May 11, 2006

Not a chasm

Earlier in this space, I mentioned running into Julio Ribeiro at O Coqueiro restaurant in Porvorim. Ribeiro was in Goa to speak at a meeting of police and administration officials about his experience with mohalla committees in Bombay. This, because there's much concern about the first serious outbreak of communal violence in this state, at Sanvordem-Curcorem a couple of months ago.

There's a sense of needing to move on, but there's also a sense of amazement. This was not supposed to happen in Goa! Not in this Goa where nobody has ever cared what faith you belong to! So a full seminar room at the Secretariat listens carefully to Ribeiro, asks some hard questions.

Goa has always prided itself on being a sort of last bastion of communal peace, where diversity is truly celebrated. So it's tempting to see the Curcorem flare-up as an aberration. But is it? I don't know, really. One lesson of the last couple of Indian decades is surely that religious hatreds are easy to spark, difficult to contain. I'd like to think Goa will be an exception to that. I'd like to reiterate what Goa's Chief Secretary, JP Singh, told the audience: that Goans need to move forward and ensure that this rip in their fabric of communal peace "doesn't become a chasm."

I'd like to. But I feel pessimistic. Because pointing fingers at that "other" guy, even in this place where nobody really cared who the other guy was, is so damned easy.

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