Today 25th November is late Chandrakant Keni’s 83rd birth anniversary. Chandrakant Keni as an icon of the Konkani movement and the Opinion Poll dedicated his life to draw the country’s attention to his native language. If Goa has retained some separate identity, a considerable credit goes to the determined hard work behind the scenes by Goa’s great son Chandrakant Keni.
In his death on 3rd February 2009 our Goa lost a very distinguished son. The very articulate and versatile Chandrakant Keni never retired. He always had that zeal and determination to keep going. Besides being a distinguished journalist, he was an outstanding writer who penned in Konkani, Marathi, Hindi and English. His writings were thought provoking and his language was simple, clear and comprehensible to the Aam Aadmi. The very humble, unassuming and outspoken. Chandrakant Keni even in his last few years despite his very failing health was always on the move with passion and a resolve.
A very staunch Gandhian, Chandrakant Keni’s nationalist stirrings began at the tender age of 14 when he made his first public speech at the immersion of Gandhi’s ashes at Colva in South Goa. Later over the years, he proved to be one of the finest speakers of his time.
I had the opportunity to first interact with the very knowledgeable and resourceful Chandrakant Keni in January 1979 during the student agitation in Goa for 50% bus concession. Our relationship later strengthened over the years.
Chandrakant Keni had cautioned that Hindi will not become the national language if it tries to bypass regional languages. He asserted that regional languages in India would have to play a dominant role in evolving Hindi as a national language. He had also stated that Hindi will not be a world language unless and until it receives its due place and dignity in its homeland, and opined that it should expand its horizons beyond the North Indian region in order to reach the status of a world language. He was of the opinion that Hindi strengthen itself with the help of all regional languages of the country and assured Konkani’s fullest co-operation in that regard.
Dedicated to the cause of Konkani literature and in particular to the Konkani movement, Chandrakant Keni played a pivotal role to get our language recognition of the Sahitya Akademi. While encouraging several young writers, he is today credited with creating a league of successful established writers.
Chandrakant Keni had firmly asserted that Goans owed it to themselves to preserve their unique culture while lamenting the Goa government’s uncoordinated educational and industrial policy which attracted immigrants from other states and they making Goa their permanent abode. “This is gradually reducing the local population to a minority and diluting the linguistic and cultural identity of Goa,” he had warned. He was very persistent that Goans outside Goa should integrate and participate in the development and future of their land.
In 2001 when Chandrakant Keni was appointed as Chairman of Goa’s NRI Cell, he got Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to appoint me as Vice-Chairman, a government post I flatly declined to accept as I was fighting against various illegalities of the government. Chandrakant Keni was very upset but he accepted my decision to decline that post.
Over the years whenever we met we had a very good and frank exchange of views with his advice and guidance being very invaluable. Though we had a 25 year age difference we understood and respected each other’s views. Chandrakant Keni was a very caring person always very concerned about me. He often tried to coax and motivate me to enter politics. He was persistent though he may have been fully aware that he was talking to a brick wall on that issue.
I always held Chandrakant Keni in the highest esteem and respect while those memories of our interactions on various topics and issues concerning Goa will forever be cherished. I was blessed to have known the very outstanding Goan gentleman Chandrakant bab Keni. A very sincere and dedicated true Goenkar he always was.