Saturday, July 12, 2014

Inquisition, Reconquista and (World Cup) Football

“These children[converts]....Their hatred for idolatry is marvelous....whenever their own parents practise it, they reproach them and come off to tell me at once....Whenever I hear of any act of idolatrous worship, I go to the place with a large band of these children...The children run at the idols, upset them, dash them down, break them to pieces, spit on them, trample on them, kick them about, and in short heap on them every possible outrage” - Francis Xavier, inspiration behind the Goan inquisition
The ‘national guide’ of the HJS [Hindu Jagran Samity], Charudutta Pingle, was quoted saying that Goans supporting Portugal in the ongoing World Cup would be “rubbing salt on injuries suffered in history”

As expected, people are complaining that the burden of "history" is being unfairly foisted on their shoulders.  There are a number of outstanding issues but the Goan Inquisition ranks foremost in the minds of the people whose ancestors were mercilessly persecuted for three centuries for being idolators.

History traditionally has been written by the winners and all over India the sons of Abraham are retreating in face of a relentless onslaught by the sons of Hanuman et al. The plea (from the afflicted minorities) is for an inclusive society so that all communities can co-exist and prosper in a secular republic. 

Indeed we should aim to build an India where it is possible to celebrate the victories of Pakistan (Sunnis for Saeed Ajmal) and Portugal (Catholics for Cristiano Ronaldo). The problem is that the burden of history will not go away by pretending it does not exist. Something must be done, else the poison keeps contaminating the community well.

First and foremost, the Ram Sena and others are pathetic bullies and they do a lot of harm. They are a bit like the bumbling Shia gangs of Iraq (to use an imprecise analogy). Full of reckless bravado, they create disorder and disharmony amongst the people. When the Caliphate troops show up on the scene, they disappear out of sight. They ride on a river of historical grievances but they do not seem to be able to learn from history.

This is the most important question: why the nations that were India so weak that they allowed Portugese (and others) to terrorize from Bengal to Gujarat? The answer is obviously complicated but can be reduced to one word: CASTE (based discrimination).  

Until and unless Indians realize that it was their own fault that led to a "thousand year slavery" no historical exercise will be complete.

Now to move on to the Portugese and the Catholics of Goa.

When the Portugese empire was rising it killed off (or converted) all the Moors (muslims) in the Iberian peninsula. This was as an integral part of the reconquista campaign led by Christian armies from 711AD - 1492AD (fall of Granada). Not only were the muslims (who were considered as invaders) massacred but the Jews as well.

If the thinking is that Christian Europe has shed all barbarisms of the distant past and embraced ahimsa then it is legitimate to point out that (i) Portugal was fighting colonial wars as late as the 1970s, (ii) Christians (orthodox) have been engaged in ethnic cleansing against Muslims in Bosnia as late as 1990s (a low-intensity war is still going on in Kosovo and Bosnia), and (iii) Catholics are still fighting Protestants in Northern Ireland today. Moral authority will not come so easily to the Christian Ummah, when foot-soldiers are still fighting in its name.

Right now, a "cultural reconquista" is going on in Goa. It is happening non-violently but it nevertheless oppressive. Since many Goan Catholics have Portugese citizenship (thanks to Antonio Salazar, the dictator "prime minister" of Portugal from 1932-1968), Goans have been able to emigrate to Portugal and then on to other European countries (as allowed by the European Union). One may even say that such voluntary migration is de-facto ethnic cleansing.

All this is wrong and deeply worrying, but do the Goan Catholics have any responsibility so as not to be burdened by "history"? A "Truth and Reconciliation" commission sounds like an excellent idea. Sponsorship of an all-faiths-temple in memory of the hundreds of temples that were destroyed can help close the debate on idolatry. A museum of Inquisition on the lines of the Holocaust memorial (which is strangely enough, located in the USA and not in Europe) can be set-up with some funding from the Church.

The Inquisition files were destroyed in 1812, but then people have long memories (and they will have historians on their side). The Hindu brotherhood is the winner in Goa and elsewhere in India. It is now high time to put the religious poison back in the bottle.
Well before Narendra Modi’s advent, before his acolyte Manohar Parrikar could become chief minister in 1994, Hindu fundamentalists have viewed Goa’s Catholics as an impediment to their larger aim of ‘Bharat’ becoming a ‘Hindu nation’. Thanks to the asinine comments of Goa’s PWD minister Sudhin Dhavalikar urging bikinis be banned and pubs closed down, it helps to revisit extremist fears—to see, if nothing else, whether women visitors to the beach will choose to show him a thing or two.

Goa’s elected representatives seem largely illiterate in at least three languages, but hapless, overwhelmed and cornered though he may have been on TV, Dhavalikar is anything but harmless. It is fitting that he represents the BJP regime in Goa on behalf of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), its loyal, right-wing ally. 

After all, in the early ’60s, just freed of colonial rule and still a Union Territory, the MGP’s founder and Goa’s first chief minister, Dayanand Bandodkar,  had pushed through an opinion poll to see whether Goa should be merged with Maharashtra.

Thankfully, he lost—perhaps the sole occasion when Goans came together, setting aside their differences. 

But Bandodkar spr­ead seed. For the first time, Goans in the north saw jeeploads of proto-Shiv Sainiks, armed with tridents and orange flags, spoiling for a fight; or knew that allegiance to the MGP was now being sought at village temples in accompaniment to the tinkling of bells and slokas. Bandodkar kept the MGP a truly populist party; he himself was a charismatic, benevolent, Peron-like character who played all sides. Under his daughter Shashikala Kakodkar, who inherited party and post, blatant nepotism entered political life, but the MGP also changed.

Today, circle complete, it has degenerated into a private firm run by Sudhin Dhavalikar and his cohorts who consciously cultivate a Hindu votebank and worse, an ‘us versus them’ mentality—a phenomenon foreign in the larger annals of Goan consciousness and identity. It may not be a coincidence that the build-up to Narendra Modi’s ‘massive mandate’ has blessed a fistful of Hindu extremist groupings in Goa and encouraged them to move so far right that one more sideways step and they’d fall off the cliff!

Regardless of their differences, Goans can teach the rest of the country a thing or two about ‘secular’ traditions. Yet, ironically, for four years running, they have hosted the All India Hindu Convention organised by the Hindu Janajagr­uti Samiti (HJS). 

Noted for the specious attempts to give Hinduism a ‘theology’—the lack of which, paradoxically, only stre­ngthens India’s strong tradition of syncretism—the convention is held at the Ramnath temple outside Ponda, in close proximity to the Shantadurga and Mahalakshmi shrines. Is this to create a Hindu Vatican, a place to issue fiats from?

The HJS shares bed with the Sanathan Sanstha (SS), to which organisation Sudhin Dhavalikar swears fealty to, as does his brother and both their wives. The SS were involved in the bomb blasts in Margao in 2009 and both groups have had fingers pointed at them for the assassination of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, the much-admired rationalist, and in the recent murder of the young Muslim software engineer. Dhavalikar’s ideological men­tor is Pramod Muthalik, self-appointed patriarch of the Sri Rama Sene, a group on the lunatic fringe of even the extremists! 

It is sad that Hindu extremists persist with an afflicted consciousness generated by their khaki-clad historians, adding fuel to what most Goans, including Catholics, already knew—namely, that the infamous Inquisition in Goa surpassed its Iberian counterparts in horror and bloodthirsty zeal.
Those who trumpet this crime ignore Catholics in Goa who shamefully accept this abhorrent part of their history, while coming to terms with the fact that one of their ancestors may have converted under the sword. Such attempts to find truth and accept reconciliation allow for one’s past to be purged, and identity forged anew in present realities, made larger and more inclusive.
Is this what really frightens the fundamentalists, what makes them ferret out the Dark Ages from their history? The ‘national guide’ of the HJS, Charudutta Pingle, was quoted saying that Goans supporting Portugal in the ongoing World Cup would be “rubbing salt on injuries suffered in history”.

It’s worth pondering. If that be the extent of their inclusiveness, does one think they will stop at just banning bikinis and closing down pubs?

You were born in New York and went on to study comparative religion. Why the decision to write about the Portuguese inquisition in Goa -- a whole other world?

About 15 years ago, while doing research for my first novel, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, I discovered that the Portuguese exported the Inquisition to Goa in the sixteenth century, and that many Indian Hindus were tortured and burnt at the stake for continuing to practice their religion. 

Muslim Indians were generally murdered right away or made to flee Goan territory.
I couldn't use that information for my novel but decided, a few years later, to do more research into that time of fundamentalist religious persecution. I discovered that historians consider the Goa Inquisition the most merciless and cruel ever developed. It was a machinery of death. A large number of Hindus were first converted and then persecuted from 1560 all the way to 1812!

Over that period of 252 years, any man, woman, or child living in Goa could be arrested and tortured for simply whispering a prayer or keeping a small idol at home. Many Hindus -- and some former Jews, as well -- languished in special Inquisitional prisons, some for four, five, or six years at a time.
I was horrified to learn about this, of course. And I was shocked that my friends in Portugal knew nothing about it. The Portuguese tend to think of Goa as the glorious capital of the spice trade, and they believe -- erroneously -- that people of different ethnic backgrounds lived there in tolerance and tranquility. They know nothing about the terror that the Portuguese brought to India. They know nothing of how their fundamentalist religious leaders made so many suffer.

[ref. Wiki] The first inquisitors, Aleixo Dias Falcão and Francisco Marques, established themselves in the palace once occupied by Goa's Sultan, forcing the Portuguese viceroy to relocate to a smaller residence.
The inquisitor's first act was to forbid any open practice of the Hindu faith on pain of death
Sephardic Jews living in Goa, many of whom had fled the Iberian Peninsula to escape the excesses of the Spanish Inquisition to begin with, were also persecuted. The narrative of Da Fonseca describes the violence and brutality of the inquisition. The records speak of the necessity for hundreds of prison cells to accommodate the accused.
From 1560 to 1774, a total of 16,172 persons were tried and condemned or acquitted by the tribunals of the Inquisition.While it also included individuals of different nationalities, the overwhelming majority—nearly three fourths were natives, almost equally represented by Christians and non-Christians. Many of these were hauled up merely for crossing the border and cultivating lands there.
Seventy-one autos de fé were recorded. In the first few years alone, over 4000 people were arrested. In the first hundred years, the Inquisition burnt at stake 57 alive and 64 in effigy, 105 of them being men and 16 women. Others sentenced to various punishments totalled 4,046, out of whom 3,034 were men and 1,012 were women. According to the Chronista de Tissuary (Chronicles of Tiswadi), the last auto de fé was held in Goa on 7 February 1773.



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