‘Goa’ a tiny emerald on the western coast of India known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’, ‘a Tourist Paradise’ is celebrating its 58th Liberation Day on 19 December 2019. It gives me immense pleasure to recall that old glory story and salute the innumerable martyrs who laid their lives and also others who toiled tirelessly through their life to liberate our mother land from the shackles of Portuguese Colonisation. The Portuguese, colonised India in 1510 conquering Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadar Nagar Haveli and Anjadiva Island.
Mesmerised by the beauty and wealth of Goa, the Portuguese conquered Tiswadi in 1510 and Bardez and Salcete in 1543. These three talukas were known as Velhas Conquistas (Old Conquests). The other talukas like Pernem, Sanquelim, Ponda, Quepem, sanguem and Canacona were known as the Novas Conquistas (New Conquests) as the Portuguese conquered them subsequently during the second half of the 18th century. To administer these talukas, the Portuguese promulgated a charter of uses and customs which the people of Gos had to follow. The civil liberties of the people were banned. There was no freedom of press and no freedom of forming any political party except ‘Uniao National’. The Goans perceived these policies as brutal & relentless. A number of revolts took place like the Rane Revolt, Pinto Revolt, the Cuncolim uprising etc. The failure of these uprisings to affect meaningful change was attributed to the lack of broad, active support base and their localised nature.
A number of organisations and political parties emerged in Goa, each having a conflicting agenda and perspective in relation to achieving Goan Independence and autonomy. At this time itself, Luis de Menezes Braganca founded ‘O Heraldo’ the first Portuguese language Newspaper which was critical of Portuguese colonial rule. Dr. T.B. Cunha also established the Goa Congress Committee to free Goa and integrate her with India.
In 1930, Portugal passed the ‘Acto Colonial’ which restricted political rallies and meetings within all Portuguese Colonies. People were fuming with anger and a spark was needed to ignite them. This spark came from Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, a renowned freedom fighter in India’s freedom struggle. He started the first Civil Disobedience movement on 18th June 1946 by defying a ban on public meetings imposed by the Portuguese Government. This resulted in large scale arrests and incarceration of over 1500 people. For the first time in Goan history, women participated in the freedom struggle in a big way. From 1946 a series of Satyagrahas were held in Goa.
India got its independence from the British rule on 15th August 1947 but Goa was still under the Portuguese rule. A petition was sent to Dr. Salazar to grant autonomy to Estado da India. But it failed to provoke a response from the Govt. In January 1948 another attempt was made by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to integrate Goa into the Indian Union but the Portuguese who valued their strategic Indian Colonial outposts were unwilling to negotiate. Subsequently an attempt was made by India attempted to persuade the Portuguese to leave India peacefully through the UN.
On 15th August 1954, the national Congress Goa launched its first Satyagraha. The Portuguese responded by infuriating Satyagrahis and fatally shooting many Satyagrahis. Between 1955 to 1961 many political parties were formed. In 1961, India declared that Goa should join India “Either in peace or with full use of force” and that India would not remain silent in relation to Goan situation. In a military operation known as “Operation Vijay” conducted on 18th and 19th December 1961, Indian troops captured Goa with little resistance. Major General K.P. Candeth hoisted the Indian National Flag at 10:00am on 19th December 1961. On the same day the Portuguese Governor Vasalo e Silva handed over the political power to Indian Government by signing the ‘Instrument of surrender’. This ended the dark chapter of Portuguese Colonialism in India
The Potuguese had opened a new chapter in the history of India as they were the first European power to establish their political authority in the country and they were the last to quit India, not on their own but after a show of force. Their presence of 450 years led to far reaching effects in this region. They had a powerful impact on every aspect of the life of Goans. Today Goa has made progress in every field like Education, Agriculture, Industry etc. yet we are facing numerous problems like corruption, unemployment, poverty, environmental pollution etc. We need to unitedly tackle these problems and prove to the world the worth of Goa’s title, “A PARADISE ON EARTH”.
Pritiva Silva Lobo