Konkanian Origin of the 'East Indians'

© Prakash John Mascarenhas, Bombay, India. Originally this text was part of a letter to an "East Indian."
When we met, we also discussed the "East Indians" and I was trying to tell you that they were originally also Konkani. You misunderstood me to mean that they were originally Goans, which is not the case.

According to Indian history, India is organized into 'desas' or countries, altogether which make up the whole of India. One of these desas is the Konkan, which begins at the Narmada and ends at the Gangaveli rivers, with the Sahyadri and the Arabian Sea providing its eastern and western limits. That includes Bombay, Vasai, Thana, the Salsette Islands, New Bombay, etc., besides the present Indian state or province of Goa and the tracts of Karwar, Supa and Halyal, which are south of this Goa territory and the tracts of Sawantwadi, Kankavali, Kudal, Malvan, Vengurla, etc., where a variety of Konkani dialects are still spoken. Another place where a variety of Konkani dialects are still spoken are the Dangs, presently in the province of Gujarat and the Vasava tract divided distributed in south Gujarat, the Thane district of Maharasthra province and the territory of Dadra & Nagar Haveli.

Again according to history, the peoples of the Konkan were the Konkani and spoke that language. This language evolved, along with Maharasthri, the predecessor of Marathi, from Prakrit. Konkani has since remained nearly static, while Maharasthri has further evolved into Marathi. The homeland of the Marathi is what they call the Desh: the Pune and Marathwada divisions of the present Maharashtra. The first time the Marathi immigrated into the Konkan was when following the conquest of Deonagar by Allauddin Khilji, a brother and survivor of the Yadava emperor of Deonagar by the name of Bhima settled in Mahikawati, modern Mahim, and made it his new capital. This was shortlived, as the Arab Sultanate of Gujarat soon conquered it, before it was in turn conquered by the Portuguese. Under Portuguese rule, when the population adopted Christianity, the native Konkani people, with some admixture of Marathi settlers, spoke a dialect of the Konkani language mixed in with Portuguese.

Following the Maratha conquest of the Portuguese holdings around Bombay, which the Portuguese by this time had ceded to England, the native Konkani people, who by this time spoke a Konkani with some Portuguese loan words, were forced by their new lords to learn their language: Marathi. This produced a more confused blend of Konkani, Portuguese and Marathi, but in reality neither. Again, the Marathas were defeated by the English, and the newly liberated native people of this tract, renamed themselves as the "East Indians" in honour of the English East India Company, their new lords and liberators from the tyranny of the Hindu Marathas! By the way, there was never any Portuguese East India Company: only an English, a Dutch and a French East India Company.

These "East Indians" apparently, have no historical origin. They are not original Marathi, and do not remember their history of being originally Konkani. If they will reject their Konkani history, on what basis can they justify their existence? They have no historical roots here, for this is the land of the Konkan and there are migrant communities of Marathi and Gujarati settled in it. So, if these "East Indians" are neither, from where did they come?

Again, this name of "East Indians" is a misnomer. The name "East Indians" actually refers to any and all the Indian peoples collectively, and by ALL the Indians collectively, I mean not only those of the English East Indian Empire, but also the other East Indias: Portuguese and Spanish, French, Dutch and Danish, besides the territories which managed to remain independent. If you go abroad to Europe or Africa or the Americas, which was once entirely called the West Indies, any person from the East Indies is called an East Indian. So, a Marathi can say, "Yes, I am East Indian, but I am a Marathi East Indian," while the Konkani can describe himself as a Konkani East Indian and so forth, but how will the "East Indians" describe themselves? As "East Indians" East Indians?

The name Goa and Goan is also wrong. Goa is properly the name of a city, now dead, which was the first place there that they conquered and from which they had spread into the neighbouring districts. As such, the name is being mistakenly used for all the people who were being ruled from that city and later from the New Goa city, now called Ponje by the Konkani and Panaji by the Marathi. In the like manner, the English territories that grew out of their possessions of Bombay and Madras came to be called as the Bombay and Madras Presidencies. And in the same manner, a person from Sindh or Gujarat or Poona or Karwar or Ratnagiri would object to being called a Bombaywalla, and a person from Vizag or Nellore or Rajamundry or Mangalore would object to being called a Madrasi, in like manner the person from a Bardesh, Shasti, Ponda, Pernem, etc., or for that matter, Daman, Diu or Dadra & Nagar Haveli would object to being called Goan.

Instead the correct name for us is the Konkani. We are the Konkani people.

You may ask, what has all this got to do with us today and our duty of witnessing Christ to our pagan brethren, especially since it distracts and divides peoples on an ethnic basis.

God has created all the nations and set the limits of their homelands. Every nation, just as every individual has the God given right to existence and self-development in pursuit of the ends for which God has made man. This is true of the Marathi as well as of the Konkani nations. Now it is a fact that the Marathi and the Gujarati nations have wronged the Konkani nation by stealing their lands, but that is not all. They have the effrontery to behave as if it is they who are the original owners and we the aliens, and they accordingly degrade us and deny us our rights. We must abandon our language and culture for theirs. All these injustices are just cause for us to rise up and to agitate by peaceful and by violent means to restore justice and the Konkani nation and its homeland in the entirety of its historical lands. This is my cause.

I do not believe that we should rise up if we were not mistreated and robbed of our rights and our lands, if these Marathi and Gujarati colonialists and imperialists would be satisfied with the status quo. But it is precisely that they are not satisfied and want more, precisely the entire elimination of the Konkani nation in its remnant lands of the Vasava and Dangs and in the Malvan - Vengurla - Kankavli - Kudal - Sawantwadi tract, Goa and the Far South tract of Karwar, Supa and Halyal.
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