Sunday, 12 May 2013

Issue of the outsider

From the advent of Sumerians in 2200 BC to the Portuguese conquest in the 16th century and thereafter, Goa has been home to an influx of migrants since times immemorial. Some of the earliest were the Indo-Aryan migrations to Goa and as empires changed, new installments of migrants set foot in Goa. Presently, Goa is home to numerous migrants hailing from different parts of India.
As per the census results declared on 1st march 2011, Goa's population comprises of 14,57,723 individuals. Out of these, a considerable chunk is migrant population.  Though they contribute to the state’s demand for labour work and odd jobs, they are seen as nothing more than a ghatee (Goan term for country bumpkins) and bhaile (outsiders). I spoke to some of these migrants, who have now made Goa their home, to listen to their side of the story. 

Gous Muddin Siddhapura a man in his sixties narrates his tale. He came to Goa in 1967 from Karnataka and initially used to live in Altinho in a ghetto near the TV tower. “Life was difficult then,” he says, “but we sailed through. When I first came here, I was a carpenter and a construction worker. At that time, my daily wage was Rs. 10 per day. The bus fare from Altinho to the construction site was Rs. 3. With Rs. 6 invested in travel, I would be left with only a meager four rupees to provide for my family. It was of course not easy but I worked hard to make ends meet.

“The then government which was MGP led told us to leave from Altinho. We had a Jhopadpatti Sangh whose leader was Ashraf Aga. We demonstrated five times and then got arrested five times. The Delhi government also intervened. Finally, after a lot of hullabaloo, under the Twenty Points Programme, we got plots in Chimbel to build our own houses and stay. We got property here, water supply and electricity was eventually provided. A government primary school was also constructed for our children to study in.
“Education is important for prosperity and to let the future generation stand on their feet to lead a respectable life. Thus we built the Jadeed High School here of which I was the founding chairman in 1993-1994. We built the Chimbel Masjid and initially started Jadeed primary school there. Then we got a permit to have higher classes, then introduced computer studies and later founded the Jadeed Higher Secondary School.
“When this area was given to us to reside, Ashraf Aga named it Indranagar as that time Indira Gandhi was the PM. When we first arrived here, we were altogether 360 people. Today, over a thousand Muslim families and hundreds of non-Muslim families reside in Indranagar. I have been living in Chimbel for 38 years and have faced no problem at all. We have the Panchayat’s permission to stay here. We pay our taxes right. As long as you work sincerely and earn your daily bread, there shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Not more than ten authentic Muslim Goans live here in Indranagar. But other communities like Kunbi etc are many.” adds another source “The inhabitants of Indranagar consist of people who come from Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madras, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh etc. There are about 3000 houses with a population of 35000 people. The literacy level is 61%. People here work as vegetable vendors; government and private service, drivers, mechanics, coolies, masons, construction workers and the ladies mainly are employed as domestic servants in neighbouring villages.

“The houses in this area are government allotted under the Twenty Points Programme. The new settlers set up in their ghettos in Gaffurbasti near the water tank uphill. The people of the older generation are using their own powers since they have become landlords now. This older generation has now become aggressive. New people who settle here don’t interfere. They just keep to themselves.”

Speaking about the increase in the level of crimes in Chimbel, he says, “The crime rate is high here. Nowadays one will get to see a lot of police nakabandi here near the bus stop. This maybe out of suspicion. But you cannot blame the entire community if one thing goes wrong. The bastifolk are okay. But because of some people, the entire basti’s name is spoilt. Groups are formed for gundagiri, these are mixed groups of hooligans belonging to all communities. They get into brawls and use physical power to assert their authority. That way they think of themselves as mighty. Otherwise there is no social tensions or communal tensions of any kind. 

“The only threat migrants face is the fear of being removed from here if they don’t vote. Chimbel is a vote bank for politicians. People here have turned from passive to aggressive due to vote bank politics. The antisocial attitude may be due to personal grudges. Otherwise, Indranagar a safe place.”

A large percentage of migrants can be found in Vasco. In Baina especially, hordes of shanties, and ghettos can be seen. Shahappa Harijan, originally from Bagalkot Karnataka, lives in a tiny shanty on rent. “I work as an airport loader at the Dabolim airport. Our parents came here years ago to work as labourers. We have been here since childhood so we connect with Goa better. The people here are good to us and we do not face any kind of problem. There are eleven members in our family and we all live in a single room. In the past thirty years, we have moved from ghetto to ghetto nomadically yet survived in Goa. We are all uneducated so cannot apply for a qualified job. Let’s see what happens in the future.”

Prakash Rathod, another migrant who lives in Kattebaina says “My family has been in Goa from the past 50 years. We live in legally built homes and pay our taxes on time.” This young lad is a student of Mechanical Engineering in Goa Engineering College, Farmagudi. He lives alone with his mother who is a fish vendor. “My group of friends in college consists of Goans. They treat me as their equal. In this area (Kattebaina), migrants come from different communities like Banjarans, Marwadis, Marathas, Karnatakis, Punjabis, Gujratis, Andhraites etc. Most of them live in slums and their occupation is primarily that of labourers, plumbers, waiters, hotel helpers etc. Almost all the children here go to school.

Overtime, Prakash and his neighbours have assimilated in the Goan culture thus adopting the food and dress habits of Goa. “We speak Konkani and English but we do not know our native tongue, ie Kannada. Most of us prefer eating fish curry rice over dal bhaat. We have made Goa’s staple food our own. But despite all this, people still say we are ghatees and claim that we are living here illegally. Besides this we do not face any grave difficulties. The only issue we faced in the past was from the indigenous Goan fishermen who refused to sell fish to us since we are bhaile. Then we requested to them over and over after which they complied.
“Another problem was created when the red light area was destroyed. That time, some houses of innocent faqirs living there were destroyed. Some of those houses were legal. The government did not do anything to help them out of their misery. Now all those faqirs have rebuilt a home for themselves and live in Shantinagar.”

Laxman Chavan, who lives in Moti Dongor, Margao also shares his story, “My father was originally from Gadag, Karnataka. He came to Goa years ago for a living. He settled here, got married here and thus I was born here. It has been more than 40 years that we’ve been in Goa. Our predecessors have sold our lands in our native place and come here in search of a better life. My generation of ‘migrants’ were all born and brought up in Goa. We have assimilated in the Goan culture completely. We cannot do without fish curry rice just like any other Goenkaar (authentic Goan). Our predecessors have died but still we don’t have an identity. We have a voting card, ration card and even an Aadhaar card, yet we are considered migrants.”
There are approximately 500 families living in Moti Dongor. Each house is home to 3-8 families. Inhabitants of Moti Dongor claim that they all live in peace and harmony and there is absolutely no communal tension. It is only once in a while that there are personal tiffs between some of the families in the neighbourhood. “All the inhabitants here are from the first settlements.” continues Chavan, “All are from Karnataka. There is no new influx of migrants. We have a school, mosque and two temples here. We all live in peace and harmony. There is absolutely no communal tension. Goans are very nice people. I have a lot of friends here. We don’t have tiffs with them either. The only problem created here is by the politicians.”

Shabbier Shaikh, who has been in Goa from the past 35 years laments about the predicament of being a migrant, “We always thought that we’re here to stay but honestly speaking, we’re dangling in the middle. We neither belong in our native land nor in our assimilated land. We are very unsure about our future. 

“Government demolished houses in Moti Dongor claiming that they are illegal. We all live in fear today. The MLA says don’t worry but everyday there’s something in the papers saying the government will demolish all illegal houses. The only thing the MLA did was build toilets for our sanitation. 

“If any crime takes place, they blame the inhabitants of Moti Dongor for it. Even if there is a personal row between two families here, the incident is exaggerated in the newspapers. We are uneducated and don’t know how to fight for our rights. We get lured towards the leader that promises us a secure future.
“Our women work as domestic help in many households. Some of them even work in the houses of High Court lawyers and the Judge. If we were that bad then why would such repecatable people employ our women? “

 “Whether BJP government comes to power or Congress, whether MGP or UGP, we have always supported the government who promises us a secure future. It is therefore not a question of taking sides. We request the present ruling party to take our woes into consideration.”

 “People are entitled to have their opinions.” continues Prakash Rathod “If they hate us, they hate us; there is nothing we can do about that. I can understand the insecurity that people feel when it comes to migrants, they feel we are not good but what can we do? We depend on Goa for our livelihood. If we are forced to leave despite our legal rights then we’ll fight. After staying here for so many years, we are also Goans.”

Abdul Karimsaaab orginally from Savanur Karnataka has been living in Moti Dongor, Margao for over 50 years. Like most other migrants, he also came to Goa to work as a labourer. “When I first settled in Moti Dongor, there were about 8-10 houses here. Then, there was absolutely no problem here. It is only now due to political influence that we face problems. We all used to live like brothers and continue to do so. Otherwise if you go to see then there is no fear here. It is just people who make a big hue and cry. We left our native land to come and settle here; now this is our home. After half a century if you suddenly tell us to leave this place, then where will we go?”

  - Nida Sayed 

@nidsay on Twitter

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