Konkani language agitation

The Konkani language agitations were a series of protests and demonstrations that happened in the Indian state of Goa (formerly the union territory of Goa, Daman and Diu) during the post-Independence period. The agitations involved several mass protests, riots, student& political movements in Goa, concerning the uncertain future and the official status of the Konkani language, prevailing at the time in territory of Goa and Damaon in the Indian Republic.


Pre-Portuguese and Portuguese Goa[edit]

Since early times, Konkani language and literature took a beating due to persistent invasions on Goa by:

The final death knell for Konkani was the Inquisition which sought to root out Konkani from Portuguese territories in India.[1] The use of Konkani, the language of communication between the Portuguese authorities and the local population was, amongst other Hindu practices, declared heretic. Portuguese was declared to be the sole language; a move supported by Franciscan missionaries. It was made the sole language of official communication and a pre-requisite for government jobs.[2] A Church edict in 1684 directed a change over of the lingua franca from Konkani to Portuguese. This unsuccessful language policy was revoked in 1761 by the Minister of the Kingdom ( Prime Minister) Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, better known as the Marquês de Pombal. However, the Inquisition had taken its toll. Konkani manuscripts and literature, in the Nagari and Goykanadi, were consigned to the flames as heretic literature. This led to extermination of Konkani from the velhas conquistas.[note 1] However, Konkani survived in the Hindu majority novas conquistas,[note 2] who, in view of the edict against written Konkani continued using Konkani as the language at home. They also used Marathi translations of sacred Hindu texts. This was followed by the arrival of Marathi speaking Brahmins to serve in Hindu temples. This episode in history was an important event in the struggle for the status of Konkani vis a vis Marathi amongst the Hindu population of Goa. Konkani also survived amongst the Saraswat Brahmins, Gaud Saraswat and Bhanap, the Daivajnas, the Kudumbis, the Catholics who migrated to Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra. Konkani received no patronage in her homeland, Goa during the Portuguese period. Occasional books written by Fr. Agnelus F.X. Maffei in 1882 and the book on Konkani grammar by Fr. Thomas Stevens in 1622 were published with Konkani being rendered in the Roman script.

The first attempt for the revival of Konkani as a language of literature was by Rao Saheb Dr. V.P. Chavan, the former vice-president of the Anthropological Society Bombay through his book Konkan and the Konkani Language[3] which presented Konkani in the Devanagari script.

This still did not improve the status of Konkani in 19th century Goa where the Catholic élite admitted their wards to Portuguese medium schools with the idea of enabling them to pursue a professional career or a career in the colonial administration. Marathi and English medium schools emerged in the private sector. Konkani, the mā̃yabhās (mother tongue) retreated to the confines of the household in favour of the poṭācī bhās (language of commerce). Multiple dialects emerged not only within Goa, but also in Karnataka and Kerala where Konkani speakers had settled. The anti-Konkani movement of the Portuguese had long ceased and gave way to the Hindu populations cynical view of the status Konkani over Marathi. The ripples of this episode of the language controversy are still prevalent in contemporary Goa.

By the 1950s, middle class Goans, both Catholic and Hindu, were sending their wards to English medium schools and the Hindu population was catered to by Marathi Medium schools.

Goa after Indian annexation[edit]

The annexation of Goa in 1961 saw the decline of Portuguese and the rise of English for administrative purposes. Better off Goans, both Christian and Hindu, started sending their wards to English medium schools. Marathi medium schools remained popular with the Hindu population, who looked at Marathi with reverence as the language in which Hindu scriptures, translated from Sanskrit, could be accessed. An argument of Konkani being a Marathi dialect and Konkani speakers being Marathis began to take shape. Although Konkani preserved an older stage of phonetic development, and showed a greater variety of verbal forms than standard Marathi,[4] Indian linguists like Prof. Anant Kakaba Priolkar and European linguists like John Leyden looked at Konkani as a Marathi dialect which branched off from a common Prakrit parent.

Post 1958 saw the birth of a definite pro-Konkani camp that, at different times, included Joaquim Heliodoró da Cunha Rivara, whose essay on Konkani O Ensaio Historico da Lingua Concani provides considerable information on the language during the first three hundred years of Portuguese rule in Goa, Fr. Agnelus F.X. Maffei, Dr. Sumitra Mangesh Katre, Dr. S. B. Kulkarni, French linguist Jules Bloch and the English scholar John Wilson.

Shenoi Goembab[edit]

Aware of the looming danger of Konkani being sidelined, vāman vardē śeṇai vaḷavalikār, popularly known as śeṇai goyẽbāb gave a clarion call for the revival of Konkani in the early 20th century. Under his guidance, a steady movement was getting built up and the effort was on to initiate a rejuvenation of Konkani language and heritage, by means of establishing a common cultural identity among the Konkani people.

Konkani versus Marathi[edit]

The innate conservation of the people of India has given a vitality to some of the dialects, which is truly wonderful. Take, for example, the Konkani dialect, which is spoken at present by at least a million and half people in Western India. Though it has had no alphabet of its own and no literature worth mentioning, it has continued to live even in a vigorous condition at times, for nearly 1500 years, and this, in spite of the fact that a sister language very closely allied to it, namely Marathi, with an alphabet and a literature of its own, has been trying to crush it out of existence by the sheer force of its wider popularity with the governing class. The study of the origin, growth and vicissitudes of such dialect, therefore, cannot be lacking in interest to the students of anthropology, and Indian history.[5]

The root of the Konkani Language agitation laid in the denial of Konkani as an independent language and the opposition to merge Goa into Maharashtra. Konkani was not taken seriously as a potential official language except by a few stalwarts. By 1960, pro-Konkani and pro-Marathi groups started a propaganda war through distribution of pamphlets. In 1962, the All India Konkani Parishad held its eighth session for the first time at Maḍgā̃v (Margao) in post-liberation Goa and passed a resolution urging the Kendra Sahitya Akademi to recognise Konkani. Simultaneously, the referendum in 1967 thwarted the merger of Goa into Maharashtra and paved the way for its statehood in the Union of India. Goan statehood gave a further boost to the pro-Konkani camp.

Earlier in 1966, the then Chief Minister of Goa, Dayanand Bandodkar appointed a committee to examine the feasibility of declaring Marathi as the official language of Goa. Attempts were made by some members of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, a party formed before the referendum proposing merger into Maharashtra, and a splinter group to pass a Goa, Daman and Diu Official Language Bill in 1966 which was thwarted by the Chief Minister. On 22 August 1970, Bandodkar declared Konkani, written in the Devanagari script, as the official language of Goa along with Marathi.

In 1973, chief minister of Goa, Dayanand Bandodkar died, and his daughter Shashikala Kakodkar ascended to the post. Under Kakodkar, government policies favouring Marathi were framed. Marathi was made compulsory in English medium schools whilst Konkani was excluded. This policy was met with severe criticism from Konkani organisations, both, within Goa and outside. Although promises were made by Kakodkar in 1977 and thereafter by then Congress Chief Minister Pratapsinh Rane in 1980 to treat Konkani at par with Marathi, the matter was kept in abeyance till 1986.

Koṅkaṇī Prajētso Āvāz[edit]

In their election manifesto, the Congress party had stated that once statehood was achieved Konkani would be recognised as an official language and demands would be made to include it in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. In 1980, the Congress came into power under Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane. Rane, despite the promises made, procrastinated on the issue. This led to an agitation in 1986 on the streets popularly called koṅkaṇī prajētso āvāz (voice of the Konkani people). Goa witnessed the bloodiest agitation ever, the Language agitation, in which seven pro-Konkani agitators lost their lives and several were injured. The civil disobedience only halted when the Goa, Daman and Diu Official Language bill was presented to the legislative assembly.[6]

Government action[edit]

The Goa, Daman and Diu Official Language bill, presented to the legislative assembly in 1986, was passed on 4 February 1987 declaring Konkani the sole official language of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu with provisions for Marathi and Gujarati for Daman and Diu. On 30 May 1987 Goa got statehood with Konkani as the sole official language. The Kendra Sahitya Academy recognised Konkani, in the Devanagari script, as an independent language on 26 February 1975. This paved the way for the decision to include Konkani in the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution making Konkani one of the official languages of India.

Karnataka and Kerala[edit]

The struggle for Konkani in Goa, did not go unnoticed in Canara and Travancore. The Konkani speakers in Canara (currently Uttara Kannada, Udupi and Dakshina Kannada) and Travancore (currently Cochin and Ernakulam), inspired by the writings of Shenoi Goembab were getting increasingly aware on the issue of mother tongue.

The first public pro-Konkani gathering was held outside Goa and by non Goan Konkanis. In 1939, the All India Konkani Parishad was founded by the efforts of Manjunath Shanbhag and the first session was held. This was followed by the second session at Udupi organised by Dr. T.M.A. Pai. The liberation and subsequent statehood of Goa bolstered Konkani's status in Karnataka. In 1962, the Konkani Bhasha Prachar Sabha, Cochin, took up the issue of inclusion of Konkani in the Eighth schedule with the Government of India and the Linguistic Minorities Commission. In 1976, the Konkani Bhasha Mandali was founded at Mangalore enhance the status of Konkani in the state. In 1994, the Government of Karnataka founded the Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy at Mangalore to propagate Konkani literature. The first Vishwa Konkani Sammelan was held in Mangalore in 1995 wherein 5,000 delegated from 75 centres from India, the middle east, the US, UK, etc. participated.[7]

In 2005, the foundation was laid for a World Konkani Centre to further the cause of Konkani on a global scale. From the academic year 2007-2008 Konkani has become an optional subject in the schools of Karnataka.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ coastal areas of Goa conquered at the beginning of the 16th century CE
  2. ^ hinterland of Goa conquered at the beginning of the 18th century CE


  1. ^ de Souza; Teotonio R. "The Goa Inquisition". Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  2. ^ List of loanwords in Konkani
  3. ^ V.P. Chavan (1923). Konkan and the Konkani Language. India: Asian Educational Services. ISBN 81-206-0666-3.
  4. ^ GRIERSON, GEORGE ABRAHAM, SIR. (1905). Linguistic Survey of India. Vol. VII. Indo-Aryan Family. Southern Group. Specimens of the Marathi language. Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, India. p. 164.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "Bombay Chronicle". 21 February 1924.
  6. ^ Venkatesh, Karthik (5 August 2017). "Konkani vs Marathi: Language battles in golden Goa". LiveMint. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  7. ^ Bhembre, Uday (October–December 2009). "Brief History of Konkani Movement". Konkani Mirror: 17.