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Dr. Tristao De Braganca Cunha

Portrait Unveiled in Parliament of India

The Golden Jubilee of Goa’s Liberation was celebrated in New Delhi by unveiling the Portrait of Dr. Tristao De Braganza Cunha, who is considered as the Leader of the Goan Freedom Movement, in the Central Hall of Parliament at the hands of the Hon’ble Speaker of the Lok Sabha and in the distinguished presence of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Leader of the Opposition, UPA Chairperson and other Dignitaries on December 19, 2011 at 10.00 A.M. The portrait has been prepared by Mrs Harshada Kerkar Sonak, well known Goan artiste, who was felicitated by the Hon’ble Prime Minister by offering her traditional shawl.

Later, the Hon’ble Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Hon’ble Chairman of the Rajya Sabha made special references in both Houses of Parliament to the Goan Freedom Movement and its Liberation from the Portuguese rule on 19th December 1961. They were joined by Leaders of all the Political Parties in paying tributes to the Freedom Fighters from across the length and breadth of the country who fought for Goa’s Liberation.

His profile is given below.

Tristão de Bragança Cunha (2 April 1891 – 28 September 1958), alternatively spelled as Tristao de Braganza Cunha, was a prominent Indian nationalist and anti-colonial activist from Goa (then part of Portuguese India). He is popularly known as the “Father of Goan nationalism”, and was the organiser of the first independence movement to liberate Goa from Portuguese rule.

Cunha was born on 2 April 1891 in the village Chandor in Goa. He completed his school education in Panaji and then went to Pondicherry to French College for his B.A. and then to Paris. There he studied at the Sorbonne University and obtained a degree in electrical engineering. In Paris, Cunha entered the circle of Romain Rolland and helped publicise the Indian independence movement generally, and the case of Portuguese India in particular, in the French-language press.

Cunha returned to Goa in 1926 and he set up the Comissão do Congresso de Goa (Goa Congress Committee) in Goa in 1928 to organise the Goan intelligentsia against Portuguese colonial rule. Pressured by Portuguese authorities, Cunha transferred operations to Bombay and in 1938, affiliated his organisation with the Indian National Congress. He continued publicising the Goan case in a stream of articles and books, denouncing Portuguese rule. Among his publications were booklets Four Hundred Years of Foreign Rule and The Denationalisation of Goans(1944). Cunha was an advocate of Goan identification, political as well as cultural, with greater India.

In 1946, Cunha helped organise the famous assembly in Margão, inviting Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia to address what was arguably the first and largest mass gathering yet, setting in motion the Goa Liberation Movement. Along with the other organisers, Cunha was arrested by the Portuguese authorities in 1946. He was kept in a dark damp cell at Fort Aguada. He was the first civilian to be tried by a military tribunal. He was court-martialed and sentenced to eight years imprisonment. He was deported to the Peniche prison in Portugal.

After his release from Portugal in 1954, Cunha returned to Bombay. Cunha formed and headed the Goa Action Committee, to help coordinate the numerous Goan liberation organizations that had emerged by this time. He published a newspaper called “Free Goa”.

He died on 28 September 1958, Loknayak Jaiprakash Narayan was one of the pallbearers. The Government of India issued a postage stamp in his honour. At the time of his death, in a condolence resolution the Indian National Congress described him as “The Father of Goa Liberation Movement”. On that Occasion Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru said “what is worth remembering is that a small territory has produced a relatively large number of men and women who have sacrificed much for the struggle. Among them the name that stands out is that of Dr. T. B. Cunha”.

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