Go Goa, gone!
A slew of recent gaffes, in the form of petitions and orders bearing distinct political and religious colours, has been haunting the very idea of Goa for a while. Be it the ponderings on the length of the skirt or the logic behind skimpy beachwear, particularly the ubiquitous bikinis, assertions and contentions that unsettle the soothing notions of Goa as the destination-in-chief of vacationers and tourists, as the prime spot of fun and frolic, are on the rise. More than just touristy dilemma and considerations on possibilities of revenue crunch, recent pronouncements by Hindu religious extremists have called into question what Goa stands for: not just a great getaway but an island of freedom, liberties and unbridled self-expression in a sea of cultural and social intolerance. The utterances of Pramod Muthalik of the Sri Ram Sene and Sudhin Dhavalikar of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party have compromised not just the sociopolitical liberalism that Goa has been traditionally known for, they have also dented the state’s legendary pluralism, its inherent and integral relaxed approach to cultural and sexual pluralities as well as integration of subcultural practices, usually associated with the margins, with its scintillating mainstream.
The latest maneauvres come in the wake of similar strategies to hijack various composite cultures of landmark places like Benaras, Mumbai, Bangalore, Mangalore, Pune among others, and paint their multifarious and pluralistic social canvases in the fraudulent monochrome of Hindu majoritarianism. In Goa, the attack on beach culture can be read in conjunction with the increasing assaults on Catholics, and the concerted attempt to push them towards the social fringes in a place where they occupy the demographic majority. The proclamations of Muthalik and Dhavalikar are, however, in stark contradiction with what the state unit of the ruling BJP itself has to say. Even Goa CM Manohar Parikkar has rubbished Muthalik’s claims. However, what we need to take cognisance of immediately is the growing culture of hijacking social pluralism in the garb of political buffoonery until the latter becomes respectable, gentrified and indeed the normative stand.