Margao: Amidst an ardent call made from the pulpits of the 95th Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan at Udgir in Latur, for making Marathi Goa’s “second official language”, Jnanpith awardee and Konkani writer Damodar Mauzo on Friday busted the argument that Marathi was the language of Goans, and Konkani its dialect, and gave reference to the works of Marathi saint poet Namdev to drive home his point that Konkani enjoyed the status of an independent language of Goa since ancient times. Speaking at the inaugural session of the sammelan as its chief guest, Mauzo said that in a ‘gavlan’ by Namdev, the poet has written verses based on the pleadings of the Gopis to Krishna to return their clothing, in five different languages — Urdu, Gujarati, Konkani, Marathi and Kannada. “Sant Namdev is believed to have penned this verse in Konkani during his stay in the Konkani region,” Mauzo said. The revival of the demand for Marathi to be made Goa’s second official language has come against the backdrop of staunch opposition from a certain section of Marathi protagonists to the invitation extended by the organisers of the Sammelan to Mauzo as chief guest for its inaugural session. The demand that has resurfaced on a Marathi literary platform after several years created a stir in literary circles. Speaking ahead of Mauzo at the inaugural session of the Sammelan, president of Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Sahitya Mahamandal, Koutukrao Thale-Patil, urged Mauzo to “lead the Marathi people of Goa” in demanding that Marathi be accorded the status of the second official language of Goa by the state government. Akhil Bhartiya Marathi Sahitya Mahamandal is the apex Marathi literary body. “This is my request to Mauzo to tell the Goa government that while you have made Konkani the state’s official language, Marathi is the language of the majority and that’s why you should make it the second official language,” Thale-Patil said. “If Mauzo takes over the leadership of the Marathi people (in raising this demand), I feel that this issue will be resolved and it will set a different kind of example for the country.” Mauzo, in his address, chose not to dwell on the Marathi-Konkani controversy but responded to Thale-Patil’s reference to Krista Purana in Marathi (written by Christian missionaries) that the latter had used to buttress his argument that Marathi was the language of Goans even over 600 years ago. Mauzo pointed out that Krista Purana was published in an alien Roman script so that people should understand the Bible, but that when the missionaries realised that the masses didn’t understand its content, they never attempted to write another in Marathi. “This however teaches us that the language of the people must be respected, and I have come here, truly convinced that Marathi is being accorded due respect,” Mauzo said. Thale-Patil, while putting forth a justification for Marathi as Goa’s official language, accused Marathi politicians from Goa of betraying the cause of their language. “There was no reason other than language politics that led Konkani to be made the official language of Goa by sacrificing Marathi. By making Konkani the official language, injustice was meted out to Marathi. Konkani got estranged from Marathi, became the state’s official language, the Saraswat samaj upheld the language, but Marathi politicians from Goa made their language a sacrificial offering. Konkani was made the official language and the language of the masses was ignored, not even an equal status was accorded to it. And this explains the row over Mauzo being invited for the Sammelan.” Speaking further, Mauzo said that freedom of expression should remain unfettered for literature to flourish. “But when power goes to the head, restrictions are imposed, fascism is nurtured to promote autocratic rule,” Mauzo said. “Can litterateurs afford to observe silence at such times?”
RAMNATH N PAI RAIKAR | NTPanajiAs the state is witnessing illumination all over with the festival of Diwali being celebrated by one and all, the library of the Gomantak Marathi Academy located in the Porvorim-based Marathi Bhavan and having extensive collection of books, is literally in darkness, with over 15,000 of its books facing certain extinction.The said library has a number of rare reference books, including over-a-century-old printed work as well as some valuable manuscripts, one of which is around 400 years old.The Marathi Bhavan along with the library was shut down in 2016 after the government formed a parallel institution called Goa Marathi Academy in 2014.The government grants to the Gomantak Marathi Academy had already been stopped in 2012.The government was forced to take these drastic steps following allegations that the then president of Gomantak Marathi Academy Narendra Ajgaonkar was dominating the institution, and many of the members of the Academy had taken objection to the same. Furthermore, Ajgaonkar had ignored the recommendations made by a government committee probing into the maladministration of the Academy.Pandurang Thakur, former librarian with the Gomantak Marathi Academy, told ‘The Navhind Times’ that the library was a true repository of Marathi books.“Many of the Goa University students undergoing their post-graduation course in Marathi and even those pursuing the doctorate were visiting this library to follow the reference books,” he added.Besides various reference books, the library has early issues of many newspapers and magazines that were launched in Goa.Thakur said that around 30 noted Goan litterateurs like B D Satoskar, A K Priolkar, S S Nadkarni, V B Prabhudesai, Dr Pralhad Wader and Ravindra Ghavi had donated their personal collection of books to the Gomantak Marathi Academy.“The library has a rare book on Jivbadada Kerkar, the famous troop leader of Sardar Mahadji Shinde, which was published in 1905 and sought after by many people,” he added, further informing that a manuscript by poet Krishnambhat Bandkar is also in possession of the library, for which the curator of the Central Library had contacted him.Thakur had made data entry of all these books and catalogued them.Thakur informed that once, post-2016, he had casually visited the Gomantak Marathi Academy library, which by then was no longer available for the public.“At that time I saw termites already having eaten up some papers in the lower drawer of a cupboard, where book registers and other such things were kept,” he maintained, pointing out that even though he, at that time was no longer attached to the library, cleaned up the drawer and threw out the affected papers.“Now, I don’t know the status of those precious books; whether they are safe, or already destroyed either by the termites or lack of maintenance,” Thakur said, observing that the government should have taken over the Gomantak Marathi Academy along with its library and opened it for public.“After all, the government had provided a grant of Rs 1.12 crore for construction of the Marathi Bhavan,” he noted.The Gomantak Marathi Academy was constituted in 1987 for the preservation and development of Marathi language, on the background of the official language agitation of 1986, through mobilisation of funds from the public.Later, the Marathi protagonists had taken up the ambitious project of constructing Marathi Bhavan at Porvorim. The foundation stone for this project was laid by the songstress Lata Mangeshkar on February 5, 1998 amidst much fanfare.The building however is lying half-constructed till date, in spite of the government partly releasing funds to complete the project.Lamps lighted on the occasion of Diwali illuminate the surroundings, while books illuminate the readers from within. In an age where reading of books has gone out of fashion, one sincerely expects that at least books are respected and preserved for posterity. And if these books are rare publications or manuscripts then the responsibility is still more pertinent.One only hopes that the books at the Goa Marathi Academy library are still in good condition and would be salvaged before it is too late.