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Democracy that never was
Teotonio R. de Souza
UK has always proudly claimed that its Magna Charta of 1215 laid the foundation of the
modern democracy. It is on such stupid claims that democracy is based by the politicians who
look for historical foundations for their inventions. At the best it meant a check upon a
medieval autocratic ruler, but there were only some influential barons involved in protecting
their feudal interests.
That was the time when England witnessed its first great strides in its wool industry, and many
barons were looking for creating extensive and reserved pasture lands for sheep grazing. They
took over the properties of small tenants through the laws of enclosures. Freedom to enact
such laws was the quid pro quo for making concessions to the ruler. The tenants who resisted
risked being caught under vagrancy laws or declared outlaws who could be hunted like wild
animals. A sad foundation for democracy, and little has changed since.
As a benevolent aside to minimize the woes of the dislocated small tenants, the enclosures
were used to develop an agro-industry that could provide cheaper food for those who were
reduced to hired labour, without a home of their own and a backyard where they could grow
some fruits and vegetables. This was an early phase of the English industrial revolution that
passed through several other phases. This gradualism permitted the English to minimize the
ugly accompaniments of the ongoing industrialization in the rest of the world.
In Goas past there is a parallel under the Portuguese regime in late 19th century, when the
Ranes joined forces to hit out at the Portuguese regime. As I analysed it some decades back in
the March 1987 issue of Goa Today [], contrary to a well-entrenched
popular belief, translated into folk songs like Farar far zatai ranantu, the Rane rebellions
could hardly be viewed critically as a popular freedom struggle. They conveyed a vicarious
satisfaction of the native Saxtti Brahmin composers of Konkani folk songs which celebrated the
Ranes for their clout to fight back the regime. Something the Saxtti bamonn could not do.
The Catholic elite of Salcete brahmins, fighting for privileges during the liberal politics in Goa,
did make substantial gains and their presence felt, by sending representatives to the
Portuguese parliament, but they were helpless in the face of the occasional use of force and
intimidation by the colonial regime, as described in the Konkani folk songs, such as Luizinha
mojea Luizinh, Abrilache sotraveri (On 17th April) and Stembrache ekvisaveri (On 21st
September) or even the most popular Undra Mojea Mama.
Just like the English barons, the Ranes of Satari were resisting the Portuguese colonial inroads
into their traditional agricultural lands through connivance of the local nadkarnis, and into the
rich teak forests that had become a lucrative attraction to a couple of Anglo-American firms,
which leased the forest areas to sell the teak for the construction of the rail link to Goa, under
guise of developing lands in the New Conquests for growing coffee plantations.
The boiling pot spilled following the Sepoy mutiny, and the Portuguese jurisdiction became a
safe refuge for many a mutineer rebel who were sought by British Indian authorities. Under
such circumstances the Ranes, who had earlier fought for the Portuguese as mercenaries in

distant Ceylon, and closer at home had protected the northern boundaries of Portuguese Old
Conquests against the intrusion of the Marathas, were catapulted by the Salcete composers of
folk songs into freedom fighters.
Democracy is not equivalent to freedoms in any context and on any terms. Europeans usually
attribute the origin of the word democracy to the classical Greeks, but downplay the
prevailing slavery or others deprived from citizenship. Despite such reservations, Athens
continues to be regarded as the home of direct democracy, of the type nowadays exercised
occasionally through referendums.
Such a popular democracy is certainly not wanted by the modern capitalist bourgeoisie. It
prefers a representative democracy, wherein overtly or subtly manipulated elections permit it
to gain control of the resources and the market of a country. That was how the nation-states
came into existence, and nationalism fuelled this tendency increasingly more in the recent
past. The transition from the commercial to industrial, and then to financial capitalism has
adapted the nationalism to new emerging oligarchies.
The slogan rule of the people, by the people and for the people never defined who the
people are. The pretentious British democrats have exhibited well in the latest referendum
about EU their skill in sloganeering. The leading elites are now at a loss to face the
consequences of listening to the people and wish to revert the results by placing the
parliament above the people, a parliament that is just as confused as the bulk of the people.
To conclude, the recent win of Brexit in UK is a perfect revelation of the sophisticated political
farce called Democracy, which considers legitimate and preferable the loot by some oligarchies
and their coopted assistants to the loot by individual dictators or even by the EU institutions
which were denounced by Brexit defenders, who proved to be no more transparent and
honest than those they reviled.