An Invented Tradition and its Victims and Villains

One cause theory for the migration of the Konkani people (the then Goans) into coastal Karnataka and even into Kerala is suspect. Unfortunately this one cause theory is a metanarrative used by the upper caste to invent a shared victimhood. Such a self-perceived victimhood emerges in a context of intractable conflicts that usually affect collective memory of people. Unfortunately, a Konkani movie Osmitay is basing itself into this metanarrative that belongs to the invented tradition of a shared victimhood that finds its roots in the wrong doings of the Inquisition.

The oversimplification of a complex history of migrations out of then region we call Goa today is once again given new lease of life by the movie Osmitay which otherwise is a good art production of Konkani diaspora. While appreciating the strengths of the movie, here let us examine its one migration and one cause theory. One migration and one cause echoes the right wing ideology. Hence, it is important to critically examine this thesis of the movie. This analysis is required as it will manifest how it is aligned to the right wing agenda that is detrimental to the interest of the minorities in our country. The fact that the movie is being produced by Christians also make this analysis necessary um unmask its pretention of innocence and expose its political agenda.

There are several waves of migration of Konkani speaking people out of a region that we now know as Goa. Some of the migrations predate the arrival of the Portuguese. The region was yet to become Goa and even then we can still find that some of the people from there had already migrated in search of better pastures down south. Hence, to put together all these migration into a single exodus triggered by the Inquisition is against the facts of history. Historians like K M Panikkar say that there were Konkani speaking people in Kerala and Karnataka even before the coming of the Portuguese into India. Hence, a singular linear narrative that bundles all migrations into a singular one is highly questionable.

Such a singularization appears to be at the service of an invention of tradition of a shared victimhood of the upper caste. This invented tradition falls apart if we consider the caste geographies of the upper caste in Cochin and even in Mangalore. Both the Ports were under the Portuguese administration for some time. If Portuguese used Inquisition against the Upper caste Hindu, how could we can find there Konkani settlement in Cochin near the fort? Likewise we may have to ask in Mangalore too. If the Portuguese Inquisition had led these upper caste Konkani speakers to move out of Goa than why they were allowed to peacefully settle and flourish in Cochin or Mangalore Port areas ? This fact itself deconstructs the thesis that it is only the Inquisition that led to the exodus of all Konkani speakers to the south.

Such a thesis appears to be used to invent a shared victimhood and is probably directed to cover the good relations that upper caste enjoyed with the Portuguese. Unfortunately, the Movie Osmitay blindly submits to this agenda without critical question and thus, allows Konkani mai to be made maid servant of that sinister agenda. The invented tradition of victimhood aligns with Hindutva ideology today and is in danger of committing the same crimes that it is accusing the Portuguese by deflecting it’s thus derived anger and subsequent quest for justice on innocent Christians of today whose ancestors where the actual victims of Inquisition. If at all if any community is the real victim of inquisition, it is the catholic community along with other Christians even from abroad.

The upper caste Hindus were the collaborators of the Portuguese. It is they who had invited the Portuguese to rule over Goa. Even in the Inquisition building, the entire ground floor was used by them to conduct business. This is why by portraying the upper castes as victims of Inquisition, the producers of the movie have not just insulted the ancestors of present Christians but also have given power to those who wish to construct the Christians of today as the villains of so called invented victimhood of the past. Hence, by supporting the invented tradition the movie is victimizing the Christians by converting them as a villains of the past where they themselves we it is victims.

The Movie unfortunately lends its hands to the politics that wants to construct Christians as monsters of the colonial past. It is in this may be that the movie while pretending to serve the interest of Konkani mai victimizes the Christians of today. In fact, the movie does what Inquisition did. Like the inquisition, It also punishes innocent Christians of today by joining hands with the right wing Hindutva lobby that is happy to propagate one migration and one cause theory of migration of Christians and the Konkonas (other Konkani speakers) into Karnataka and Kerala. It is almost a case of being stabbed like Ceaser by our very own Brutus. The plight of the Christians is akin to Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, which says ‘ The whole question here is, am I a monster?, or am I a victim ? And what if I am a victim?’.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao