Last week, Goans woke up to their newspapers carrying rather uncanny news. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had summoned Goans to eradicate all signs and vestiges of Portuguese rule, and to ‘launch a fresh history’ for Goa.

Commemorating 60 years of liberation from the Portuguese, Sawant recounted that Indians are also memorialising the 75th year of India's Independence. He queried as to what Goa will resemble when India celebrates 100 years of Independence.

Sawant has, in recent years, often accused churches of conversions of the poor in remote areas of Goa. His government hauled a Christian preacher to court accusing him and his spouse of organising forced conversions.

The Court differed with the government. The judges stated: “Citizens can profess and propagate their own religion”. The Bombay High Court in Goa also quashed Section 144 Order against the Christian couple and permitted them to resume their ministry.

The announcement on erasing Portuguese history, and the Court order in favour of Christian ministries have become talking points on the streets of Goa. There has been discontent and frustration at such incongruous statements and actions.

The chatter was not confined to intellectual discourse alone. Christians in village and town parishes expressed resentment over Sawant’s unfounded pronouncements. They had never witnessed their priests indulging in forced conversions or in glorifying Goa’s colonial past from their pulpits. Hindus living in Christian neighbourhoods also raised eyebrows, having experienced decades of peaceful co-existence without fear of being ‘targets’ for conversions.

The CM was ostensibly opening a back-door entry for ‘Hindutva’. With a changing political tide, even some supporters were openly perplexed at Sawant’s political formulation. How, they speculated, would erasure of history reverse contemporary political disarray and shape a new political future for Goa? After all, by now, Goans have lived with four consecutive Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments.

Dr Jason Kieth Fernandes, an anthropologist and researcher at the Centre for Research in Anthropology (CRIA) at ISCTE, Lisbon University Institute, Portugal dissected the chief minister’s intent, “What Sawant is doing, and the statement about Portuguese erasure is not his first such statement to ratchet up the rhetoric against Catholics in the state, who are seen as the living embodiment of Portuguese culture in the state.

“The intention to target Catholics through these statements is not hard to perceive. Sawant repeatedly raises the cry of temples being destroyed in Goa, while promising to rebuild the same temples, knowing that, in popular imagination, many churches are assumed to have been built over destroyed temples”.

Portuguese colonialism, like colonialism anywhere, was inherently erroneous, cruel, and exploitative. Colonisers did not invade countries to bring civilisation or enhanced cultural values as they conceitedly claimed. They colonised other countries solely with a view to plunder, and make economic gains from natural resources.

They also sought to impose and co-opt the local populations into their own culture and imperialist mindsets. Economic exchanges were merely a blueprint to advantage the coloniser economically. Whatever good accrued to the local economy was collateral.

The Portuguese brought in spices, potato, tomato, maize, papaya, peanut, guava, avocado, capsicum, pumpkin, and chilli peppers potato, tomato, maize, papaya, peanut, guava, avocado, capsicum, pumpkin, and chilli peppers potato, tomato, maize, papaya, peanut, guava, avocado, capsicum, pumpkin, from their colonies in South America, and always at cost to the Goan exchequer. These were introduced mainly to benefit the Portuguese.

The Portuguese even enslaved Africans into Goa to work in the Portuguese forts and factories in menial tasks. African soldiers were deployed in territories they controlled along the western Indian Ocean. They worked as domestic helpers and dockyard workers. Enslaved African women served as domestic slaves in Portuguese households and establishments managed by the Portuguese missionaries and nuns.

To expunge Portuguese history entirely, or to even rewrite it, would be to empty a major portion and aspect of history from the educational curriculum. Education on imperial and colonial histories can provide a crucial critique of the wide-ranging cultural and economic inputs built for future generations. It can generate awareness of how and why global inequalities and ideas of 'race' were produced.

Colonial domination not only shapes our ideas about race, but also strongly influences how people think about class, culture, gender, and sexuality.

The Hindu Jan Jagruthi Samithi (HJS) proudly boasts how after 11 successive conferences of the ‘All India Hindu Rashtra Convention’ being held in regularity in Goa for the last 11 years, the question of a Hindu Rashtra has acquired weight not only in India, but globally.

The HJS had openly announced plans to brainstorm on how a film similar to “The Kashmir Files” and “Kerala Story” could be matched with the “Goa Files” citing the Inquisition and other defaults of colonisation. The films on Kashmir and Kerala spewed widespread hate against Muslims. Once-confident Catholics are now dreading the consequences of the HJS project with the Centre and State being backers.

The HJS agenda and Sawant’s opinions about erasing Portuguese history are turning into communal hotbeds. In the past few weeks, Goa has witnessed the rise of Bajrang Dal, the street-front of the Sangh Parivar.

Following verbal clashes over a Madrasa run by the Muslims in the Panchayat of Rumdamol, educational centres intended to upgrade capacities of economically disadvantaged Muslim children have been attacked and shut down. Business establishments of Muslims were rendered inoperative.

Bajrang Dal groups parade the streets with threatening slogans. The pretext for these anti-Muslim rallies and forced closures are, untested allegations that a BJP Panchayat leader was attacked by unknown persons. Police have a role to keep the peace and keep warring factions apart as a neutral entity and by acting swiftly. T

If Goa must live out the myth that it is a place where people live in perfect harmony, there is an urgent need for many of the fault lines that easily allow discrimination and hate to be redrawn.

For peace to hold in Rumdamol, there must be vigorous intervention by the Chief Minister, Chief Secretary, Collector, Sub divisional magistrate, and senior police officials. The District Collector has been approached by the Muslim community to bring about a mediated solution, and urgently activate the Mohalla Committee to facilitate relevant initiatives pertaining to communal, social, law & order related issues. They have dragged their feet and allowed the tensions to go on unabated.

Communal clashes have been so much a part of Indian history. There are lessons to absorb from each. Obliterating negative dimensions of history could mean that today’s youth will live with past lessons unlearnt.

The consequence is that the most dreadful elements of history could repeat themselves. If future generations learn history with fact-filled and analytical interpretations of the past, they can develop visions of an ideal future.

Colonial histories demand to be reported, but not from the perspective of the coloniser-oppressor, nor of contemporary ‘rulers’ who feel inclined towards ‘replacement histories’ that have communal or colonial orientations. If the latter were to happen, history would prompt and promote hate, rather than reverse the negative experiences of conflicts, whether religious or territorial, in century’s bygone that offer no value to the contemporary world.

Ranjan Solomon is a political commentator and a human rights activist. views expressed are the writer’s own.