“Protect Humanity, Not Community”: Damodar Mauzo
Damodar Mauzo is a Goan short story writer, novelist, and script writer in Konkani language. He was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1983 for his novel Karmelin and the Vimala V. Pai Vishwa Konkani Sahitya Puraskar for his collection of short stories called Tsunami Simon in 2011.
Mauzo has been provided with police security recently, following threats to his life. His open and free thoughts about peace and harmony in the state of Goa have supposedly upset some right-wing groups. An ‘honorary catholic’ as he was once addressed joyfully, Mauzobab (as he is commonly known) has been known to stand by his non-segregating ideology, fearlessly.
The Manipal Journal had an opportunity to interact with the award-winning author on the concluding day of the second edition of Manipal International Literary and Arts Platform (m.i.l.a.p.).
You have been associated with Konkani literature for about five decades now. How do you think the general scenario of literature has changed with time?
If it has come to stay, I’ll look at any change as positive. Given the present-day chaos, if we talk of radical thinkers and writers being targeted, this isn’t a change happening for the better. But then I believe that it isn’t a change that is here to stay. In literature, marking anything as good or bad according to its chronology is wrong. Literature has also changed for the better in multiple ways – like a flowing river, if we allow it to change its course by some small blockage, not stopping it entirely, ultimately it will always find its path.
Thinkers or writers outspoken in their opinions usually receive burning criticism or hatred. What do you think can be done to educate the people who indulge in such public bashing?
As we speak, there are attempts to curb the voice of free thinkers. To this, the writers and the intellectuals should resist. For how we portray ourselves, after receiving threats also influences common people to become more outspoken. Unfortunately, media plays a major role in this, as their minutest reactions have the power to influence free thinking. The truth should remain steady, nothing has the power to change the truth. Since truth has many aspects, one has to write on all the different aspects.
As a writer and a public figure, one holds a lot of responsibility on one’s shoulders. How important do you think such a person’s role is and how can they influence people through their writing?
I believe that once you are accepted by the masses, they tend to follow you. Such a responsibility plays a major role in defining the inclination of the public towards a direction. Right-wing groups try to curb my freedom but I speak out without fear, because I know that if I am correct, no one except I can curb my voice. Today in Goa, we have a very prevalent form of theatre called ‘Tiatr’. Unfortunately, in it too, liberal voices are being curbed, and art is tarnished on the basis of conservation. Truth is truth, and no amount of censoring will mask that. First the writer needs to write freely and honestly. Only then can we expect people to read and react to it in a positive manner. People sometimes are afraid to talk to me, afraid that they too will be blacklisted. Ultimately, if I have chosen to side with the truth, I will abide by it.
In a lot of your interviews, you have said “No one can curb my right to speech.” In this context, why do you think a lot of Sanatani organisations are trying to hide something they themselves claim to not have done?
(Laughs) Exactly! If they wish to kill me, they should face me and then tell me that they wish to do so. Kill me, but tell me ‘I have killed you for a particular purpose’. Sometime ago, Dabholkar (Narendra Dabholkar) was killed, and for what? For serving the community? They actually have no guts to come out and say, yes we have done it. Kalburgi (M. M. Kalburgi) was killed, just because they could not agree with him. According to me, democracy means allowing others to disagree with you, respectfully. These organisations have no idea how to do that.
Goa can be seen as an example of peace and harmony, a unique one, throughout the world. Why do you think these right-wing organisations are adamant on breaking the peace in such a harmonious place?
First of all, these people have absolutely no faith in the constitution of India. Unfortunately for them, we adhere to the constitution to an extent that we only work towards peace and fulfilment. I believe that they are misguided people, mono-cultured to such an extent that they have no tolerance towards the opinion of others. By mono-cultured, I mean that they want one language, one culture – throughout India. If given the chance, they would make whole of the India convert to Hinduism. I agree that Christianity is dominant in Goa and Islamic groups are also present there. People usually ask me that why I only hit out at Hindu right-wing organisations and not any other. I do it because I believe that – if my own house is clean, only then can I clean the houses of others. People in the olden days used to have faith in ‘shastrarth‘ or debating using logic. These people don’t believe in that. All I am saying is that tolerance is primarily required.
Goa Pradesh Congress Committee recently made a statement that said, “Banning Sanatani organisations would prevent killings of free thinkers and writers.” What is your opinion on this?
The people killing free thinkers are right-wing organisations or the Hindutva-promoting people, that is certain. Sanatan Sanstha is one such organisation present in Goa, and in my opinion, is the mother organisation. They are the ones creating divide in Goa. They are the suspected killers of Narendra Dabholkar, M.M. Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh. Although I say that we should not have Sanatan Sanstha in Goa, that will not solve the problem. If we destroy one, they will create another. The important thing, we should pay attention to, is that people are not being misled.
Featured Image Courtesy: Annwesha Shyam
Edited by: Tarush Dhume