Justice at the Grassroots: A Tribute to Antonio Francisco Fernandes, Leader of Goa’s Tribal Communities. By Cyril Aleixo Fernandes.
The Gavddas (also known as the Kunbis) were the first known settlers in this Land of the Golden Harvest which today goes by the name of Goa. Later settlers took advantage of this peaceful community, usurped their land and refashioned their deities. Today, centuries later, they find themselves on the fringe of Goa’s development, largely excluded from policy-making, and bearing the ill effects of unplanned and unwanted ‘development’.
This is the story of Bab Antonio Francisco Fernandes (1948-2011) of Quelossim, who was born to a life of struggle, and worked steadfastly for the uplift of his village and of Goa’s aboriginal communities. He helped to unite Hindu and Christian Gavddas across Goa, and succeeded in wrestling from the State several benefits for them. His death dismayed the entire tribal population of Goa. This book offers an overview of his life and work.
Two stories intertwine here, one of a determined individual, the other of the subaltern communities of post-colonial Goa still struggling to cope with centuries of disadvantage and discrimination. From this alloy emerges a vision of Goa which doesn’t quite match that of the tourist brochure, or other elitist portraits. This book is dedicated to our indigenous ancestors who gave Goa and the world a marvel of engineering — the khazan — and a wonder of governance — the ganvkari.