Konkani Osmitay Cannot Divide

I was in Mangalore the other day and I got to watch the much advertised Konkani movie, Osmitay. The movie brings out several nice things about our identity (Osmitay) as Konkani speaking people. Like any good movie, it also raises several uncomfortable questions.

Besides its historical inaccuracies, it makes me think that this is another propaganda movie like the Kashmir Files, which was screened during the last international film festival in Goa. Moreover, Goan Osmitay is not language-based, as is the case with some North Indians, who are linguistically based in the Hindi heartland. The South also shows linguistic identities. Thus, those who speak Tamil are tamilians, and so on. Those who speak Konkani are not konkanas or Konkani people. We are Goans. Others, like the Mangaloreans, define their identity by the place they dwell in. Yet the movie seems to attempt to build the identity of the people living in Mangalore and other places as Konkani people. It may be true that Magaloreans have to come to think of themselves as Konkani people. At least in Goa, we are first Goans.

This movie appears to be a sinister design to get innocent people wrongly identified by the language, like others, although people of Goan origin have naturally identified with the land they belong to. The movie takes upon itself to mark the journey of Konkani. It locates the origin of Konkani in the Saraswati civilization. But the people who represented that civilization are identified as Goud Saraswat Brahmins. These people are said to have been victims of a disaster that buried their holy river, forcing them to leave their place and move to Goa and settle there, in search of future heights of great flourishing.
But with the arrival of Portuguese, the Konkani speakers are put under a tremendous stress. This burden is portrayed as the evil role played by the Inquisition. The Inquisition does have many issues that we need to understand and debate, yet the exodus (from Goa) of the present Mangaloreans cannot be linked to it, as the movie purports to do. There have been several exoduses of people from Goa, even before the coming of the Portuguese, but the said movie presents a singular exodus and blames Inquisition for it.

The movie thus presents the journey of Konkani to Mangalore even up to Cochin, but keeps many questions unanswered. The exodus of Goans to Mangalore and other places is totally blamed on the Inquisition. This is the biggest faultline of the film. It makes us think that this is simply a propaganda movie, like the Kashmir Files. It seems to be produced to disrupt existing communal harmony and to inflame the hate politics of the ruling class. Since the movie is likely to be shown in Goa, it is good to be aware that it is aimed to benefit the right wing politics. I did speak to a number of scholarly priests from Mangalore, and my intuition that the movie was a propaganda toolkit of the right-wing was validated.

Konkani Mai embraces all Konkani speakers. Yet today, we are in danger of losing this embrace of each other because of such a gross misrepresentation of the journey of Mai Konkani. The movie has several incongruencies. I was surprised to see one of my friends who played a central role and who is shown worshipping Sateri Goddess, which actually is Ruinn or Ant Hill Goddess and which was worshipped by the tribals in Goa. Sateri is presented as the Goddess of the GSBs and manifested as one that suffers the wrath of the Portuguese Inquisition. The movie cannot answer how Sateri worshippers leave Goa and go to Mangalore and become Christians, who then hold our Lady of Rosary in profound devotion and honour.

The historical incongruencies seem to suggest that the movie is nothing but a propaganda toolkit. Hence, we need to watch it critically. Unfortunately, it appears that it is being used by the GSB community to legitimize its status when we know that the GSB as a caste was a clear fabrication of the 20th century. The caste was given its status of brahminhood after the so-called discovery of the Sahyadri Khanda , which bestowed brahminhood on their fish eating habits. This discovery was made by Dr. Jason De Cunha in Mumbai. This means the movie muddles with facts of history and is
on the side of the upper caste, fanning the politics of identity of the right-wing. On the other side, we can also say that the movie insults the GSB community by portraying them as worshippers of Sateri Goddess, thus reducing them to the status of tribals. Whatever it may be, the journey of Konkani is also misrepresented by linking its sufferings to the Inquisition. No one was put under Inquisition because he/she spoke Konkani. Konkani did suffer a bit under colonization for some time. But it also grew under colonization. We have the first Konkani printed book as well as the first Konkani Grammar developed during colonial times. For this and other reasons, the movie has to be watched with critical eyes.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao