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Goa Freedom Movement

The Goan freedom struggle is as old as the struggle for Independent India, though it gained momentum in June 1946 when Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, the noted Socialist leader, plunged himself into the freedom movement alongwith a large number of young Goans, ultimately culminating in the liberation of Goa alongwith the overland pockets of Daman and Diu on December 19, 1961
2. In fact, the Goan freedom struggle was preceded by a continuous and spontaneous resistance from the local people. The measures introduced by the Portuguese Rule from time-to-time to bring the Goans under their full control always met with stiff opposition. Any measure, including the Charter of Uses and Customs of 1526, did not satisfy them. The volcano of resistance often burst out sporadically, threatening the hold of the overzealous Portuguese Governors who were engrossed in the task of empire building and Colonization of Goa. As early as 1555, the Goans resisted the imposition and collection of exorbitant land revenue.

3. In 1787, in the “Conspiracy of the Pintos” several Goan Catholic Priests, who were seething with discontent on account of the deprivation of the top ecclesiastical seats reserved for European clergy, revolted. They were accused of plotting to establish a republic in which the local people would have ruled themselves by exercising all the powers through a House of the People. The leaders of this remarkable plot were Fr. Caetano Francisco Couto of Panaji and Jose Antonio Gonsalves of Divar.

4. However, the revolts by the Ranes of Satari were more noteworthy. They created an atmosphere of terror in the Portuguese strongholds. During the period between 1755 and 1822, they launched 14 insurrections in order to secure their lost rights from the Portuguese rulers. Realizing their own weakness, the Portuguese were lenient in their approach and tried to come to an understanding with them. But this did not dither the Ranes from their burning zeal. They rebelled again in July 1823 in the face of severe repression by the Government that provoked them to plan a still bigger rebellion in September 1824, which ultimately led to more severe controls by the Government.

5. In January 1835, Bernado Peres da Silva was the first Goan to occupy the highest Executive office with the title of the Prefect of Goa Daman and Diu. However, he was deposed within 18 days by the European residents who were irked by his nomination. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of severe curbs imposed from 1845 to 1851, Dipaji Rane master minded a major rebellion on 26th January 1852 in protest against the imposition of new restrictions and levies on cultivable lands. He captured the fortress of Nanuz and laid hold on village army outpost, which ultimately led to the restoration of the concessions and rights to the Ranes under an agreement. In 1869, Kustoba Rane raise the banner of revolt to avenge the injustice meted out by implicating him in a rape case. The revolt continued for 3 years, culminating in his assassination. In 1870, the seething discontent among the native police came to the fore in the form of a military uprising at Volvoi and in the following year there was another mutiny by the armed native sepoys in Marcela. In 1895, Dada Rane, with the help of 900 aides well –versed in guerilla warfare launched a bigger revolt against the Portuguese. However, it was ruthlessly suppressed, and he alongwith his colleagues was deported to Timor in the Pacific Ocean.

6. In the meantime, the Goan intelligencia was also influenced by the speeches and writings of Francisco Luis Gomes, a Goan Parliamentarian of 19th century and one of the first Indians to demand freedom for India from the British domination. Side by side, the Goans were slowly getting attuned to the political consciousness created in the rest of the country by the Indian National Congress in 1885 and thereafter. They were silently looking at the march of events in India and the mass awakening with the fond hope that their destiny too was blended with the freedom struggle of the Indians at large. The silent struggle for the liberation of Goa, which slowly gathered momentum, was actually on account of two diametrically opposite forces. On the one hand, cultural, historical and geographical affinity with India had impressed upon the Goans a sense of national spirit. On the other hand, the Portuguese regime had taken recourse to severe repressive measures in order to curb the national awakening amongst Goans.

7. In the first two decades of the 20th Century, the “Kesari” and the “Maratha” of Lokmanya Tilak inspired the Goan minds and moulded the public opinion in Goa. Thereafter, the “Hindu” of Dattatraya Venkatesh Pai and the “Bharat” of Govind Pundalik Hegde Dessai campaigned vigorously, awakening the Goan masses. The columns of Luis de Menezes Braganza, in “Pracasha”, crusading continuously for the cause of liberalism and self –determination, stirred the hearts of the Goan literates who prepared themselves to get rid of the mental enslavement to which they were subjected for long. When the Colonial Act was imposed on the Territories, he had tabled a Motion which said Portuguese India “does not renounce the right that all people possess of attaining the fullness of their individuality till they are able to constitute units capable of guiding their own destinies, since this is the birth right of their organic essence”. This encouraged the intellectual youths like Dr. T. B. Cunha to identify the aspirations of Goans with those of the Indian brethren to form the Goa Congress Committee in 1928, which was affiliated to the Indian National Congress at its Calcutta Session.

8. Apart from the unsuccessful revolts by the Ranes of Satari, the Portuguese, in fact, did not encounter any formidable challenge till Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia lighted the torch of last phase of the freedom movement on 18th June 1946. On that memorable day in the annals of Goa’s history, he openly defied the Government orders against holding a public meeting at Madgaon and rebuked captain Fortunato Miranda, the Administrator of the District. In his speech that he could just begin before his arrest, Dr. Lohia said “A conspiracy has sought for decades to turn Goa into an island of imperialist safety where the law has proved inadequate. While initiating the Civil Disobedience Movement in Goa, Dr. Lohia gave expression to his feelings in a more explicit way. In an open letter to the Goans, he made it clear that the aim of the movement was to win civil liberties, but that the methods followed were those of mass awakening and action short of violent rebellion. He advised them “Look not to Delhi, not to UNO for your deliverance. Your freedom lies in you”. He was the first Indian leader to utter on Goa’s soil that Goa was part of India and should be integrated with it. It was he who invoked the Indians to help the Goan brethren in their fight for liberties. Lohia’s valiant action and words produced a deep impact on the minds of every Indian. Mahatma Gandhi wrote in his “Harijan” on 30th June. 1946 “Dr. Lohia has rendered a service to the course of civil liberty and especially to the Goans. The little Portuguese settlement which merely exists on the sufferance of the British Government can ill afford to ape its bad manners”. The extraordinary step of Dr. Lohia led the Congress Working Committee at Wardha to pass a resolution condemning the high handedness of the Portuguese Government and to back fully the Goans in their struggle for the restoration of civil liberties. But the Portuguese rulers, without realizing the signs of the time, called the Civil Disobedience Movement as “movimento da rua” (roadside agitation).

9. The Civil Disobedience Movement instilled a sense of boldness among the Goans and strengthened their moral fabric, prompting numerous Goan patriots to jump into the vortex of the freedom struggle in Goa and outside in self-exile. It electrified all the political groups and nationalists to come under one banner of the National Congress (Goa), which was formed on 17th-18th August 1946 at the historic meeting at Londa. The National Congress (Goa) was the main political party, which was like a Banyan tree under which the political workers of all shades and opinions rallied and at times fell apart, resulting into proliferation of several small parties and groups, yet contributing to the cause in no small measure. In the long drawn out struggle, many of the patriots laid down their precious lives on the altar of freedom with a smile. Some of them were deported to Portugal, Angola and Cabo Verde for long terms of imprisonment. Hundreds of them were jailed and tortured inhumanly. With the arrest of the leaders of Civil Disobedience Movement in 1946-47, there was a lull in Goa and the centers of action moved outside Goa. However, the movement got a shot in the arm with the liberation of Dadra and Nagar Haveli in July-August 1954. A mass satyagraha movement was launched by the National Congress (Goa) and the Goa Vimochan Sahayak Samiti in Goa in 1954 and 1955. The Portuguese suppressed the movement with brutality. The brave, risky and valiant fights put up by the groups like Azad Gomantak Dal, the Frante Patriotica, the United Front of Goans, the Goan People’s Party, the Goa Liberation Army and Quit Goa Organisation, did not give sleep to the Portuguese rulers.

10. By the end of 1956, while the deadlock on the Goa Front continued, the focus moved to the United Nations where India vehemently contended that Goa was a clear colonial problem and mobilized the support of the freedom loving nations in Africa and West Asia, apart from the full support of the Soviet Union and other Socialist countries. Encouraged by the success, at the Hague Court against the Portuguese in the case of the right of passage of Dadra and Nagar Haveli as well as on account of tremendous pressure from the people within the country, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of free India, had to finally resort to “Operation Vijay” to liberate Goa Daman & Diu after 451 years of Portuguese subjugation, thereby wiping off the last colonial vestige from the Indian soil.

Source: “Who’s Who of Freedom Fighters”.
– Goa, Daman and Diu Vol. one brought out by Goa Gazetteer
Department, Govt. of Goa, Daman and Diu in December 1986.

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