Konkani Literature: Caught In Script Whirlpool
Posted On: 05/03/2010 19:20 GMT
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By Govinda Raju - Source: lightofandaman.com

In the last general Council Meeting of Sahitya Akademi, the Academy of Letters of India, held on February 16, 2010 in New Delhi, Edwin JF DSouza raised the controversial issue of Konkani Script. The language was written in five different scripts for historical reasons; Devanagari, Marathi, Kannada, Malayalam and Arabic, whereas Sahitya Academi recognized only the books written in official Devanagari script to the exclusion of all other scripts.

The bone of contention was that the books written in scripts other than Devanagri were not considered for awards by Sahtya Akademi and, on cue, by other organizations and institutions too. It was a gross injustice to the writers engaged in literary work in Konkani in scripts other than Devanagari.

To a pointed question of Edwin DSouza whether Sahtya Akademi recognized the script or the literature; Sunil Gangopadhyaye, President said in an unambiguous term “literature!” The argument should have ended there but Pundalik Narayan Naik, Convener of Konkani Language Advisory Board cited the Govt of India notifications recognizing the Devanagari script as the official one and also referred to the previous discussion on the subject in the General Council of Sahitya Akademi that remained inconclusive.

However, the majority of General Council Members did not approve that the literature created in the same language but different scripts should be discriminated against when the bulk of Konkani literature was written in Kannada and other scripts, according to DSouza.
Dr Harish Narang argued that in the hi-tech age of advanced computer programmes where, on a click of the mouse the script can be changed from one script to the other, there was any reason why books written in scripts other than devanagari should remain out of the purview of awards; unless it was meant to limit the competition.
After a prolonged discussion, on the suggestion of Sunil Gangopadhyaye, President, the matter was referred to the Language Development Board of Sahitya Akademi for an early resolution.

Migration and fragmentation:

The arrival of the Portuguese lead to major changes in Konkani. The conversion of Konkanis to Christianity and the religious policies of the Portuguese caused a large number of Konkanis to flee to neighboring territories. The isolation of Hindu and Christian Konkanis added to the fragmentation of Konkani into multiple dialects.

The language spread to Canara (coastal Karnataka), Kokan-patta (coastal Konkan division of Maharashtra) and Kerala during the last 500 years due to migration of Konkanis. Although a few Konkanis may have been present in the neighboring areas and there may have been migrations due to economic reasons in the past, the main cause of migration was the Portuguese control over Goa.

It was spread to these areas by Hindu Konkani and Christian Konkani speakers in three waves of migration. The first migration occurred during the early years of Portuguese rule and the Inquisition of 1560s. The second wave of migration was during the 1571 C.E. war with the Sultan of Bijapur. The third wave of migration happened during the wars of 1683-1740 A.D. with the Marathas. While the first wave was of Hindus, the second and third waves were mainly those of Christians.

These migrant communities grew in relative isolation and each developed its own dialect. Since these communities had to interact with others in local languages on a daily basis, Konkani dialects show strong local influences in terms of script, vocabulary and also style.
Other Konkani communities came into being with their own dialects of Konkani. The Konkani Muslim communities of Ratnagiri and Bhatkal came about due to a mixture of intermarriage of Arab seafarers and locals as well as conversions of Hindus to Islam. Another migrant community that picked up Konkani was the Siddis who were sailor-warriors from Ethiopia.

Edited and Published By Konkanifriends Team

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