There’s new research on conversions to Christianity in early modern Goa and it focuses on the eager uptake of Christianity among upper-caste natives. I am not sharing its arguments here because it hasn’t been published in the public domain yet. But when it will come out, some of these misconceptions about force and conversion will be addressed.
First of all, it’s a misconception that Inquisition was targeted at Hindus. It primarily targeted Jews, Muslims, and newly converted Christians. Two upper-caste merchants, Timoja Nayak and Mhal Pai Vernekar, invited Afonso de Albuquerque to invade the island of Goa which was then under the Bijapur Sultanate rule. There are records of people moving and migrating towards the south even before the arrival of the Portuguese (Ref: Parobo, Parag. India’s First Democratic Revolution. 2015).
Moreover, communities that claim this victimhood of persecution by the Portuguese collaborated with the Portuguese colonial state throughout their stay in Goa. They secured administrative employment, got land transferred into their names, and accumulated private property. They continue to hold on to most of these privileges to date. Goa’s integration with the Indian Union never dented the wealth and power accumulated by them.
What is evident from Nayak and Pai Vernekar’s collaboration with Albuquerque is they pushed the rest of the Goan communities under colonial subjugation for four centuries to safeguard their narrow trading interests.
The Goan Bahujans were robbed of their land, forced into feudal servitude, kept away from opportunities of acquiring knowledge, and also sexually exploited by the same upper caste communities. But it is somehow they were the victims of this persecution by the colonial state.
Every day I resist writing about Goan history because social media isn’t the right platform to bring academic nuance to any discussion. But when you see 20-year-old chintus flaunting their WhatsApp history lessons to claim some mythical persecution, I wonder what my forefathers should have done to the people who subjugated and exploited them more closely than the Portuguese state? What files (or folios) should we open to look for the continuous exploitation of Goa’s labouring castes by its feudal elite?