recognition. Our cry for special status and many of our battles against land grab are battles that intertwine politics of recognition and politics of re-distribution. Every struggle against injustice imbricates a demand for recognition and re-destitution of resources. We all share a feeling of unease with the degenerating state of affairs in Goa and desire to bring about transformative re-distribution of resources. Often the North/South divide comes into play and is intermingled with identity based politics or the politics of recognition and we in Goa remain divided while the vested interests wins the day. We certainly face both cultural and socio-economic injustices in Goa. But often an over emphasis on the cultural injustices that generates the politics of recognition results in forgetting of the profound socio-economic injustice and deprivations rooted into our political economy. Over the fifty years of post-liberation, Goa has been mainly a battle ground where primarily cultural conflicts have been viewed as more primary and foundational to all our socio-economic injustice that we were forced to face. That is why beginning with the battle for Goa against merger into Maharashtra, the Konkani Marathi struggle, the Nagri / Romi, the English and local languages, Mopa airport, save Tiracol etc., we can see a deep quest for recognition in our society. It is ironic that most issues that appear to be cultural are ultimately issues of redistribution.

The rise of the middle class in our country, seems to have put the real issues that involves politics of distribution under wraps and we are fed on the politics of recognition because our plate is apparently full while we are steadily insulated numbed from the plight of the poor of our country. The issues of Roti, Kapda, Makan and Bizli, Sadak Pani are still relevant for interior India but for several of us life has become easy and we have slipped into a mode of forgetting of the poor. Thus, we seem to be falling prey to the issues of culture as primary to those that concern. Indians who do not have to be anxious of their next meal are steadily falling into the trap of politics of recognition. Issues like Hindutva and the rising numbers of certain minority communities seem to have become central and have brought about politics of recognition to the fore. We are led to foolishly think that ‘what is at stake is our culture and identity’ and everything else will fall in place once we attend to it. This diverts our attention away from the politics of redistribution and we become passive onlookers of the death of socialist vision of our constitution and electoral signatories to the handing of our common resources to the corporations and withdrawal of subsidies to the poor. Today, we seem to have become a court run country. Our democratically elected representatives arrogantly choose to brazen out all issues of corruption and impropriety and it is left to the Supreme Court to bring some spirit of democracy in the reining chaos. In fact all issues of recognition are issues of re-distribution. Right now, we are alarmed by cultural metabolism and we try to bring about redistribution of cultural resources in our country.

We can notice an overlap between the politics of recognition and politics of redistribution. But our issues in Goa cannot be viewed within the framed work of cultural nationalism which is primarily a quest for recognition that blinds us from the issues of redistribution of our resources. In fact, being intoxicated on these issues, we can fool ourselves and allow our resources to be exploited by big corporate companies. The last fifty years hinterlands of Goa were in fact fed on the politics of culture and communalism and were made to believe that their life and being is threatened by issues of identity and religion. This may have contributed in taming their opposition to the mining operations in those areas. Today, we need to open our eyes and promote a politics of re-distribution of inequalities affecting every Goan particularly the economics front. This does not mean cultural issues are not important. But in Goa, our issues of recognition like the quest for special status, Mopa airport, save Tiracol movement are actually issues of re-distribution of land resources. Hence, when we distance ourselves from mere cultural politics like Hindutva which craftily hides its economic fangs and numbs our struggle for re-distribution of resources particularly for the poor, we in Goa will have to find the lines of intersection between the politics of recognition and the politics of redistribution. Thus, for instance, the reversing of the amendments to the land law will result in the recognition of the poor who cultivate those lands or the saving Tiracol, Mopa, and the granting of the special status will save Goa for Goans. That is why authentic politics in Goa has to align the politics of re-distribution to the politics of recognition. Goan interest remains primary but our politics has to bring a politics of re-distribution of socio-economic resources and not merely cultural ones.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao