Panaji: The controversy surrounding popstar Remo Fernandes’s Portuguese nationality has taken centre-stage in Goa, a state which almost shares a symbiotic identity with its musical icon.
Known for his activism, music and his inimitable Bollywood background scores, Remo, hit his first controversial note earlier this month after he was booked for allegedly verbally molesting a minor girl while she was recuperating in hospital, following a motor vehicle accident involving the singer’s son on 1 December.
But dogged investigation by the victim’s lawyer Aires Rodrigues, which has now revealed that Remo adopted Portuguese citizenship in 1993, has shocked Goa.
Friends and well-wishers of the musician now ask how Remo could have joined the Aam Aadmi Party, an Indian political outfit or even accept the Padma Shri award in 2007, if he was a Portuguese national.
“Remo, you can go to Portugal or any other place for all I care. But don’t give lectures on politics to us anymore. Your commitment to social issues has been exposed completely,” says Samir Kelekar an Indian Institute of Technology-Mumbai alumnus, who works as a cyber-security expert.
Goa was a former colony of Portugal for 451 years, right up to 1961, when the Indian army liberated the state. Portuguese law allows Goans whose parents and grandparents were born in Portuguese-held Goa to 'claim' what was once theirs.
A Portuguese passport and nationality allows those Goans who get it to get jobs in Europe without the need for a work visa provides ease of passage in the Western world allowing visa free entry in almost 178 countries and has been major out-migration route chosen by Goa’s native residents, including many creative professionals.
Remo, currently holidaying in Europe, has been communicating with the media and his fans via email and Facebook since the controversy broke out.
Speaking to Firstpost, the musician called the campaign against him fake.
“The accusations are all false, a total distortion and fabrication of the facts,” Remo said.
He also claims there is nothing embarrassing about accepting the nationality of another country.
“Yes, I have taken Portuguese nationality after duly surrendering my Indian nationality, but I have an OCI Card, which makes me an Overseas Citizen of India. This is something I have never hidden,” Remo said on Wednesday, even as the police have issued two summons and a lookout notice.
A third warrant is in the process of being served to Remo via the Indian Embassy in Lisbon according to V Gupta Superintendent of Police in-charge of the Foreigners Regional Registration Office.
But questions like how the musician, as a foreign national, could have accepted a Padma Shri, where an awardee’s background is mandatorily screened by the Intelligence Bureau and local special branch or joined a mainstream political party as a foreign national continue.
“When Remo withdrew suddenly from AAP Goa he gave a heart-rending message as is his wont and turned into an instant hero. Now we know that he was a Portuguese national. Did he confide in his AAP comrades with this information? In either case, shame on him and on those who put his trust on him,” says Dr Francisco Colaco, a medical practitioner as well as an accomplished musician.
“Yesterday was a historic day for me: For the very first time in my life, I joined a political party. Because, for the first time in my life, I believe in a political party. The Aam Admi Party,” Remo had said after joining the AAP in December 2013, ahead of the General Election.
When asked if Remo’s nationality had been discussed at the time he was inducted AAP state convenor Rajashree Nagarsekar told Firstpost: “He had joined and later on he quit... Remo never told us about his nationality”.
Goan by origin, Remo, lives in the idyllic village of Siolim, 25 km north of Panaji. He is a cult-figure in Goa who first rose to fame in the 1970s and 1980s by lending his music and songs to several popular movements which dealt with social issues like making Konkani Goa's official language.
But for now, Rodrigues wants Remo to return the Padma Shri.
“Remo Fernandes who has lost all moral authority to continue holding the title of Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award conferred on him by the President of India in 2007,” Rodrigues says.
The author is a Goa correspondent for the Indo-Asian News Service
Updated Date: Dec 25, 2015 11:11:05 IST