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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rift over Konkani puts Goa Congress in a spot

A group of disgruntled leaders could dampen the political climate for Goa Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane in the ongoing session of the state Assembly, with moves afoot to revive the controversy over the Konkani script.

Konkani in the Devanagari script was recognised as Goa state’s official language in 1987.

Nineteen years since, a spectrum of politically interested lobbies want official recognition for Romi Konkani (Konkani written in the Roman script) as well, and are seeking an amendment bill in this session. The debate has already split the Congress vertically.

The party’s think tank, Vichar Vibhag, led by veteran Konkani writer Uday Bhembre made clear it would stand for no change to the Official Language Act.

Two scripts

No other state recognises two scripts for an official language, says Mr Bhembre.

Backed by the South Goa Congress Member of Parliament Churchill Alemao and Town and Country Planning Minister Atanasio Monserrate, supporters of Romi Konkani are confident they can force the government’s hand on the issue.

“If the government fails us in this, the Congress party will have to face the consequences in the next election,” the Congress MP warned.

Konkani in the Roman script is still used by a large segment of the Catholic population in prayer services.

In a pre-election year, a renewed confrontation over Goa’s official language could bog down Mr Rane’s government and jeopardise his party’s prospects. Waiting in the wings are supporters of Marathi wanting equal status for that language too. The BJP knows this and has come out openly to back the Romi Konkani demand.

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