As a voter of Panaji, I always voted for Manohar Parrikar, though I did not agree with his Hindutva ideology. I have been an ardent admirer of Bhausaheb Bandodkar right from my childhood. But I never voted for the MGP, after the one-time roaring Lion in the rich forest of Bahujan Samaj started eating the grass of opportunism, may it be the Congress grass or Hindutva grass. While researching for my book ‘Ajeeb Goa’s Gajab Politics’, I discovered that though Dr Jack Sequeira fought fearlessly for the identity of Goa, he was representing a party floated by Goa’s high caste landlords, from both communities, against land reforms.
Ultimately, they were all politicians, and manipulation was the inherent need of their politics. They had their political agendas, which did not represent the whole of Goa or all sections of Goans across the board. They engineered defections rampantly and embraced defectors shamelessly, for which Goa is defamed today in Power Politics. Bhausaheb, the first one to engineer defections, was however an exception among all the politicians in terms of the inclusive vision for Goa and Goans he had. He was undoubtedly a visionary par excellence and his policies shaped prosperous Goa, may it be in the fields of education, health, agriculture, industry, or land rights. But even he carries a blot of eliminating Goa’s Konkani identity by merging Goa into Maharashtra. (It’s a different issue that he realised his mistake after the historic Opinion Poll. He also supported statehood for Goa, but the wounds of divisive Goan society are not fully healed to date.)
In short, all these exemplary politicians of Goa do not represent the cause of the Whole of Goa and the sentiments of All the Goans. In fact, no politician of Goa, in the last six decades, has risen to the level where we could consider naming them after the upcoming international airport at Mopa. It’s an airport, not a bus stand. And Goa is an international destination, not a local airbase for domestic travel. If the civil aviation ministry is bound to name this international base, it needs to think of a name of a Goan, who had international repute and an ideologue much above petty party politics or narrow-minded regional sentiments. He or she should be a towering personality, a thinker, a statesman, a fighter, a leader of the masses and a visionary, who shaped Goa in tune with the broad-minded open-hearted ‘love’ly philosophy of India Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the whole Universe is my Family). Not the one who spreads Hate.
Though he was the popular political leader of the 21st century and also reached the height of becoming a defence minister of the country, Parrikar simply cannot be compared with Bhausaheb Bandodkar or Dr Jack de Sequeira. Parrikar was very intelligent, but he was not an Intellectual. He was a very good conversationalist, but not an Orator. Parrikar was an amazing financial manager, but not an Economist. He was a master strategist in politics, but not a Statesman. Parrikar was a meticulous planner, but not a Visionary. No policy decision could be marked to his credit that revolutionised Goa, like what Bhau Bandodkar implemented or Dr Sequeira fought for. He certainly has to his credit for building world-class infrastructure in terms of roads or bridges and also introducing financial schemes for different underprivileged sections of society, but not beyond what could be termed as freebies. In that sense, it was apt to name the Canacona bypass after him or tomorrow name the Zuari bridge after him. But nothing beyond that, and certainly not a lighthouse like an international airport.
INDIA’S AIRPORT NAMES
There are 30 international and 72 domestic airports presently operational all over India. Only a handful among them are named after some personalities. Before discussing who else could be considered to name the Mopa international airport, let us have a look at the names of different airports in the country, domestic or international. Largely, they could be divided into four different categories.
We have airports named either after Godly figures or spiritual leaders of different faiths, like Maryada Purushottam Shriram(Ayodhya), Swami Vivekanand (Raipur), Sheikh ul-Alam (Srinagar), Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji (Nanded), Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee (Amritsar) and Kushok Bakula Rimpochee (Ladakh).
There are airports named after some Rajas and Maharajas like Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (Mumbai), Maharana Pratap (Udaipur), Raja Bhoj (Bhopal), Devi Ahilya Bai Holkar (Indore), Chhatrapati Rajaram Maharaj (Kolhapur) and Maharaja Bir Bikram (Agartala) etc.
We also have great leaders of India’s independence movement, some of whom established real democratic rule in the country soon after independence. They include Birsa Munda (Ranchi), Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose (Kolkata), Shaheed Bhagat Singh (Chandigarh), Veer Savarkar (Port Blair), Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (Nagpur), Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (Ahmedabad), Lal Bahadur Shastri (Varanasi) and Jay Prakash Narayan (Patna).
Like how Parrikar’s name is figured today, some political regimes have also managed to name some airports after their party leaders who have been the prime ministers or chief ministers. But there are not more than five. Indira Gandhi (Delhi), Rajiv Gandhi (Hyderabad), Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi (Guwahati), Chaudhary Charan Singh (Lucknow) and Biju Patnaik (Bhubaneshwar). Do we need to follow this legacy?
THE FIRST CHOICE
No matter what you name the Mopa airport, ultimately it would be called Goa International Airport worldwide because Goa is a brand name. But if this government wants to establish its image as the government of the downtrodden, then it should act contrary to Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. After building the Taj Mahal, he chopped the hands of all the artisans so that they could never ever build another monument like this.
Contrary to this, the Narendra Modi government could very well honour those poor and underprivileged people, who sacrificed their land, their homes and their dreams for the Mopa airport. The Dhangar community of Mopa. The shepherds, who – coincidentally – are also the Almighty Gods worshipped by both the principal communities of Goa: Lord Krishna and Lord Jesus, Gaulli (गवळी)! Dhangar Airport, Mopa, Goa!!
But, if naming after a personality is a must, then only one such towering personality of international repute could be thought of. The real pride of Goa. Dr Tristão Braganza Cunha. The only Goan who was honoured with a Gold Medal by the World Peace Council, within six months of his sad demise in September 1958. The only world leader honoured posthumously in 1959, from among the nine personalities from France, Czechoslovakia, Soviet Union, Romania, Lebanon, Chile and Canada, along with the Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organisation.
Dr Cunha, known popularly as TB Cunha, was just not one of the freedom fighters Goa had. Born in a family of nationalists, he was the son of Ligorio da Cunha, the editor of a journal O Nacionalisto and brother-in-law of Dr Luis de Menezes Braganza, known as Tilak of Goa. In defiance of the unrealistic Portuguese education, he studied French in the then French colony of Pondicherry, acquired a degree of electrical engineer from Sorbonne University of Paris but returned to his homeland at the age of 35, leaving behind his bright career, with the sole dream of ‘Free Goa’. His colleagues in Paris in those days included eminent French writer Henri Barbusse, Romain Rolland who introduced to Europe the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekanand and Ramkrishna Paramhans, Chou En Lai who then became the first Prime Minister of China and Ho Chi Minh, a nationalist revolutionary leader who became the President of North Vietnam. He also joined hands there with Indian historian, novelist and statesman Sardar K M Panikkar, who later gave a title to TB – the Father of Goan Nationalism.
Giving up the aristocratic lifestyle and adopting Gandhian way of life after his return, he initiated Goa’s freedom movement in 1928 by founding Goa Congress Committee and joined hands with Motilal Nehru-led Indian National Congress. He not only championed the cause of liberation from the Portuguese but took up ground-level issues like freeing the Goan Kunbis (tribals) who were enslaved at Assam tea plantations as bonded labour or raising relief fund to rebuild the houses of hundreds of poor people from Salcete and Mormugao, which were destroyed due to earthquake.
When Dr Rammanohar Lohia raised a flag of civil disobedience in Goa on 18 June 1946, Dr TB was the first one to be tried by the Portuguese military court and deported to Portugal for staging Satyagraha and mobilising the masses. When he was released as a part of general amnesty in 1950 but was kept under surveillance of secret police of Lisbon, he managed to escape to France and then to India, not to sit quietly but mobilise the Goan youth in Bombay by forming Goa Action Committee and starting a journal Free Goa. His booklet ‘Denationalisation of Goans’ became the Bible of Goa’s freedom movement which lit sparks in the hearts of Hindus and Christians, who were influenced by his nationalist approach and exposure of the anti-national behaviour of ‘Portuguese Goans.’ A real humanist beyond ideologies of isms, he was, and is, idolised by all – the democrats, Gandhians, Socialists, Communists and even the leaders of right-wing organisations like the RSS.
Sadly, such a towering personality of national and international repute has been completely ignored by the rulers of post-liberated Goa. Even his mortal remains were brought to Goa 30 years after liberation and today we have only one monument with his remains at the Azad Maidan in Panaji. The life of such a ground-to-the-earth man, a strong proponent of Konkani in spite of being a French and Portuguese scholar, a street fighter and not a mere armed-chaired writer, a thinker, a visionary needs to be highlighted proudly by the Government of India, to the whole world, not only by naming the international airport after him but setting up a gallery at the airport of the writings by and on him. A real role model of propounding the Indian philosophy Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam!