I want to begin this post by thanking you for your response to Dileep Padgaonkar’s review of Meera Kosambi’s book on her grandfather and Buddhist scholar Dharmanand Kosambi.
In your response you rightly point out that “To refer to the background of a brahmin landowner then as ‘humble’ is misleading and offensive.”
No argument there. You raise points that are normally occluded in the debates and discussions within and about Goa. On the contrary, I would go further than you do when you say that “the condition of the non-brahmins was much worse, with many in grinding poverty, working on the land owned by the GSBs, unable to even think of basic education, their women and children sometimes bonded in the worst ways imaginable.”
In fact, for most of the non-brahmin Hindu population of Goa, and especially in the Novas Conquistas, the GSB was the oppressor; not the Portuguese, and the GSB continues to be the oppressor. Let us also not forget that for the GSB the pre-Republic discrimination was not as severe as it was for other Hindu groups.
There were sufficient number of GSBs within the system of the Estado da India to ensure that their interests were served, even while not being centre-stage. These inconvenient facts are unfortunately conveniently occluded in the anti-Portuguese hysteria that is generated by some of the ‘freedom-fighters’ whose lead figures are perhaps not surprisingly GSB!
More recently, in other writings, I have suggested that perhaps the kind of stand-off that one saw in the Subodh Kerkar incident had as much to do with contra-GSB politics as with anti-non-Hindu politics.
Before I go on to my differences with you, and my suggestions of caution – that draw largely from Luis’ response to you – may I direct your attention to The Bomb,Biography and the Indian Middle Class, published in the EPW in 2006, p.
In this essay, Sankaran Krishna points to the biography of the late Raja Ramanna, and the curious fact, that like Dileep Padgaokar’s review, Ramanna’s review too begins with a reference to his Brahmin origins.
Like you do, Krishna leads us from this reference to the Brahmin, to the manner in which this feature limits the extent of Indian modernity. Among other things, it is the basis on which the pride in one’s elevated caste background twines with the politics of ‘merit’ that we uphold to deny the reservation policy that Luis rightly supports, how it constructs the habitus of the Indian middle classes, its (our) response to the masses, and how it twines with Hindutva.
The essay is a gem, and worth reading. I will end here by indicating that reference to the humility of the GSB caste is more than merely misleading and offensive. Padgaokar’s reference tells us also of how Padgaokar perceives himself, and the limits of his own modernity.
My differences with you commence from the position where I argue that it is possible to conceive that the ‘humble GSB’ did in fact exist at the time in which Dharmanand was forced to manage the coconut plantations.
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