The 6th of June 2011 was a very pathetic day for the people of Goa. ‘Pathetic’ because the people of the state were held to ransom by thugs belonging to the BBSM and various political parties supporting it. I call them thugs and bullies because they revel in propagating fear and violence and in all honesty believe that the way to win a debate is to drown out the voices of their opponents. Unfortunately they have to share the honors with the cowards who have allowed them the opportunity to claim victory in the supposedly 90% voluntary bandh.
Who are these cowards? The people in power!!! … indeed. The police!!! …. Most definitely.. Most importantly, the true devils are the various officials of government organisations and other people who chose to cow down to these imaginary crusaders for justice or should I say mother-tongue.
I visited my local branch of the Canara Bank to make a deposit and saw about 15 to 20 customers standing outside. I’m confident about saying customers because most of them were locals from the neighborhood. Being a Monday morning, I resigned myself to a long stand in a queue. Unfortunately on nearing the entrance, the locked grill stopped me in my tracks. On peeking in, saw the staff all comfortably sitting at their desks and was rudely told by the peon “The bank is closed!!! Go Away!!!” Since I’m not one to . , i insisted on speaking to the Manager to know the reason why. After exiting his cabin, he said that some people had come and threatened them to shut shop hence necessitating closure. I informed him that the school next door was functioning without problems and that with over fifteen customers waiting outside, he should have requested for police protection if he had been threatened. He ignored it and said that he couldn’t do anything. Unwilling to give in, I asked for a number of the person in-charge who I could call to to sort things out. I was grudgingly given a number and the bank shutter was pulled down in my face. Call me egoistic but that just got my goat.
On dialing the number +91 832 2232726 and being transferred at-least three times, I was finally able to converse with a Mr. Rajan who listened carefully. He asked me what kind of transaction I wanted to perform. Hearing that it was a deposit and that there were other customers waiting, said that the staff should definitely be able to perform their duties. He asked me to wait and that he would call the Fatorda branch and request them to open their doors. The phone in the manager’s cabin which is near the entrance could be heard to ring but the shutters stayed down even after 5 minutes. Seeing this few individuals in the crowd behind me starting dispersing. I called back three times and got no response. Further despair set into the crowd causing it to grumbling and muttering wither away, leaving me with in the company of an old lady whose age delayed her journey home. Trying one last time to get back in touch, i got lucky. Alas!!! Rajan had left and was not in the office.
An hour later, back home and still in a tizzy, I tried again to get through to Mr. Rajan. Lady luck smiled and he hesitantly said that he was just a clerk and there was nothing he could do. I was given another number +91 832 2232010 which would put me in touch with the Division Manager, a Mr. Satish Naik. A few key taps later, Mr. Naik was patiently listening to my tale of woe. He informed me that they had advised the branches to transact business as usual and to only stop if a possible law and order situation was anticipated. He concluded saying if there were customers outside, the branch should have been doing business and he would sort it out and call me back. Sadly that was the last i heard of him and as they say in Hindi, ‘Kissa katham ho gaya’.
I won’t have been the only one in Goa to face this head on and fail. What’s appalling is that we were allowed to fail by people who could have braced themselves up with our support. People will curse our politicians, our police and say they should have ensured the bandh wasn’t enforced. I’m all for it but we’ve been beating those drums black and blue for quite a while now and the leathers worn out. It’s time to take a different tack.
Thugs and bullies are primarily pack animals and cannot work individually. The best way to checkmate these bullies is to put up a united front and never back down. I salute the owner of ‘Navtara‘ who after requesting police protection once again refused to bow down to these frivolous and illegal demands. Some will say he’s an influential guy who can get protection and hence can take the risk. That statement holds merit too. But what’s to stop us from requesting protection as a collective or ensuring that we protect ourselves. Consider our schools. Most of them were open and students with parents did attend although they closed early. This proves that standing up is possible and that the bandh which was called to show support for the BBSM was a failure.
The thugs and bullies will try their scare tactics during future protests and there might be casualties but remember that “Crudelius est quam mori semper timere mortem” (Seneca the Elder) which translates as “It is crueler to be always afraid of dying than to die.”