Goa has a reputation of being a peaceful, tourist-friendly tiny territory. With the improvement in roads and transport facilities recently, Goa has turned out to be one of the most favourite tourist destination in India.
Goa which has a legacy of over 400-year-old Portuguese regime, is also known for its peaceful co-existence of the Hindu and Catholics communities. Unfortunately, the recent incidents of desecration of holy cross in the Catholic-dominated south Goa have posed threats to the centuries-old social harmony.
Goa is one of the few states in the country which have a sizeable presence of the minority community.
While Hindus have a dominant presence in north Goa, Catholics are in more number in Salcette and most parts of South Goa. Soon after its liberation from the Portuguese regime, Goa, Daman and Diu were made a single Union territory. Since then, the composition of the Goa Assembly had reflected dominant religious and linguistic background of its electorate.
The things have not changed after Goa was made a state in 1986 and Daman and Diu were detached from it. Even when Goa was under the Portuguese rule, this coastal region did not witness any major clash between Hindus and the Catholics.
That was also because of the Portuguese rulers, although professing Catholic faith, were equally tolerant - or intolerant - to both Hindus and Catholics while ruling over this overseas colony. It is not much known that Portuguese had introduced a uniform civil code (Goa Family Law) binding for all religious communities almost 100 years ago and that the uniform civil code has remained in force in this territory even after Goa’s Liberation in December 1961.
The Tulsi Vrundavan and the cross have co-existed at the entrance of the Goan houses and this social harmony is being sought to be destroyed with the vandalisation of the cross. Understanding the implication and the machinations behind the anti-social acts, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has immediately directed to contact technology giant Google’s mapping service to identify and nab the culprits.
Since its liberation, Goa has witnessed many popular agitations including the long stir for recognition of Konkani as the state’s official language and inclusion of this language into the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution and later for demanding a full-fledged statehood for the territory. During all these agitations, there was never a division of the state’s populace on religious grounds although, some elements did try to give such a twist to these popular stirs.
It is easier to dismiss these incidents as the handiwork of some drunken or mentally unsound persons. However, Parrikar has said that the modus operandi involved in all these incidents indicate that they could be a handiwork of one group of miscreants and that the police have been instructed to take stern action against them.
The BJP, which has been the ruling party in the state for the past few years with an impressive portion of the Catholics supporting it, knows too well the importance of maintaining social harmony in Goa.
Having tourism as its main industry, the government cannot afford to allow social turmoil to disturb the peace. Therefore, the state government would do well in checking the fringe elements bent on disturbing the social fabric in the state and maintain the state’s reputation of being a peace loving territory.