Thursday, December 31, 2009


By Sebastian Rodrigues


The first ten years of my life between 1973 to 1983 three movements moved my childhood. Toddy tapers movement through my father Luis Rodrigues, Fisherman’s movement, popularly known as Ramponkar’s movement through my mother Claudina Rodrigues, and Church employees movement through my grand uncle Assis Fernanades. This paper is brief recounting of my childhood memory and contextualizing the same in the wider complex canvas of Social Movements in Goa.

Toddy Taper’s Movement

The late Seventies and early Eighties saw Toddy tapers movement at its peak. Movement began soon after Goa’s liberation with Rahul Bose[1] and Fulgence Rodrigues taking lead in organizing the Toddy Tapers community of Goa whose life and economy revolves around the coconut tree. My father Luis Rodrigues began his taping coconut trees in Bardez Taluka’s Siolim and Badem Villages in 1967[2]. My father came in touch joined Toddy Tapers Union in later seventies. The main reason for joining the union was security of his job as land lady was putting pressure to stop taping of coconut trees that were leased out to him. Union activities gave much wider expose to him as he participated in various union activities including morchas and rallies in Panjim. Rahul Bose used to visit our house to meet my father in early eighties. He used to speak to me too. I remember him discussion the issue of medium of instruction with me then after he realized that I was studying in Marathi medium at Government primary school. He was the first to influence my life. My father along with two other Toddy tapers from tapped the coconut trees on the force of Union Power for nearly six years without paying taxes to the State as Landlady from Siolim refused to accept yearly fees meant for her. The movement that was defending right to tap coconut trees did left impressions on my childhood memories. Mathany Saldhana and Christopher Fonseca were the names that I heard repeatedly in my childhood.

Fishermen’s Movement

My mother Claudina Rodrigues comes from the family in Pernem Taluka’s coastal village of Mandrem. They followed occupations of toddy tapping as well as Rampons- indigenous method of collective fishing in non-mechanized manner. Late Seventies and early eighties witnessed introduction of mechanized fishing – trawlers. This brought about clashes with the traditional fishermen – Ramponars. Again fishermen were united though the efforts of Mathany Saldhana. Organisation called Goenchea Ramponkarancho Ekvott was formed and agitation was launched. While the agitation was on, number of violent clashes did take place between the Ramponkars and Trawler owners. Pernem Coast was one of the sites of these clashes. On one occasion Trawler tied Rampon boat with team of around ten fishermen on board from Mandrem and taken in the deeper waters and there violent clashes took place. Number of Ramponkars was injured. Amongst those injured was my Mother’s brother-in-law Custodio Fernandes from Mandrem. Soon after this clash the State leaders of the Fishermen’s movement visited the Mandrem village. I, that time a child happened to be there in Mandrem along with my Mother and witnessed the tense situation in the village. Very soon after few weeks Ramponkars of the neighboring village of Harmal captured another trawler and burnt it. The tension further intensified. The tension continued some years as Trawlers continued to violate 5 Kms from coast ban on fishing in routine manner.

Church Employees Movement

In 1983 I left my family and my village of Siolim to study in standard V at a school then was called Dr. Agusto Souza High School at Assagao. I was sent to stay with family of my grand uncles in Assagao. I stayed entire one year in Assagao with weekly visits to Siolim. This year is another important year in my life; it witnessed yet another movement enter my life – this time Church employees movement. One of my youngest grand uncle Assis Fernandes[3] was working in St. Cajetan’s Church in Assagao. At that time church employees from different parts of Goa were being organized. Assis was one of the active persons involved in organizing work. He involved me in lot of church work- both inside the cemetery as well as in the liturgical services. On evenings he would take me on his cycle on touring different churches in Bardez. I remember my visits with him to Churches such as Badem, Vagathore, Anjuna, Parra, Arpora, Calangute, Tropa, Sodiem, Mapusa and Candolim. I witnessed him speaking about need to organize church employees. Church in Goa was not paying wages that was able to support the livelihood of its workers, and also there was no job security. Around this time Chistopher Fonseca stages hunger strike in Panjim to press for the demands of the church employees. The whole one year did bring me another first hand experience of a labour struggle within the Institutional Church.


The three movements not just provide me early exposure to variety of movements but more importantly it went to shape my life and options I would make in life. This experience can be best summarized as first the movements entered my life and then I moved into movements. This of movements is not just my personal case but the phenomena that generation in Goa witnessed - those born in early seventies. One only needs to value this experience and enter history as its subjects as against objects.[4]

Note: This paper was presented at two days National History Seminar on Struggle for Assertion, Civil Liberties, Integration, Liberation and Rights in Goa Through the Ages” at CES College, Cuncolim, Goa on March 13-14 2007.

[1] Rahul Bose is from Bangladesh settled in Canacona Taluka’s Loliem Village. According to Sushila Mendes, Lectures in History at Government College, Quepem, He was involved in founding of All Goa Toddy Tapers’ Association. He was associated with Sushila Mendes' father who was a lawyer in organizing Toddy Tapers since 1962. Sushila Mendes disclosed this while intervening in a discussion on this paper at History seminar at Cuncolim College on March 14 2007.

[2] Luis Rodrigues has been a Toddy Taper for the past 40 years. He continues to Tap the coconut trees till date but in different land and different land lord in Siolim.

[3] He retired after working for 50 years in St. Cajetan’s Church, Assagao.

[4] Idea of Subjects and Objects is from Paulo Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’.

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