Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant's announcement that he intends to wipe out all the signs of the Portuguese who ruled the state for 450 years raises several important questions. While it is understandable that he wishes to assert the cultural identity of Goa and celebrate its indigenous heritage, it is crucial to remember that history is complex, multifaceted and needs to be studied in a holistic manner. Any attempt to erase the legacy of the Portuguese must be approached with sensitivity and nuance.
It is important to acknowledge that Goa has a rich and diverse history that predates the arrival of the Portuguese. The region was ruled by several dynasties, including the Kadamba, Rashtrakuta, and Vijayanagara empires, before it came under Portuguese control. These earlier rulers had left their own mark on the region, and their contributions must also be acknowledged and celebrated.
It is essential to recognise that the Portuguese regime had a significant impact on Goa, both positive and negative. While they were ruthless conquerors who tried to impose their culture and religion on the local population, it is also true that they brought significant economic, social, and cultural benefits to the region. For example, they introduced new crops and agricultural techniques, improved infrastructure, and created a unique blend of Indian and European culture that still defines Goa today. It is also important to remember that the Portuguese regime was not the only foreign power to rule Goa.
Before the Portuguese, the region was ruled by Muslim dynasties, and it is likely that they, too, left an indelible mark on Goa's history and culture. In fact, it was the Muslims whom the Portuguese, led by Afonso de Albuquerque, defeated to take over Goa. He granted political amnesty to all Hindus, reduced their cumbersome taxes, tolerated their religion and permitted them to continue as policemen and police officers. Given this complex historical context, any attempt to erase the legacy of the Portuguese regime alone will be futile and will have dangerous consequences.
While it is important to celebrate Goa's indigenous culture and heritage, it is equally important to acknowledge the positive contributions of the Portuguese, and to recognise the region's rich and diverse history. Rather than erasing the legacy of the Portuguese, the chief minister should seek to understand it, celebrate its positive contributions, and learn from its mistakes. Only then can he truly appreciate the complex and multifaceted history of this beautiful state.