Thursday, February 7, 2008

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.

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