Three years have lapsed since the brutal murder of Fr. José Bismarque Desidorio Dias. His killers are still at large.
The judicial process has so far not delivered justice by apprehending any of them, but one cannot help making the observation that one by one, those who stood to gain from having him out of the political and activist equation, are themselves being felled by various forms of incapacitating illness or being forced into political wilderness in a theatre of the absurd. Coincidence? Or Divine Retribution? I wouldn’t like to comment.
A senior politician who positively gloated so callously in the immediate aftermath of Fr. Bismarque’s murder, literally days later: “There is no rule that people should not die. People have to die, no?” is himself plagued by illness and betrayal from within his own ranks.
I guess there is “no rule” that politicians shouldn’t die a political death either. “People have to die, no?”
What would Fr. Bismarque have made of the surreal political impasse Goa has been thrust into? A headless government beset by fractious infighting among coalition partners and among individual MLAs and politicians; a complete absence of any coherent governance? And an impotent opposition? Just when one begins to think it can’t get any worse, it does.
It’s at times like these that I miss the optimism of Fr. Bismarque all the more. It was the strength of his conviction in the innate goodness that we all possess, that no matter how bad things are, it’s never too late to turn things around, that gave me hope, and I’m sure he did to so many of us.
Fr. Bismarque differed from many activists in that he realized the importance of being part of the political and electoral process in order to effect positive change. Not for him the ‘apolitical’ stance. He truly believed it was only possible to change the system from within, by being an active part of it. He didn’t buy into the pessimistic notion that politics necessarily has to be a dirty business, and that it would eventually sully even the most honest, upright man or woman due to the bargains and compromises that would need to be made along the way.
There are many even today who regard his approach as naïve or unrealistic, but given the mess we are in today, I think they might want to tone down their judgment. We have seen the folly of placing our trust and giving our vote to ‘national’ mainstream political parties. Whether one votes one or the other, it makes no difference as the candidates just frog-leap at will across political divides, scorning all of their own fervent electoral promises. And history has shown us that ‘national’ parties of whatever hue or flavour, controlled from on high, don’t really care about Goa’s interests, which always take a distant back seat to the interests of the party or its industrialist cronies.
The new political entrant in the last election, AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) wasn’t given even the benefit of a chance that other parties had been given when they first entered the fray. All sorts of reasoning were put forth in order to withhold a vote to them: “They’re too new and inexperienced” (Well, every party has to begin somewhere. It’s hard to have a track record unless one is first allowed on the track); “They’ll split the vote” (Actually they won’t, not if sufficient voters vote for them); “Beware of them; you don’t know who they are!” (Well, look what you got instead). All Goa has been left to repent at leisure. Whether or not AAP would have delivered is a moot point that could only have been answered if they had been given a chance in the first place. Goa has given third, fourth and fifth chances to absolute scoundrels and turn-coats, but couldn’t give a first chance to AAP. How will we vote the next time round? Will we ever learn?
‘Regional’ parties purporting to uphold ‘Goenkarponn’ sold those same Goenkars down the river in the some of the most shameful melodramatic backroom dealings in Goa’s history.
How different would our socio-political landscape have been had Fr. Bismarque been with us today? Is it pointless to indulge in such an exercise? What is certain is that he would have been actively opposed on all fronts to the various evils Goa’s politician-industrialist nexus has rained down upon us. Not for nothing did he earn the nickname ‘Flying Squad’, for the speed at which he was on hand the moment news of a fresh danger was revealed. Many other activists (and understandably so) focus their energies on a specific cause or geographic area; Fr. Bismarque was quite literally everywhere.
Many scoffed at his Kindness Manifesto as too philosophical, as empty platitudes out of sync with on-the-ground issues. But he was driving at something much deeper, much more revolutionary, which went to the core of our collective mindset. In his Manifesto, rather than another predictable list of promises, the, he was asking us to change, to treat each other, all living beings and the environment with Kindness. He asked us to pledge to “Be Kindness, live Kindness; to be Kind to ourselves, to others and to the environment.”
This strong belief in our inherent limitless capacity for Goodness and Kindness, is something for which I will always remember Fr. Bismarque. And every time I think of him, I shall try to renew the pledge I made during his Cumbarjua campaign trail. If more of us also do this, his legacy will live on. Isn’t this what not just Goa, but the rest of our country and indeed the world needs right now, more than ever?
Can we continue to ignore the reports of Madhav Gadgil, the fate Kerala recently suffered, the micro-plastics in our food chain due to the out-of-control plastic menace everywhere, the stark water shortage staring us in the face (while greedy politicians in the ruling dispensation and in the opposition, and their industrialist cronies attempt to compound the problem even further by restarting mining, which caused our environmental nightmare to start with)? This whole “we-have-to-carry-on-because-jobs-depend-on-it” argument is a spurious one. If any industry from mining to casinos, harms a society or its environment, it should be called into question. We can find creative alternatives to livelihoods; we cannot find alternatives to the water we (and generations after us) need to drink, or the air we breathe, or the soil we grow our crops from. This is what Fr. Bismarque fought for so valiantly, and so should we.
(An edited version of this article was published on 04 November 2018 in my weekend column ‘On the Upbeat’ in the Panorama section of the Navhind Times Goa India)
Sharing a video interview with Fr. Bismarque Dias with me, six years ago:
We will love and remember you forever, Fr. Bismarque! We will never forget you. ❤