Heritage and History

Portuguese Goa becomes part of India

Hari Desai Wednesday 04th November 2020 05:34 EST

 Despite US sided with Lisbon, Nehru sent army to liberate
 Krishna Menon and General PN Thapar must get due credit
Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru fulfilled the dream of his Deputy Prime Minister Sardar Vallbhbhai Patel eleven years after his death by sending defence forces to liberate Goa following failure of diplomatic attempts. The military operation was set to be conducted from 18 December 1961. Taking the Portuguese by force, the & armed action;, code named & Operation Vijay (meaning Victory) involved strikes by Indian Navy, Airforce, and Army for over 36 hours.

In 1961, the Indian army invaded the state after the Portuguese fired at Indian fishing boats, killing one fisherman. After 36 hours of air, sea and land strikes by the army, General Manuel Antonio Vassalo e Silva, governor-general of Goa, signed the “instrument of surrender”, handing over Goa territory to India. Today Goans remember and offer tribute to even Dipaji Rane as one of the very first freedom fighter who revolted against the Portuguese on 26 January 1852.

While India gained independence on August 15, 1947, Goa was still mouldering under 450 years of the Portuguese rule. The Portuguese were among the first ones to colonise parts of India and refused to give up their hold over Goa, Daman, and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli even post Indian independence. Although the liberation movement began early in the 20th century itself, it gained momentum in the 1940s, drawing inspiration from the Indian independence movement. Following an array of unsuccessful talks and diplomatic attempts with the Portuguese, military intervention was considered to be the only option by the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Indian troops reclaimed the Goan territory with little to no resistance and forced General Manuel Antonio Vassalo e Silva to sign the certificate of surrender, thus ending 451 years of the exploitative rule of the Portuguese over the territory on 19 December 1961. While Indians celebrated their victory, the move received a mixed response from the international communities. Though many praised the move and stood by India, many others including Portugal condemned the &;invasion; of Goa by the Indian troops. 19 December commemorates the freeing of Goa from Portuguese rule by the Indian Armed Forces and the complete independence of the Indian subcontinent. It is termed as;Goa Liberation Day &  Libia Lobo Sardesai, a 90 plus lawyer, tells Supriya Vohra, an independent journalist based in Goa: “After India got independence in 1947, I joined the Goan Youth League. I always had a fire for Goa's freedom in me. After 1955, due to the economic blockade, Goans had no access to any outside news or information. It became imperative to expose Portuguese propaganda through a clandestine method which took the shape of an underground radio programme ( like Usha Mehta’s 1942 Radio). Vaman Sardesai (to whom she later married) and I started the station, broadcasting every morning and evening in Portuguese and Konkani (the local language). The Voice of Freedom station was run from forests bordering Goa between November 1955 and December 1961. It boosted the morale of Goan people.”

“It was not an easy life for us, but we were committed to our cause. We did not know how long we would have to go on - all we knew was that we must keep giving Goans information and inspiration. The Portuguese army was not happy, and they tried to track us down. Thankfully, they couldnt. On 15 December 1961, India's then defence minister, Krishna Menon, used our programme to send a message to the Portuguese army to negotiate. We repeated the message every hour throughout the next day. The Indian army entered Goa when they received no response from the Portuguese.”

A series of events during Goa liberation movement made India to take a violent stand. From 1954, peaceful Satyagrahis attempts from outside Goa at forcing the Portuguese to leave Goa were brutally suppressed by Portuguese forces. Many revolts were quelled by the use of force and leaders eliminated or jailed, innocent villagers were also open fired by the Portuguese forces. As a result, India broke off diplomatic relations with Portugal, closed its Consulate-General in Panjim. India also imposed an economic embargo against the territories of Portuguese Goa. The Indian Government had taken the issues to global forums but Portuguese was refuted to abide any international resolutions. The then PM Nehru found the policy of patience and adherence to international ethics had not yielded results, and he decided to free Goa by force. On 16 August 1962, United Nations issues official notification that Goa, Daman & Diu had become part of India.

Of course, these days controversies are also raised about why Goa liberation was delayed. “Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru's ‘wrong’ policies not only led to prolonging of the vexed Jammu and Kashmir problem, but also delayed the liberation of Goa from Portuguese yoke”, the present Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and a BJP leader Shivraj Singh Chouhan claimed while campaigning for his party in Goa. Even Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, a young BJP leader, unlike his late predecessor Manohar Parrikar, sparked a controversy after he blamed India’s first Prime Minister Nehru for having delayed Goa’s liberation which resulted in the state being freed from the Portuguese rule 14 years after the rest of the country. But Gurunath Kelekar, a freedom fighter, retorts the claims. He says: “It’s half-truth that Goa liberation got delayed due to Nehru. Nehru did not favour armed action to liberate Goa. He was trying to persuade USA. But when USA sided with Portugal, he sent army to liberate Goa.”

Even Damodar Mauzo, a well-known writer who as one of the witnesses to see the Indian Army marching through Margoa’s streets, says, “CM’s immature statement needs to be condemned by all. The Sangh Parivar has always been degrading Nehru.” According to the Indian Navy website, on 19 December 1961, the Indian Armed Forces, liberated the state from the Portuguese and the deposed Governor General of Portugal in India, Manuel Antonio Vassalo e-Silva surrendered to the then Chief of Army Staff General Pran Nath Thapar. Incidentally, both Krishna Menon and General Thapar are blamed for the 1962 Chinese debacle but hardly are mentioned as heroes who liberated Goa from Portuguese to make it part of India!

Mrudula Sinha, a BJP leader who as Goa Governor had sent a beautiful message on Goa Liberation Day in 2018: “ Goa being a land of unique scenic beauty is well known for its tourist attractions. It is therefore, no wonder that tourist from all walks of life flock in lakhs every year to this tiny but picturesque land. Although it is one of the smallest states in India, Goa offers an abundance of places to visit as per each ones need. Goa offers a variety of beaches to suit any holiday style, temples, churches and historical places etc. Whether the priority is relaxation, partying or experiencing culture, Goa has everything that is needed to satisfy all its visitors all round the year. Goa is located in the western region of India. It is traditionally known as a tourist paradise for its natural scenery, unique beaches and cultural diversity.”

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