Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Two days orientation programme for GAKUVED team

GAKUVED team at a two days orientation programme on 'Forest laws and Adivasis in India'. Orientation programme ws held at MAND premises in Dulapi, Tiswadi, Goa from January 26-27. The programme was guided by C.R.Bijoy from Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), a national level network of adivasis groups on land and forest issues in India. (Photo by Gajanand Raikar)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mining lease Map of Goa

Here is the mining lease Map of Goa. See for yourself mining disaster in Goa. Mines are particularly located in Adivasi localities. These leases were granted by Portuguese colonial government that was forced out of Goa through army action on 19th December 1961. Colonial legacy however remains intact thanks to India's central governments and Goa State governments that are routinely manipulated by mining companies. These leases are upheld by 'Independent India'.

Sebastian Rodrigues

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Goa government increases security to Colamb Fomento Mine

Sensing trouble from villagers Goa government increased police security for the Fomento mining company operating in Colamb, Sanguem to the peril of the village agriculture. Today morning from 8.00 am onwards one bus and three jeeps load of police (around 40 police personnel) are forced to inhale deadly dust at Hiralal and Khodidas mine bearing TC. No. 06/49. While villagers are fighting to protect their livelihood sources State Government of Goa is determine to reduce the villagers to beggars. There is something drastically gone wrong in the heads of those ruling Goa today.

The largely adivasi population of Colamb has decided to intensify thier agitation by adopting various methods to shut down the mining company. Kicks of Police force they received yesterday cannot silence thier voices nor thier resolve to struggle with all thier might. Police yesterday could escape with apologies for beating up villagers. but is high time that some heads in the Police department roll. ASI P V Desai must be penalized for his irresponsible behaviour. More importantly mining company who has directed police officers to behave violently must resist from this temptation as it is only going to backfire at the mining industry in Goa and particularly fomentos. Goa government must direct police force not to act as paid agents of fometo mining company any longer as people are now vigilant and revoke police protection accorded to the mining company against the will of the Colamb People.

Hats off to Colamb People for forcing Police to admit its fault and forcing them to publicly apologize yesterday evening.

Villagers in Colomba stage road blockade

Seen in the photo P.I. of Quepem Police station Shri Naresh Mamel convincing the villagers.

John Fernandes from Quepem on February 08 2008 with text and picture

Group of villagers from Colomba, Rivona, Dhadolem, Muscavrem, and Kevona blocked the entire Rivona Colomba road for over 3 hours today over the issue of alleged assault by the ASI P.V. Dessai attached to Quepem police station on one of the villagers at Colomba today.

That the villagers of Colomba and other adjoining areas are agitating over the functioning of Hiralal and Khodidas mine at Colomba , who claims that due to the functioning of the mine their very life is in danger. "The villagers in the last week of January even forcefully closed down which prompted the mine owner to keep the mine close for two days but the mine was again started", claims the villagers.

Though the said mine was in operation internally no transportation of ore outside the mine was done. The tuck which were going to operate inside the mine were going through a road made illegally made by the mining company through reserve Forest . The illegal making of road by the mining company through the reserve forest triggered the villagers as no action taken by the Forest department inspite of Complaint, stated the villagers further.

That from 6th of February through its contractor the mining company started transporting the ore from the mine through reserve forest via Curpe as there is no other way out. That yesterday some of the villagers got together and warned all the truck transporting ore from that mine. That through the reserve forest the road passes through private property of one one Prabhudessai passes before reaching the mine , which property has a gate on both side of boundary. As the villagers were planning to stopped the transport from the said mine yesterday evening with the help of Prabhudessai Supervisor locked the gate one both side. They also warned the truck from operating from the mine.

As the villagers warned the truck operator no truck entered in the mine and nor transportation work was started in todays morning session. Stated the villagers further .

However today at around 1.30 PM the transport contractor with police protection with some truck went to the site, the police took the key of the gate from the supervisor of PrabhuDessai and opened the same , loaded the truck . The loaded trucks were followed by the the Quepem police jeep. As the villagers were keeping a close watch on the movement of the truck from that mine , When the loaded truck from the said mine reached at Colomba one of the village youth showed his hand to the truck and stopped it .

The police jeep which was following the truck one of the police by name ASI P.V.Dessai got down from the jeep caught hold the colour of the youth shirt pulled him and then assaulted him with shoes one his private part and then pulled him into the police jeep. The incident was noticed by other villager who were planning their strategies , they then rushed to the site and stooped the police Jeep. That within no time around 400 villagers gathered at the site.

The villagers blocked the entire rout rivona Colomba road and paralised the entire traffic for almost 3 hours.

The incident forced Quepem P.I. Naresh Mamel to rush to the incident site who after a long discussion managed to convinced the agitating villager and assured them such incident of alleged assault will not repeat in future. At around 6.30pm the villagers disbursed and allowed the traffic to go. Now the villagers are determine not to allow the operation of Hiralal and Khodidas mine operating in Colomba village.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Fomentos employ Goa Police to terrorise villagers in Colamb, Sanguem

Believe it or not Goa Police has gone frustrated and berserk at Colamb villagers stubborn resistance to Fomento mining company. At around 3.00 pm today two police Jeeps caught hold of one villagers Agnelo Dias from Kevona, Colamb in Sanguem Taluka, put him inside on of the two jeeps and kicked him with shoes on at upper portion of his thigh.

There are around 10 policemen in two Police jeeps surrounded by around 100 Colamb villagers in Kevona, Colamb when the last reports came in. Villagers are questioning the Polie in their villagers on Goa Polices' act of terror. against the villagers.

The police frustration is understandable considering it has been providing police protection to disastrous Fomento open cast iron mine bearing TC. No. 06/49 in the name of Hiralal Khodidas. Villagers had attacked this mine on January 21 2008 and subsequently company operated the mine with Police protection between January 23 2008 up to January 29 2008. State intelligence agency CID tried its level best to instigate the villagers to attack the mine again so that villagers could be arrested en mass a la Salleli. However People proved smarter and did not attack the mining company. Instead Gawda, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar Federation (GAKUVED) led the silent morcha on January 28 2008 in Panjim and hogged publicity on front page of Marathi newspapers with its banner "Save Colamb from Mining Terrorism".

Transportation of Ore is being done through forest areas illegally and for this GAKUVED has served 48 hours deadline on Chief Conservator Forest. 48 hours deadline is also served to carry demolition of weigh bridge illegally constructed in forest land at Colamb by Fomentos.
Terror tactic of Goa Police today is going on in Colamb under this background in Colamb, Sanguem. Shame Goa Police Shame! You'll have stooped so low and hit Agnelo Dias below belt and its repercussions will be felt for a long time to come for this State of Goa. We have not yet forgotten as to how PI Sammy Tavares was used by same Fometo ten years ago to Kick and humiliate Surya Sawant of Cacra nagrik Vikas Samiti at Goa Velha Police Station.

This ongoing clash is between the citizens who pay taxes to State, Police who are paid and maintained by public taxes by kick below belt very people who legally pay them, and between the mining company that is well know for kicking people's stomachs.

It would be indeed pleasant for Goa as well as Goa Police if it resists temptation from mining companies to undertake to do their dirty job. It is hoped that Police authorities - IPG, DGP, SP (South), Home Minister, Chief Minister, and Governor Jamir take note of this and direct Goa Police to behave themselves once and for all. For People principal enemies are not Police but mining company Fomento at present stage. Please do not behave silly Goa Police.

Goa Police withdraw immediately from Colamb now! We don't pay taxes to harrass and terrorise Goa's common People. Don't be a shield for Fomentos. Shame Goa Police! Shame!! Shame!!!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Fomentos screening plant plans foiled in Colamb

Colamb villagers in Sanguem, Goa sent back two trucks full of machinery for its screeining plant at mining lease of Hiralal Khodidas TC No. 06/49. Trucks bearing Karnatak number plates KA34 8127 and another one KA34 7026 was intercepted by alert villagers at 1 pm today and forced to retreat. There were around 40 staff of the mining company along with the trucks when group of around 100 villagers blocked its entry to the road leading to Fomento mining site. Villagers are protesting operation of this open cast iron ore mine as it is negatively affected their agriculture. But all this does not matter to Fomentos: all that matters is quick bucks and nothing else.

In the meanwhile Gawda Kunbi Velip and Dhangar Federation(GAKUVED) today served 48 hours notice to the State administration to demolish the illegal weigh bridge constructed by Fomentos in forest land in Colamb. GAKUVED also served 48 hours notice to Chief Conservator of Forest to stop illegal road inside Colamb Forest to facilitate transpotation of iron ore for Fomentos. In case of failure of the department to do so then GAKUVED will exercise the Constitutional Fundamental Duty to protect Forests and environment and take suitable action.


By Prabhakar Padekar


This old community our ancestors have lived here for centuries. When nothing else existed, not even the road that passes from Bambolim to Donapaula. After liberation you will see that Cacra is loosing more than it is gaining. Due to the development of the University, we have lost our right over the forest which our ancestors cultivated for centuries. We in Cacra do not get public water supply and have no toilets. Yes, we have a road that threatens to bring into Cacra the construction of Dock on our river front. Yes, we have electricity but then while we remain in darkness when the Industries and construction that gets all the electricity they want.

The CACRA NAGRIK VIKAS SAMITI (CNVS) which was inaugurated on 24/05/1998. The purpose of the samiti is to bring about development to the village. What are the problems of the village every villager knows.

1. A number of Government Schemes exists. Some of us have got subsidies in fishing, but there are many other schemes which we must find out and study and how we can make them serve the benefit of the people.
2. Find out about our LAND RIGHTS: We all say we are MUNDKARS, but most of us are not registered.
3. The problem of the Cidade de Goa five star Hotel which plans to build a gigantic size dock., the size larger than two Football grounds. First of all these lakhs of tons of concrete and machinery in the river where effect sea life not only in Cacra but will spread during high tide upto Donapaula during low tide upto Agasaim. Secondly, it will permanently damage the beach. Thirdly, the cement will create health problems for all the people not just in Cacra but in the entire University area. The noise bringing in all materials will disturb the University which needs a conducive Academic environment.

As you all know, these projects has no license and no approval from Panchayat. I feel confident that we from Cacra who are united and support of all people of neighboring villages and also the support of the University, and help from many Organisations that have worked to safeguard the interest of common villager.

Illegal drilling operations by MML at Cacra for OSB:

It may be noted that temporary structures, machinery and personnel were first moved into Cacra on may 7th 1998. On Friday 8th may work was started. By the morning of 15th May, Police from Goa Velha Police station arrived to protect the work. On 18th May the villagers requested MLA Ms Victoria Fernandes and Sarpanch Mr. William Gonsalves to intervene and the work was stopped on site.

On 20th May company resumed work with increased police protection. Cacra Nagrik Vikas Samiti protested against the illegal drilling operations. However, Murmugao maritime Ltd (MML), a Fomento Company carried out the work with Police protection.

On 5th June 1998, ‘WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY’ CNVS organized a protest Dharna on the occasion of the World Environment Day to highlight the issue. Over 100 men, women and children and teaching faculty members from Goa University participated in the Dharna in front of the office of North Goa collector. Then they called on the Tiswadi Mamlatdar and North Goa Collector. We discussed in detail the illegal drilling operations and soil testing by MML for the purpose of constructing the Offshore Stockyard and Berth (OSB). Then the CNVS has written letter to the chief Secretary, department of Science, technology and Environment, Panchayat for immediate action on the illegal activity undertaken by MML. The letter received from Marmagao Port Trust (MPT) Deputy Conservator, who disclosed that MML permitted to carry Soil Testing in Zuari river near Bambolim beach. It was stated that the company was asked to get all permissions from the State Government before undertaking the work. It should be noted that Bambolim beach comes under the revenue jurisdictions of Curca-Bambolim-Talaulim and is part of the San Andre constituency.

What is OSB?

Offshore Stockyard and Berth (OSB) is an Offshore Terminal for loading and unloading bulk Cargo Ship of the BERTH. The OSB consists of a concrete caisson seated on the floor of the sea. Barges bringing iron ore from Mines would be unloaded at the OSB at the rate of 300000 TDP and stored in the Caison and then load the ships. Utility and other services are also provided on the Caisson. The Caison have storage capacity of at least 400,000 and 43 mt in height having a storage of 200,000 tons of iron ore were contemplated.

Theft Of Water From Village By Industrialist And PSI’s Assault On Convenor

On 24th January 2001, the CNVS staged a MORCHA in Panjim to protest against the government inaction to stop the theft of drinking water from public well in Cacra. The procession started from the Panjim Municipal market ended in a Dharna at the
Customs House. The protestors included women with empty pots to highlight the shortage of drinking water.

It may be recalled that in May 2000 the villagers had made representation to Santa Cruz village Panchayat Sarpanch regarding drying of village well due to pumping of water by a deep well pump that had illegally installed in the public well resulting in hardships caused to over 400 people. Although no action was taken by the village Panchayat for three months, Director of Public grievances and collector of North Goa pursued the matter with Director of Panchayat and eventually the Panchayat Secretary conducted panchanama on 29th August 2000.

The Panchayat found that the Pump House Shed of the tin sheets and pump were illegal and report was forwarded to Block Development Officer (BDO) Tiswadi. Village Panchayat also informed the land owner Mr. Pradeep Talaulikar. The Panchayat received a letter from both parties i.e. Land Owner and ALCON developer saying no objections to the demolitions for illegal structure. Subsequently, the Panchayat wrote to the Assistant Engineer, Electricity department, Bambolim to disconnect the electricity supply to the pump. So demolition work was carried out.

Other instance to suppress the genuine movement of the village people was by putting up a false complaint. CNVS Convenor Surya Sawant was arrested at 1 am Sunday and made to sleep on the floor. He was finger printed and photographed and besides taunted and humiliated by constables of the Agassaim Police Station. He was also assaulted by PSI Sammy Tavares. The PSI taunted Surya Sawant on be being leader of the village and kicked and punched Sawant on his chest. Meanwhile CNVS conducted a public meeting in the village to discuss the illegal pumping water and the unwarranted arrest. The meeting resolved to undertake a public protest to Panaji to highlight to seek justice from the Government.

This Paper was presented in the SANGUEM CONFERENCE of Nature Environment Society and Transformations (NEST) on 14-17 August 2003.


By Babal Gawade

Savoi-Verem as a village situated 15 kms away from Ponda and 30 kms from Panjim. It is actually a combined named village consisting of Savoi (Village) and Verem (Village). Previously our village Panchayat was called Savoi-Verem Panchayat but now it is called Verem-Vagurme Panchayat as Vagurme is also part of our village Panchayat which has two Panchayat wards. It is having population of about 3000 people.

Mine is a beautiful village with Kulagars (Arecanut Plantations) and beautiful hills. There is a beautiful hill called Khetco which is at a considerable height and gets cool breeze throughout the year. Village is partitioned by Mandovi River tributary on one side and by beautiful hills other side.

One upon a time…
Village once was owned by Gawdas but today it is owned by Bamons (Saraswat Brahmins) and Bhats (Karade Brahmins).

Story of land alienation
There are two stories about how Gawada was eliminated from the village. One story says Gawada family owned the total land in the village when there was no Baman or Bhat. This Gawada Family was a single family. They had a daughter. When she reached marriageable age her father was in search of a suitable match. One boy from neighboring village ie now Sateri Bhat from Render (Toddy Tapper) clan showed his desire to marry this girl. But the father of girl refused as boy was not from Gawada community. But the boy insisted on getting married which was totally rejected by the girl’s family. There was feud over this issue between the Gawada family and Render clan.

This Gawada family had one good friend from Satarkar clan (in Sattari). The Gawada family sought the help of this Satarkar friend to teach a lesson to the render clan people. Thus there was a big fight with render clan on one side, and Gawada family and Satarkar clan on the opposite side. This resulted into the defeat of render clan.

Satarkar clan members stayed for some days in Gawada village as his guests. They liked the serene beauty and nature of the village and felt like staying in the village permanently. As they were guests of the Gawada family they were not able to stay in the village permanently. One evil thought came to their mind: of eliminating Gawada family and capturing the village. Thus one day they triggered a fight and defeated Gawada family as they were more in number.

After the defeat Gawada family felt unsafe in the village to stay and they fled away. Satarkars became the sole owners of the village. Thus according to this story, the betrayal by Sattrakars was solely responsible for the migration of Gawada family from Savoi-Verem village.

The Second Story of land alienation
There is another story regarding the Gawadas owning the village. Gawada family was in the possession of land Patta of Savoi-Verem village. One day on Bamon (Saraswat Brahmin) visited the village and became friendly to Gawdas, took all the information about the village, saw all the boundaries of the village, took Gawada family head into confidence and took the land patta from Gawda head and killed him with the help of Sattarkar member. After killing he was buried at the Bhutkhamb border of Savoi-Verem village. Still there is a small memorial-like structure at this place. After the head of the Gawada family was killed, his wife and daughter fled from the village but nobody knew as to where they fled. As a remembrances to his departed soul every year on Gudi padva day (Hindu New Year Day) cock is sacrificed at his place by the Gawada community members from Kulan (part of Savoi-Verem village) who are the mundkars of Savoi.

Besides this, in the month of Pausha on New Moon day (Amousa) half cooked rice (Choru) is spread along the road from bhutkhamb (burial place of Gawada head) to the other end of border of village i.e. Betki village – distance of about 4 kms. This ritual is performed by Satarkars till day every year. It is believed that after the killings of Gawada community head there was not a single Gawada member in the village from Bhutkamb to Betki. Betki has a large population of Gawada community which comes under jurisdiction of Betki-Khandola Panchayat. Other side i.e. Bhutkamb which comes under jurisdiction of Keri Panchayat there is a large population of Gawada community.

Today in Savoi-Verem
Today in Savoi-Verem village there is hardly any population of Gawada community. Total Gawada population is about 250 only out of approximate total of 3000. Till today there is feeling among the Gawada community in whole of Goa that Sattarkars are treacherous and cannot be trusted.

Today the status of Gawada in village is very bad. They are as good as slaves of Brahmins and Bhats. They are totally dependent on them for everything. They are employed as labourers or as domestic help with Bamon and Bhats. Till today Bamons and bhats are exploiting them like anything. Gawadas there have no thinking of their own. Their master’s thoughts are supreme.

In Goa legislative assembly Gawada representatives have been elected but till today there is no improvement in the living condition of the Gawada community members in Savoi-Verem village or for that matter in any village where Gawadas are staying.

In our village Gawadas are distributed in small two wados i.e. Savoi and Kulan wado. Kulan wado has their own Mand where festivals like Shigmo, Dhendlo, and rituals like Gavponn etc takes place. Savoi wado people join their rituals as it is a combined Mand of both wados.

The latest story of land alienation
There is another story of Kulan wado which was owned by Gawadas. Patta of Kulan wado was in the name of Gawadas members. But was taken away by Shetye family by betraying the Gawada members and Shetye (Bamon) became the new owners of Kulan wado. Half Kulan is owned by Shetye and half by Sinari (Bamon) Basically Kulan consists of areca nut plantation and cashew plantations. Today Shetye has turned areca nut plantation into spice plantations which is called Savoi plantation which is a big tourist’s attraction mostly for foreigners.

Making of a millionaire
One Gawada family is shifted from this Kulagar to expand his plantation depriving him of his livelihood as he was surviving on products like areca nuts, bananas, pineapples, coconuts etc. There is a beautiful natural spring and lake next to the plantation. There is water for the spring throughout the year. Shetye family has become millionaire because of the plantation as it is frequented by the foreign tourists whereas Gawadas have become mere slaves of Shetye. Younger generation has become habitual drunkards as Shetye is offering them hard drinks so that the younger generation is finished.

Presented at two days workshop on ‘Land, Mining and Adivasis in Goa’ organized by Mand – An Adivasi-rights Resource Centre, an initiative of Gawda, Kunbi, Velip, Dhangar Federation (GAKUVED) to be held from 24-25 November 2007 at Panjim.

Tribal Movements in Goa

Durgadas Gaonkar[1]
Babal Gawde[2]


Tribes lived in Goa for thousands of years. The political assertion however began only in the second half of the 20th century. Since then the movement has taken various turns and twists demanding for scheduling of the community.

Thinking of movement

Soon after liberation of Goa the then leaders of the community have had to face many problems such as economic, educational, social status etc. In order to overcome all these problems the then conscious Gawdas formed an Organisation called Gomantak Goud Maratha Samaj in 1962. This was the first Organisation ever formed by Gawda group. The thinking then was concentrated to unite the community and bring about awareness.

In 1974 Organisation called Gawda Vikas Mandal[3] was formed to realize the rights of Gawdas. Again in 1974 another Organisation called Goans Organiser’s Association (GOA) was formed by some other Gawda Group. Their aim was to work among Gawda community for the development. They started balwadis in villages such as Chimbel, Taleigao, Aivao, Merces etc. GOA also tried to assert community rights before the State; to be declared as schedule tribes for the first time in last few years of seventies decade. Gawda Kunbi Velip and Dhangar Federation (GAKUVED) was formed in 1980 that included members of Gawda, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangars. The main intention of GAKUVED Federation was to fight for inclusion of these four communities in to the Schedule list of the Indian Constitution by giving voice and visibility to all the tribes in Goa under one banner, something that had not happened prior to this.

Later on Gawda Vikas Mandal was renamed[4] to form Mull Goenkarancho Ekvott (Union of Original Goans) in early eighties. Another Organisation called Dhangar Unnatti Samaj was formed for assertion of rights of Dhangars in Goa around the same time.

In 2000 all the four Organisations came together and formed action committee to demand inclusion of these four communities in the scheduled list under the banner Goa State Schedule Tribes Action Committee. This movement was referred as GAKUVED movement.

Beginnings of Movement

For the first time in the tribal history tribals raised their voice in public for their rights at Rajendra Prasad Stadium, Margao in the year 1974. The demand was to include them in Schedule list. In the middle of 1980s people came on roads under the GAKUVED Federation banner to re-assert the demand for scheduling plus demanding government schemes for the upliftment of the community. In 1987 GAKUVED Federation observed black day on November 14, the birthday of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister by tying black cloth strip to mouth and hands. Agitation continues for further years. In August1989 the big convention at Navelim was organized under the banner of Mull Goenkarancho Ekvott. The purpose of this convention was to expose Goa government for not including Goa tribes in the schedule list. Instead tribes from Daman and Diu such as Dhodia, Dubla (Halpali), Naikada (Tulasia), Siddi (Nayaka) and Varle.

In 1994 the Goa State Assembly passed resolution of including four communities in Schedule list. The four communities included Gawdas, Kunbis, Velips and Dhangars. This resolution was sent to Central Government for further action. However it remained pending with the Central Government till movement further intensified in the year 2000. Unrest caused due to pending resolution with Central Government resulted in year 2000 agitation.

First time in the tribal history of Goa on 1st March 2000 tribal people from all over Goa came together in Morcha in Goa’s Capital Panjim giving ultimatum to Government. About 2000 tribal people in their traditional costume marched through the city of Panjim and created a history. This morcha not only created awareness of rights and dignity within tribal communities of Goa but also won the support of other communities in Goa at a mass scale for inclusion of four communities in Schedule list and implement the schemes meant for tribal community.

In June 2000 realizing that State did not respond to the demands raised during morcha, Gawda Kunbi Velip and Dhangar Federation took up the initiative to strengthen the movement demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status invited other Organisations such as Gomantak Goud Maratha Samaj, Mull Goenkarancho Ekvott and Dhangar Unnati Samaj and forged an alliance called The Goa State Schedule Tribe Action Committee. This movement was popularly known as GAKUVED movement.

GAKUVED movement then called for four big public conventions that were held at Shristhal in Cancona, Mardol in Ponda, Quepem municipal area in Quepem, Arlem-Raia in Salcete and Cortalim in Marmagoa. GAKUVED filed the petition though the then South Goa MP[5] to raise the issue in the Parliament. The Parliamentary committee then was sent to Goa to study the tribal issue in Goa. The Chairman[6] and the other members visited Goa and GAKUVED welcomed them in their traditional dress at Dabolim airport and later took them around in tribal habitats in South Goa for a field trip and also had discussions with government. Based on these discussions Parliamentary Committee recommended Goa tribes (Gawdas, Kunbis, Velips and Dhangars) to be included in the Scheduled list of the Constitution.

Print and electronic media played supportive role towards the movement. Print media in Goa paid special attention in daily newspapers. Some national newspapers and Indian television – Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) also highlighted tribal agitation of 2000 and its demands to people in different parts of India. Media magnified the demands of the movement also by way of supportive editorials and bringing about special supplements on agitation.

Impact of the Movement

Recommendation of Parliamentary committee in Goa in schedule list put hostile State government on the defensive. Then Chief Minister took delegation of his party officials and few tribal leaders hostile to movement to Delhi and met up with officials at Ministry of Tribal Affairs and changed the list send by Goa State Assembly in 1994. When the mischief[7] was reported in press urgent meeting of GAKUVED was called and decision taken to send its delegation to Ministry of Tribal Affairs New Delhi to find out the facts and to get it corrected as per the resolution passed by the State Assembly. However GAKUVED could not hold on to Goa Assembly list of tribes, and Dhangar were dropped from the list of tribes in Goa by the then[8] Goa Government. Parliament passed Scheduled Caste and Scheduled tribes (amendment) bill 2000 on 7th January 2001 and president of India assented to it on 8th January 2001. Kunbi, Gawda, and Velip were included in the Schedule list of the Constitution of India.

Goa government took three years to issue the notification. Hostile Goa Government was pressurized by GAKUVED movement to notify these three communities as Schedule tribes of Goa as per Central Act. Finally State government issued the notification in April 2003. The movement still continued to demand the implementation of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled tribes (amendment) Act 2001. State government has not shown any interest in implementing this Act.

State government then gave reason that there are no correct population figures of tribes in Goa. GAKUVED movement then demanded to consider the figures of 1991 Census that show tribal population including Dhangar as 30% of Goa’s total population[9]. Government instead of taking this figure empowered then existing OBC Commission to conduct fresh population survey. OBC commission declared Goa’s tribal population excluding Dhangar is 12.5%. The GAKUVED disputed this figures and conducted sample survey in the villages such as Carona, Guirim etc and submitted the same to the Social Welfare Department, Government of Goa. The GAKUVED sample proved that survey conducted by OBC commission is totally faulty and unreliable. Its figures of the total population were lower by 100 – 200 persons per village! Social welfare department sent the sample survey report to OBC Commission for cross checking. OBC Commission submitted the report after cross checking and confirmed the error. Social Welfare Department accepted the unreliability of Population Survey conducted by OBC Commission to GAKUVED delegation when called on then Director in 2004. He disclosed to the GAKUVED delegation that he has submitted his report to Government to take further decision. Decision is yet to be taken on this.

Not satisfied with government response to tribal question in Goa, all the Organisations of the notified tribal communities once again came together in 2004 and formed another Organisation called United Tribal Associations Alliance (UTAA). UTAA have started to exert pressure on State machinery for implementation of the tribal Act in Goa. It is also involved in mass mobilization for this purpose.

Seeing that Government refuses to respond one new tribal Organisation have filed Writ Petition in the High Court in 2006 to seek directions for the Government to implement the tribal Act.

In 2007 UTAA has organized a public meeting in Panjim. This was attended by over 6000 members of the tribal community. This meeting was presided over by the chairman, National Commission for Schedule Tribe, New Delhi. Governor of Goa in his republic day speech has assured the public that his government will implement the Tribal Act. State machinery has also started to act but in vain.

The Way Ahead…

While the struggle continues to implement Scheduled tribes provisions for Gawda, Kunbi and Velips, and include Dhangars in the Schedule list, gradually new issue is simmering within the community that can spark of the agitation in the days to come. The awareness level on need to defend their land is low amongst tribes in Goa. Yet the community has to respond to increasing threats of displacements or join the ranks of urban slums. Already some instances of displacements have taken places of the people livings in coastal Goa.

New threats to livelihood and existence of tribes and their land have surfaced. Reservation of Forests for Sanctuaries has put tribes in a quandary, Mining industry has continuously invaded tribal lands and threatens to further bulldoze with plans for fourfold increase in land under mining. Needless to say the mining threats and resistance to it is poised to come to the forefront like never before.

Number of tribal villages is under predatory imperialist assault and threat to livelihood and of eviction is increasing every moment. Number of villages is confronting this situation; Nauxi, Bambolim, Odxel, Aivao and Cacra are in the middle of existence battle. Number of villages in Sattari Taluka are deprived of their livelihood after state government stopped the age old practice of cultivation paddy inside the Mhadei river; government went on to construct set of over ten check dam so called irrigation purpose and flooding, stagnating the pure, pristine flowing Mhadei water. Number of tribal villages is submerged under the mega-projects such as Selaulim Dam. Still others have lost their lands to industries and industrial estates. Forest tribal villages are at the receiving end of the forest laws particularly in the wildlife sanctuary jurisdiction. Mining has taken major toll of both health and agriculture practiced by tribals in Quepem, Sanguem, Bicholim and Sattari Taluka. The historic injustice of usurping of tribal land that began with Portuguese colonial rule has continues in post-liberation Goa. Number of players including mining companies are fooling the tribal people and silently transferring legal titles in their favour. Tribal people within jurisdiction of Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary are struggling with forest department since the forest land where their villages are located was declared as Sanctuary in 1968. And so are people cultivating in forest land popularly known as Kumeri Sheti (Shifting cultivation) all over hinterland of Goa. Some of their names are excluded from the official records while other are included as ‘encroachers’.

It is a recent trend in real estate dealings in Goa wherein landlords that has usurped tribal land during Portuguese colonial rule are selling the same to builders without knowledge of the villagers. Villagers are then made to fight goons of the real estate companies. The case of Nauxi-Bambolim is identical.

Tribal people are indeed peace loving but the assault on them has brought about testing time. Recently people of Nauxi village that is being under threat of hoteliers seeking to erase the village from Map of Goa by violent means, organized public meeting and decided to petition Chief Minister of Goa. In this petition signed by nearly 230 people have said, “Today mountains are cleared and are developed into a residential plots and…are meant for wealthiest persons in the country.” “Since last few years we are facing threats from powerful money lobby where in our names were deleted from the survey records by illegal means. The coconut trees were mercilessly cut and burnt in pits. The other wood trees like teakwood, Mango trees etc. were removed overnight under the shelter of Government authorities…least to talk about Cashew trees.” “These are done inspite of our protest and by use of money and muscle illegally. It is irony to inform that the police Department of Agassaim instead of protecting our life and property patronized the land developers and land grabbers lawlessly threatened some of our residents who went there to file complaints.”

In a letter written to local Sarpanch of Curca-Bambolim-Talaulim Panchayat on 26th October 2005 villagers declared “We are peace loving villagers and poor agriculturist and fishermen. There is no criminal background against us and this fact can be revealed from the police station…There are hardly any crimes/complaint by the villagers or against the villagers and all the troubles and nuisance is created by the security personnel of the said company[10]In case you did not help us, there are possibilities of taking the laws in their hands by the people.” GAKUVED Federation is committed to offer Solidarity to those fighting the land invasion in Goa. In fact mobilization has already been initiated by GAKUVED Federation in Coastal as well as Hinterland villages in Goa.

This paper was presented at History seminar “Struggle for Assertion, Civil Liberties, Integration, Liberation and Rights in Goa Through the Ages” organized by CES college Cuncolim, Goa on 13-14 March 2007.


Sebastian Rodrigues, for facilitating to write this paper.


[1] President, Gawda Kunbi Velip and Dhangar Federation (GAKUVED)
[2] Member, GAKUVED
[3] Mull Goenkaranchi Chollvoll ani Tancheo Magneo – Ek Niall, Mull Goenkarancho Ekvott, undated.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ramakant Angle
[6] Vasudev Acharya
[7] Mischievous list prepared by hostile State government is (1) Kunbi, (2) Kunbi-Gawda, (3) Kunbi-Velip. The correct list of 1994 Goa State Assembly resolution included (1) Gawda, (2) Kunbi, (3) Velip and (4) Dhangar.
[8] Year 2000.
[9] Geography text book of standard V published by Education department, Government of Goa, 2001.
[10] M/s Goan Real Estate and Construction Limited constructing the project ‘Aldeia de Goa’ at village Nauxi-Bambolim.

Our point of view: Tribal Voices from Goa

Durgadas Gaonkar[1]
Pandurang Kukalkar [2]

Goa as you know is referred as the Rome of the East and known for western culture but the government of India and Government of Goa projects the Goan culture before the world in the form of folklore, folk art and folk dances. These belongs to aborigines of Goa. While the State has been projecting these their rightful possessor- the Gawdas, Kunbis, Velips and Dhangars continues to live the subjugated lifestyles – oppressed by developmental models followed in the past five centuries. Though tribal population of Goa as per 1991 census constitutes 30% of the population the state Government claims[3] it as 12%. Ironically though School textbooks continues to hold that the tribal population of Goa as 30%.

The Popular history of Goa very cleverly erases any tribal presence for thousands of years. This is because the history Goa is full of myths propogated by the Dominant hegemonic classes. It’s chief myth is the shooting of Arrow by Parshuram from the top of Sahyadri Hills and descend of Arabian Sea; there by causing rise of rich fertile Goa’s Coast[4]. While the fact is that these land are fertile as they form due to evolutionary process of millions of years. Goa’s plains between Western Ghats and Arabian Sea are natural evolutionary processes. There was no role of Parshuram’s Arrow. In fact land was formed millions of years even before the birth of Parshuram’s Ancestors in human form- leave aside Parshurama.

The history of tribes in Goa is unwritten. The knowledge is passed through oral form from one generation to another generation in the form of folklore such as Jagor, Dhalo, Fugdeo, Shigmo and other folk dances.

There are four tribal groups in Goa: Gawdas, Kunbis, Velips and Dhangars. Pandurang Kunkalkar and Durgadas Gaonkar belong to Gawda Tribe and are both active in various tribal movements directed towards tribal protection and welfare over the past 25 years. Gawdas are the original inhabitants and first settlers of Goa who founded villages. Infact the word Gawda itself means in Konkani ‘Gaon vosoupi ani Gaon Gaddo choloupi’ meaning the one who establishes the village and administers it towards prosperity. The Gawda tribe are of Mundari origin coming from Chottanagpur.

The village administration system was in the handled by Gaonkars in some places and by Budhvonts in other places. Jalmis were the priest along with the Velips. There is a meeting place in every tribal village called as mand. All the member of the tribal community from the village used to meet at Mand and decide on important community matters. The collective decion was taken after listening to the entire community and everybody was bound by the same. At the Taluka level all the heads of the villages and the priests used to meet at the place called Barazan. The place called Barazan is identified at Dhulapi of Corlim Village in Tiswadi Taluka, In Bhatti village of Sanghem Taluka , Usgao village of Ponda Taluka and Bhirondem village in Sattari Taluka. Here the decisions of the Taluka along with the village level were collectively taken to bound by tribal villages. The third level of decion making after village and the Barazan was called Varg. Those decisions cannot be taken at Barazan level used to be decided in Varg. One such Varg is identified at Bambolim plateu in Curca village. The meetings conducted on democratic principles.

Velip tribe is the priestly class from Gawdas. Kunbis and Dhangars shared close relationship with Gawdas in the past. These tribes- most hard working and sturdy in themselves inhabited forest areas for their dwellings. During the times of conquests in history they went on moving towards the interior of forests. They had their stable settlements in different regions with independent administration based on oral tradition. The repeated conquerors in the history of Goa left land relations untouched. It is only with the Portuguese Colonial rulers that the land relations began to change as the Portuguese undertook codification exercise where in the concept of private property was introduced and implemented. Prior to this there has never been private ownership of property in Goa.

Contemporatry Communidade system as was known by the tribals as Ganvponn was the system of the original tribals of Goa. Its membership was restricted only to those who till land for agricultural purposes. As all the tribals were tilling the land they were all the members of the Ganvponn. The system of cultivation was on co-operative basis. There was no private ownership of land. Communidades system was a trade off for conversion introduced by the Portuguese rulers supported by the local elites. Tribes during the codification exercise lost its land in written records due to illiteracy and Portuguse colonial State entering in the pact with those newly converted to Christianity[5] . Tribes also lost to Hindu and Christian conversions due to force and ignorance.[6] Gawdas were devided into Hindu Gawdas and Christian Gawdas. The Hindu Gawdas were again devided into Hindu Gawdas and Nava Hindu Gawdas (After re-conversion to Hinduism from Christianity) . The Christian Gawdas were devided into Christian Gawdas[7] and Kunbi Gawdas[8]. Religions have played vicious role to keep the tribes devided on religious lines. Further there is inroads of religious fundamentalists amongst the tribal communities seeking to promote de-tribalism. These tendencies must be fought and efforts needs to be made to retain tribal culture along with scientific temper. Tribals were nature worshipers and never idol worshipers.
The post independence period saw one good thing happening – because of establishment of good network of schools throughout Goa, particularly in rural areas- level of literacy has picked up. It also contributed to the emerging of Tribal movements for self assertions. The movements of tribes in Goa found strongest support from a Catholic Priest Joaquim Fernandes in the decade of 1970’s. He trained first generation activists from the tribal community. He had formed Gawda Vikas Mandal in 1974 for promotion of tribal welfare. However, prior to that in 1962 Gomantak Goud Maratha Samaj was formed. In 1980 emerged Gawda Kunbi Velip and Dhangar Federation. In 1984 Goan Organising Association (GOA) was formed. On 10th June 2001 Goa State Schduled Tribe Action Committee (GAKUVED) was formed. On 7th January 2003 Tribal Welfare Organisation was formed.

Mass movement started from 1998. on 1st March 2001 2,500 people participated in tribal morcha in Panjim. On 26th January 2001 hunger strike gave ultimatum to government to demand inclusion of names of Goa’s tribes in the Constitutional Schedule list. On 10th June 2001 in Ponda GAKUVED was formed which brought all tribal organizations in Goa and tribal leaders together in the history of the tribal Movement in Goa.

On behalf of GAKUVED speaker of the Lok Sabha was petitioned to demand inclusion of Goa’s tribes in the Schedule list. Parliament committee visited Goa to examine the issue in detail. In December 2002 SC & ST Amendment Bill 2002 was passed in the parliament Goa’s Gawdas, Kunbis &Velips was included in the Scheduled Constitutional list. President gave his Assent to this bill on 7th January 2003. After repeated pressure Goa Government notified the same on 22nd April 2003. In spite of all this there is no benefit to the community in terms of Government employment.

Geographically tribes are spread out in the hilly, forested and minerally rich Talukas such as Sattari, Sanghem and Cancona. There are also tribal settlements in Tiswadi, Quepem, Ponda, Salcette and Bicholim. The communities are particularly at the receiving end from the development projects such as Salulim Dam, Konkan Railway, mining and Wild life sactuaries. Most of the Goa’s Industrial estates are located in the tribal settlements. Cudka, once tribal Capital of Tiswadi is venue for one of the biggest Garbage dump in Goa, besides being the site for new Jail. Driking water sources of the tribes are polluted due to pollution of Konkan Railway in Balli, Quepem.[9]

Wildlife sanctuary at Cotigao, Canacona is designed to prevent traditional tribal access to forest. Though this sanctuary was declared in 1964 the settlement claims in terms of providing alternate venue is not yet met. While these are enough burdens State declared two more sanctuaries- Mhadei and Netravali Sanctuaries in 2001 thus putting more pressure on the tribals residing in the Wildlife demarcated areas. On the one hand state is engaged in clearing the forest of the tribes, on the other hand it is handing over the houses belonging to tribes to eco-tourism purposes i.e Nandran in bhagwan Mahawir wildlife Sanctuary, Sanghem, Goa.

Mining has destroyed agriculture and life support in Sattari, Quepem, Bicholim and Sanghem Talukas. On the one hand due to encroaching of Agricultual land and on the other hand due to silting of Agricultural spaces. The depletion of ground water in in these talukas has caused tremendous water shortage even for the drinking purpose. Ruthless bulldozing of forest has played havoc with tribal dwellings i.e. Colamb, Sanghem. The health of these communities has suffered due to dust pollution caused due to mining attracting various lung diseases such as Bronchitis and Tuberculosis. The agricultural dependent communities have lost important grazing grounds for their cattles.

The irrigation disaster of Goa called Salaulim Dam was thrust upon the locality of 90% tribal inhabitation in the 1970’s the massive re-settlement exercise that was initiated then is yet to be completed. The people occupying agriculturally rich areas are resettled on dry bare Rocks i.e. Curdi village now renamed as Vadem in Sanghem is so backward by any parameters that they have no drinking water, though they gave way for dam, no agriculture and they are re-settled on barren hill top, so interior that teacher want to join the local government school and every yearly SSC result are 0%.

The story of village of Corlim in Tiswadi is equally gory. The co-operative farming lands were forcibly transferred to Christian missionary organisation – Santa Monica soon after the onset of Portuguese Colonial rule. After the Annexure of Goa to India in 1961, one part of these lands was transferred to local communidade and the remaining to the multinational company- CIBA GEIGY in 1968. This company was renamed after the corporate merger as NOVARTIS. There is no employment to the Tribals in the company. On the contrary this Swiss Multinational is tickling time bomb to the Tribals in the vicinity. Tribals had to even rob the grass meant for their cattle from the land under the capture of the corporate that is now called as SYNGENTA.

To face the challenges before tribes in Goa we seek collaboration and co-operation from all the tribal groups and individuals concerned across India.


Sebastian Rodrigues for his facilitation to write this paper.

Presented at 8th annual conference of Nature Environment Society and Transformations (NEST) on the theme Indigenous People from 16 – 18 November 2004 at Social Development Centre, Ranchi, Jharkhand, India.
[1] General Secretary, The Goa State Schedule Tribe Action Committee
General Secretary, Tribal Welfare Organisation.
[2]North Goa Convener, The Goa State Schedule Tribe Action Committee
Vice President, Tribal welfare Organisation.
[3] The claim is based on the survey conducted by Goa State OBC commission in 2002-03
[4] Refer to Sahyadri Khand
[5] Treaty with the Afonso Albuquerque in 1510…. which was accepted and honoured by then King of Portugal and stands confirm by the Foral of Afonso Mexia dated 16.9.1526.(letter addressed to the delegates of world Social Forum by Association of Componentes of communidades of Goa, Panaji, dated 18.1.2004.)
[6] Portuguese carried on the conversion exercise through symbolisms of Bread and Water and well as use of State forces.
[7] Those who has given up tribal traditions.
[8] Those retaining tribal characteristics like rituals, names etc.
[9] Milagrine Ferrao (2004) unpublished study.

Beware: Black Gold will turn their future black

An account of the impact of iron ore mining on the Tribal Communities in Goa by Mihir Bhonsle of NCAS, Pune.

We all must have visited Goa!The Goa Tourism Website says 'Goa: Mind, Body and Soul, A perfect Tourist Destination.' Any reference to this land immediately brings to our minds the exotic beaches, rich cuisines, hospitable locals and more of a place where one can hang out. Not, very far from my own state Maharshtra, I have always wanted to be there to experience a great weekend. But, till very recently I did not know that there is another face to this land of beauty, which tends to get lost in the beechy landscapes. Contradictions have become starker, motivating the tribal communities to organize themselves and resist the exploitation of their livelihood sources.

Exploitation of tribes in Goa, have been prevalent even before the Portuguese Colonial rule, but their condition has since then worsened. The Portuguese state, which till the early 1900s had explored that the land which they had colonized, was rich in Iron ore. The tribes like Gawdas (one of the earliest settlers) who were already being deprived of their lands after the intrusion of the Bhats and the Desai's (upper castes), were further pushed to the margin during the Portuguese rule. Mining leases were granted to local businessmen to start extracting iron ore, especially in the Sanguem, Quepem, Bicholim, Sattari, Bardez and Pernem talukas. These regions were mainly inhabited by the tribes. The mining activity cost dearly to the tribes residing in this area. After, the exploitation of the tribes continued after the liberation of Goa in 1961.

Till, 2001 i.e. after 40 long years of being Indians, the Government did not grant Scheduled tribe status to the Tribes namely Gawda, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangars. Gawda, Kunbi and Velip got Scheduled Tribe status, but Dhangar tribe are yet to be included in the Scheduled Tribes. The struggle of the tribes for getting SC status, which is on, since the liberation Goa continues till today. But, little did they know that in the years to come they would have to fight for their right to livelihood. The most vulnerable sections of the mining activity are the tribal communities as most of the mining leases granted by the state are in the forest cover region, where tribes have resided for several thousand years. But, due to rampant mining activity, the livelihood of the tribal communities has got a severe blow.

"The state government has always used the Sakharecha Sura (Sugar Coated Dagger) to stab us"; remarked Durgadas Gaonkar, the President of GAKUVED (Gawda Kunbi Velip and Dhangar Federation). GAKUVED has been organizing the tribes for demanding reservation since 1997. He was speaking at a meeting which was organized by the people of Colamb (Sanguem taluka) to discuss the impact of the mining activity in the vicinity of Colamb village. The villagers of Colamb have always resisted the mining activity, which is in operation in their vicinity. Fomentos group of mining has been extracting iron ore in the nearby areas of the village, which are classified as forest land by the State Government. Fomentos is operating the mine on behalf of Hiralal Khodidas and Company, the later being granted a lease since the colonial times and which has continued in Independent India. Saptu a villager from Colamb complaining about the mine said, 'The mud dug out by the excavation process falls in our farm-lands, spoiling our yield".

Villagers have always been vocal of their problems faced due to the mining activity. Not only the silt, but mining has caused the depletion of the surrounding natural resources like water, the water table for land has been reduced substantially, the water bodies have been polluted by the mining silt, which makes it unfit for palatable purposes. Houses falling in the area have developed cracks due to the explosives used for mining. The mining company has converted forest areas into rice plantations and has used it for dumping wastes. Expansion of mining activity into newer areas has caused large scale displacement of local people. Overall, the mining has led to a systemic degradation of the livelihood sources of the tribal communities mainly that of the Gawdas and has also led to the destruction of the surrounding environment. The compensation, the company is paying to the villagers comes to around Rs. 400 per person a month. The compensation offered does not hold any value to the tribals residing in the areas, as the mining activity is threatening their source of livelihood.

As a villager rightly pointed out, "Iron ore is black gold." So, the vested interests are trying to plunder it, at the cost of the livelihood of the people.

The State Government is not heeding to the demand of the tribal communities. Rama Velip, a villager of Colamb who has been vocal of the situation of the villagers of Colamb, displayed a map to me, which identified the active iron ore mining leases. The number of squares rounded-up in the map was shocking. Starting from the Southern part of Goa, extending up to the North –eastern part, the whole of this belt was marked as a mining belt i.e. active leases have been granted for mining of iron ore. These leases have been retained after the liberation of Goa and the formation of the independent Goa state. Government of India enacted a law known as the Goa Daman and Diu mining Concessions (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act, 1957. By the virtue of this law, the mining leases granted by the Portuguese colonial state were brought under the purview of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957. That means that the mining leases, which were granted in the colonial rule were refreshed. Also, Mining is one of the major contributors to the State's revenue and hence whichever party comes to power, it is reluctant to curb the massive exploitation of tribals and the natural resources.
Goa has always been promoted as a Tourist Destination, which has hidden the larger questions, which the state faces. We have always been shown the glamorous side of the land, which is no doubt worthy of notice, but realities in which the local people live are very different from the merry-land we aspire to visit. The livelihood of the tribal communities is being plundered, pushing them to the brims in the so called developed state. This small state whose geographical limits do not extend to a few hundred kilometers has as of today around 1,600 active mining leases, that talks about the massive kind of exploitation which the people of the state have to go through. The tribals are fast grappling to the situation and are realizing the violation of their right to livelihood, protected by the law of the land. So, next time any of you visit Goa, do bother to turn to the Southern part of Goa and see experience the hospitality of struggling tribals.


Dusk Richardson reports on her exposure visit to Goa adivasi villages

There are four tribal groups of Aboriginals that exist in Goa – the Gawdas, Kunbis, Velips and Dhangars – which make up 30 percent of Goa’s population. Despite being the original habitants of Goa, the land of the Aboriginal Goans has being unjustly taken from them since even before Portuguese colonization. Since Post-Liberation in Goa, the Government of Goa has continued in the footsteps of their repressive colonizers, continuing and increasing these atrocities regarding removal of land from the tribal villages. Over a short period in December, 2007, I was given the opportunity to visit various tribal villages inhabited by Aboriginal Goans throughout the regions of Canacona, Quepem and Sanguem in the south of Goa. In this report I will be identifying the various struggles of the tribal villages that I was witness to during my fieldwork – in particular the issues of mining and the Wildlife Sanctuaries, both instigated by the Government of Goa.

The Tribal Villages Culture of Agriculture
The Aboriginal Goan’s connection to the land extends far beyond the economical benefits of produce. Rather, the tribal village’s culture, traditions and way of life are deeply rooted in their land. It is important to recognize this as it frames the depth of impact the Government of Goa’s removal of tribal land is currently having on the tribal people in Goa. The Aboriginal tribes trace their dwelling of the land to as early as 5000 BC. Over thousands of years, it is the tribal people of Goa that have turned Goa into the fertile land it is today. During my visits to the village, the tribal people’s connection to the land was evident in so many ways. Particularly it was seen in how the people carried out the movements of their day-to-day lives, as well as the way in which they worked together as a family to do so. Traditional objects that I saw in each of the homes I visited – such as the ‘koita’ (the knife used to chop firewood and produce from trees), the chimney (used for light at night), the ‘paine’ (their handmade cradle for newborns) – all spoke of how the villager’s way of life was resourced from the land.

Along with this, in the tribal villages, I saw many agricultural rituals – such as creating the rice paddies, harvesting the rice, separating the grain in the fields, carrying the rice to the village houses, sifting the rice in the home – all of which the family took part in as a whole. Out in the fields I saw children tending to their plots with their parents and siblings, I witnessed young children playing amongst the rice plants as the oxen separated it with their grazing. In one home, I saw a three-year old girl mirroring her mother’s actions as she sifted the rice in preparation for the evening’s meal. In this home, four brothers lived under the same roof with their wives, their children and their parents. Together, they tended to the land of their ancestors, sharing the crops and subsisting as one. In all of this, it became very clear to me how the agricultural practices of the tribal villagers are not merely connected to their subsistence, but to their traditions, cultures and ultimately – their very way of life. Under the Government of Goa’s current legislation, it is not just the Aboriginal Goan’s land that is under threat, but their way of life that has existed for thousands of years.

Wildlife Sanctuary
One of the Government of Goa’s initiatives that is currently threatening the tribal villagers way of life is the creation of various ‘Wildlife Sanctuary’s in tribal land around Goa. The borders of these areas have been marked without consideration of the existing tribal villages, and therefore, thousands of tribal people find themselves being bordered in. With the hope of pressuring the tribal villagers to relocate, the Government of Goa has put in place ‘Forest Police’ to protect these new sanctuaries.

During my visit to various tribal villages, I witnessed the implications of these Wildlife Sanctuaries and the effects of these on the tribal people. In Edda, for example, we discovered a large gate that had been erected, blocking the path to the tribal village. The padlocked gate not only blocked traffic from entering the tribal village, but it is aiming to limit the tribal people’s movement. Next to the gate, deep trenches have been dug along either side, stretching out for kilometers. The Government in Goa, in setting up the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, has taken no note of the villagers living in this area. Instead the Government is using tactics like these to pressure the people to move away.

When I was visiting this village in Edda, the tribal people were hesitant to speak out about the issues they were facing, as amongst the people there exists a fear of the Government – making it difficult for the people to even voice their struggles. One tribal villager, however, quietly spoke of how the Government is even restricting the villagers from chopping firewood on their own land. Whenever the tribal people enter their forrest the Forrest Police are confiscating their ‘koitas’ so the villagers are unable to chop wood. The villagers are now forced to venture out at night in order to chop the necessary firewood for cooking and heating.

Also, within the boundaries of the Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary, the tribal people are being restricted from grazing their cattle in certain areas. On the junction of Kho Digao and Gaondongri Road the Government has allocated the villagers a new place to graze their cattle, however in this area there are no plants for the cattle to eat. In response to this the Government has planted saplings on this new ground, but these are not even vegetation suited to the cattle’s requirements. It is ventures like these, and others I have mentioned, that the Government of Goa is using to put pressure on the tribal villagers way of life. Due to the success of these agitations, these tribal villages are under threat of being displaced. Because the tribal people have no records of land ownership as they have always been passed down generations orally, in tradition with their culture, the tribal people have no legal backing with which they can respond.

Another severe threat to the Aboriginal Goans and their land at the hand of the Government of Goa is the mining taking place all throughout Goa. Recognised by the colonizers as very profitable for mining, the tribal villagers have been losing their land for decades for the economic gain of the elite. After Independence, the colonizers still held power in Goa for another 16 years before the Government of India decided to go in and free Goa. Three days before the Government did this, they had been making enquiries into the economical gain of the mining industry in Goa, revealing their motivation to freeing Goa as their own economic gain. This reflects the Government’s values of economics before the welfare of the people. From then on, the mining industry has only further expanded in Goa and it is causing great problems for the tribal people.

The problems caused by mining have different effects depending on the location of the various tribal villages. These consequences include the pollution effecting the land and crops, the pollution which is detrimental to the villagers’ health, the pollution of the tribal people’s water supply, the damage to their houses due to explosions in mining, and ultimately, the displacement of tribal villages for the purposes of mining and such.

The tribal people living in areas close to the mining are suffering devastating effects on their health, their crops and their livelihood from the pollution caused by the mines. The dust from the mines can be seen nearby as the leaves of all the surrounding vegetation are painted with the dust. The excess rocks and dirt from the mining are dumped without adequate walls or protection, so in the rainy season, the excess turns to mud and runs into the rivers and agriculture. With muddy red rivers, the tribal villagers drinking water and their water for agriculture is highly polluted. This muddy water also runs into the villagers’ plots of land and the difference between the growth of plants close to the mining can be clearly seen. In one village I visited, the coconut trees on the side of the mining were more than half the size of those further away in the same field.

In addition to this, the villagers’ health is being deeply affected as a result of the pollution from the mines – with many suffering from respiratory diseases and lung cancer. Alongside this threat to people’s health is the threat to their lives. Due to the explosions occurring within the mines, people’s houses are crumbling as a result. The walls of one house I saw had split right through and the head of the family was concerned about the next blast, as anyone present in the house at the time could be in danger of being crushed. These are only some of the devastating effects of the Government’s mining industry in Goa on the tribal villagers and their land, which I was witness to during my visit to the tribal villages.

While the effect on the tribal people living close to the mines is extremely damaging, as I have outline above, the impact of relocation of the tribal people has a further devastating effect. Many villagers are being relocated so their land can be used for mining and other purposes. One example where this has occurred is in the village of Curbem in Sanguem, where five thousand families were displaced so that the Government of Goa could build a dam. The people’s villages were submerged under water and the Government of Goa relocated them. Given only a small amount of compensation from the Government, the villagers themselves were required to come up with the remaining amount required in order to rebuild their homes. In addition to this, the land they were allocated for agriculture was much smaller and less fertile than their now submerged fields, affecting their subsistence and ultimately their standard of living.

When I visited the relocated area of the tribal people, I found it noticeably different to the villages I had seen that were still untouched by the Government. The relocated people were living on very small blocks of land that were cramped closely together and lacked the space and landmass that was taken from them by the Government. The tribal people had not only lost their homes, their fertile land, but they had lost the inheritance of their ancestry.

The loss of culture at the Government of Goa’s hand
Even without being displaced, the Government is taking away people’s land and the ability to live in the tradition of their ancestors. I came across this in the village of Kajuwad, where the Government had restricted the tribal villagers’ agricultural practices of clearing. Instead of cultivating a different plot of land every four years to seize the most fertile land, the Government has banned the villagers from this agricultural practice. The land that the villagers’ have been allocated is not as fertile as their previous practice allowed, so they can no longer live off the land – growing their own fruit, vegetables, grains and spices, as they have done throughout the generations. Instead, now the tribal people are only able to grow cash crops – such as cashews and coconuts. So where the tribal people’s tradition has been to live off the land, this traditional has been taken from them and they are now forced to participate in an economy where the integrity of their culture has been lost.

Agitation Towards the Government
The Aboriginal tribal people of Goa see the Government ‘s actions as unjust for many reasons. I will not go into them here as they are deeply rooted in history and politics, and focus around the atrocities committed surrounding the legality of the tribal people’s land tenure. It is important to note, however, that in regards to the mining, the Government of Goa is supporting mining companies who are illegally mining without a permit. Furthermore, the police are protecting these companies by the direction (and reward) of the Government. I witnessed this first hand when visiting various villages, only to find that security guards blocked off many of the mining areas and we were not permitted to enter onto the tribal people’s land.

While the threat to the tribal people’s land and way of life is very severe, the alternative of aggravating the Government with protests and demonstrations holds its own danger.

On my last day of visiting the tribal villages, the people prepared themselves for a human rights Day rally in the Municipal Gardens in Quepem, protesting against the Government of Goa and their treatment of the tribal people and their land. With over one hundred people gathering together with placards reading ‘We Have a Right to Clean Water’ and ‘Save Our Agriculture, Save Our Culture’, shouting in one voice things like “Mining Band kara’ (Stop the Mining), it was a powerful display. After making demonstrations in front of the Government offices and the Police buildings, the villagers proceeded to the gardens where different speakers passionately spoke about the issues they are all facing as tribal villages and the need to fight for justice. For GAKUVED and the people of the tribal villages, this is only the beginning of their agitation.

In this report, I have recorded my insights into the political struggles that the tribal villages of the Aboriginal Goan people are facing against the Government of Goa. In what I saw, it appears that the strongest thing that the people have in protecting their homes, their land and their culture is through agitating the Government. While the situation for these tribal villages is at a crucial stage, if the people join together and rise up against the Government in Goa, there is hope. The evidence of this has been seen in the many tribal villages that have halted the workings of mines and stopped the implementation of others through their unceasing demonstrations. In witnessing one of the rallies organized by GAKUVED, as outlined above, for myself, the possibility of protecting tribal people’s culture has been strengthened.

Dusk Richardson,
Student of Sociology and Anthropology,
Melbourne University,
Melbourne, Australia.

Dusk Also has written another straight-from-the-heart piece on her Goa visit and published on her blog. To read that click here.

Report Edited by Sebastian Rodrigues

Ambaulim Intruzz: Interface between Adivasi faith and Christian Faith

After a gap of around 13 year the Itruz Culture of Ambaulim-Quepem in Goa have been revived by the villagers. Around 13 years back Ambaulim's traditional Itruz was very popular as thousand of people used to participate in it. However some of religious leader criticize it terming it is as anti religious, which ultimately led to its halt. In Ambaulim there are 10 wards which are dominated by the Adivasis who are following Christian faith . Except one ward all 9 wards are attached to each other having their respective traditional MAND ( a sacred place). One the previous Sunday of Carnival/Itruz the feast of the village deity “Our Lady of Lourdes” is celebrated by the villagers and which is followed by the Sunday of Itruz/Carnival.After the celebration of village feast, that is the previous Sunday of Itruz or in the middle of the week male members of each ward used to gather at the traditional Mand every day during night time till the end of the Itruz and on the bit of different musical instrument such as Dholl, Taxe, Kasali( large Copper cymble) etc used celebrate their Itruz. This was with an aim to praise the almighty for the harvest. The starting song which is called “Choren” is in glorifying Jesus Christ. One needs to ponder deeply as to whom adivasis here were glorifying before Portuguese brought Christianity few centuries ago and carried on conversions.

On the second day of itruz that is on Monday some of the villagers used to spent the whole night on the Mand, dancing on the bit of Kasali( large Copper cymble ) and song different traditional itruz songs on the bit of percussion instrument , Madalem( a musical instrument) etc. On the next day that is on Tuesday that is on the last day of Itruz/carnival early in the morning the villager of that ward used to go with all their musical instrument to visit all the houses from ward and used to wish them the joy of Itruz on the bit of Musical instrument which is termed as MELL . That after visiting all the houses the “MELL” used to return to the their “MAND” keep all the musical instrument at the mand and used to go to their respective houses.That at around 3.00PM all the villagers again used to gather at the MAND and after singing song in glory of Jesus they used to go to visit the other wards from the village to wish them the joy of Itruz. After wishing all the ward they by 7 to 8 PM used to return to their ward. This beautiful tradition has been came to a halt since last 13 years. But this year 2008 some of the youth from one of the ward came forward and revive the reach traditional culture of their village .

They with all their musical instrument on Sunday February 03 2008 visited to the different wards of Ambaulim, sang different traditional songs on the bit of musical instruments and wished them the joy of Itruz

There is nothing against the religion in the Itruz culture celebrated in the village . Infact it is used to glorify Jesus through songs . Those who criticized our culture which lead to its halt were did it without studying it or without making an attempt to know about it. Villager elder speaking stated that we are forgetting and going away from our rich culture; on the other hand we are imbibing culture which is not ours.

( Photos are of villagers participating in the celebration of traditional Itruz at Ambaulim , Quepem is annexed. In the first three photo villagers are participating in a “MELL” while in the fourth Photo village musician signing song on the bit of tradition instrument like Gumot, Madale, Kassaleo. Photos and text by John Fernandes. Text edited by Sebastian Rodrigues)

For Videos of this festival click here.