Goa is one of the most beautiful states in India. It is known for its beautiful beaches, openness, and its unique culture. Today Goa receives a massive number of tourists, who enjoy its beauty and hospitality, but very rare people know how the state of Goa which now breathes an air of independence got free? How it snatched freedom from the clutches of the Portuguese?
In this article, we will try to explain the circumstance under which Goa attained freedom, and the sacrifices of few unsung heroes, which is yet to be heard and appreciated by masses.
It was started in 1946 when India was preparing to free herself from the shackles of the British Raj, Goa was engaged in a brutal fight with the other enemy, Portugal.
Here it is important to note that the Portuguese were among the very first to colonize several parts of India and they were the last to leave. India gained independence on 15 August 1947, whereas, Goa got its freedom on 19 December 1961. India was then on the verge of getting independence, but it took whole 14 long years for the Portuguese to leave Goa.
Goa was reeling under the brutal oppression of the Portuguese for centuries
Portuguese entered Goa in 1510, and they ruled Goa for nearly 450 years, and their primary objective was to utilize the natural resources of Goa and to capitalize on its geostrategic location. At the same time, they were suppressing the local Konkani language and making arrangements to promote their languages among the locals. In 1540, they started the bloodiest period of inquisition and persecution of Hindus and Goan Catholics. This ordeal keeps ongoing for several centuries.
In 1932, the Portuguese dictator Antonio Salazar started ruling Goa, and then he made things only worse. He denied the basic civil liberties like the right to speech, assembly, and press to the local people. People were not allowed to follow their customs, speak their mother tongues and even simple things like their marriage invitation cards were censored.
How this freedom movement started?
Very few people know that the first blow for Goa’s liberation from the Portuguese in 1961 was struck on 18 June 1946 by famous freedom fighter Ram Manohar Lohia.
On 18th June, we celebrate the Goa Revolution Day, which is considered one of the most important parts of Goan history. On 18th June 1946 at Margao, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia, and Dr Julião Menezes initiated the civil disobedience movement against Salazar’s dictatorial rule. These two leaders were primarily responsible for initiating a revolutionary movement, which eventually got Goa her civil liberties that had been taken away by the Portuguese ruler. They lit the torch of the freedom movement which resulted in Goa’s liberation on 19th December 1961.
Post Independence movement of Goan Freedom
In 1949, the Indian government sent a delegation to Portugal to negotiate with the Portuguese government about their withdrawal from Goa. Portuguese government was so adamant that it refused to even discuss the matter. By 1953, the Indian mission was closed and diplomatic relations between the governments were conducted through intermediaries only.
On 21 July 1954, the United Front of Goans forced the Portuguese to retreat from the colonial enclave of Dadra, a small landlocked territory bordering Nagar Haveli. Volunteers from the National Movement Liberation Organisation (NMLO), an umbrella organization involving revolutionary groups Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Azad Gomantak Dal, led an attack on Nagar Haveli on 28 July 1954 and took it on 2 August.
Portuguese dictator Salazar defended his position in a speech presented to the Portuguese National Assembly on November 30, 1954. He declared that ” The extension of Indian sovereignty to include Goa is not a prospect opened up by, or anticipation of, the evolution of history; it is a political goal which India’s present leaders suppose it their duty to achieve in order to fulfill their mission…It is always historical facts, and not geographical outline, that fixes frontiers, institute rights and imposes sovereignties….For the Indian Union to claim to turn the clock of history back to the 15th century, to come forward now and make out that she already existed potentially at that time, or to set herself up as the rightful heir of those whom we found holding sway there, is a fancy of static dreamers; it is not for the dynamic shapers of history that the men who received an empire from England want to be”.
On other hand, the Indian Government did not immediately assimilate these enclaves into the Indian Union. The government kept these enclaves as an independent state, which were managed by the Varishta Panchayat of Free Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
The successful annexation of Dadra and Nagar Haveli provided the newfound synergy and vigor to the Goa anti-colonial movement. On 15 August 1954, thousands of people crossed the Portuguese Goan borders, defying a ban by the Indian government on participating in Satyagrahas. The Portuguese responded to the action by injuring and fatally shooting many Satyagrahis.
The Portuguese responded to the Satyagrahas, which continued throughout 1955, by sealing Goa’s borders in an attempt to curb the growing support for the movement. By 1955, the Indian government had developed a clear policy on Portuguese Goan territory, which supported the anti-colonial movement. Between 1955 and 1961, six political parties were formed to advocate for an end to Portuguese colonial rule. These parties included Azad Gomantak Dal, Rancour Patriota, the United Front of Goans, Goan People’s Party, Goa Liberation Army and Quit Goa Organisation
India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on July 26, 1955, in an address to the Indian Parliament, the Lok Sabha, said ” Although it does not require that anything should be said in justification of our claim to Goa, I shall, nevertheless, venture to mention a few facts…There is, of course, the geographical argument. The Portuguese Government claims that Goa is a part of Portugal. That remark is so illogical and absurd that it is rather difficult to deal with….It has no relation to facts…I am not going into the old history of the Portuguese possession of Goa, but I think many members will remember that this history is a very dark chapter of India’s history”.
India’s final assault
In 1961, India proclaimed that Goa should join India “either with full peace or with full use of force”. In August 1961, India began military preparations, and, following Nehru’s announcement on 1 December 1961, that India would not remain silent in relation to the Goan situation, Indian troops were strategically stationed close to the Goan border.
After the failure of diplomacy with the Portuguese, PM Nehru ordered the Indian Armed Forces to take Goa by force. In a military operation conducted on 18 and 19 December 1961, Indian troops captured Goa with little resistance. The governor-general of Portuguese India signed an instrument of surrender.
That’s the story of immense valor and sacrifice by our people, who fought hard to get the freedom from Portuguese dictatorship. I hope you will like this story and share this with your friends.