If you have visited Goa, you must have felt liberated and free to do whatever you want. But, do you know that one of the most loved tourist destination in India was once ruled by the brutal Portuguese colonisers? While rest of India got freedom on August 15, 1947, Goa and a couple of other places were still under the imperial rule of the Europeans and it had wait for 14 more years to get free from its colonial masters – the Portuguese.
Unlike the Indian freedom struggle against the British, in which many heroes rose and stood against the British rule, Goan freedom struggle was overtly brief and it was more of a collective effort Armed guerrillas, satyagrahis, journalists, film artists and many others and India’s land of joy got its freedom on December 19, 1961, with the help of Operation Vijay by Indian army.
Portuguese were the first Europeans who landed in India and occupied Indian territories. Portuguese sailor Vasco De Gama had come to India in 1498 and by 1510, the present day Goa were under the Portuguese grip and it remained so till 1961 which means that Goa had remained occupied for a longer period of time than any other part of India. Even French had given up claim on Puducherry in 1954 and it was included in India. But Portuguese continued to defy India’s requests and kept claiming and ruling Goa.
The near 400 years of slavery changed Goa in many ways as it lost its traditional values and religions. Majority of the Hindus were converted to Goan Catholics and Konkani language was also suppressed. Hindus voluntarily converting to Christianity were exempted from land taxes for 15 years. People were denied the right to speech, assembly and press.
Thus began the fight for freedom
While rest of India fought for its freedom, Goa remained largely silent. Its struggle for freedom saw its advent in 1946 when socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia visited Goan academician and writer Dr Juliao Menezes for a medical examination in Bombay where Menezes invited Lohia to his house in Assolna, Goa.
Lohia accepted the invitation of Dr Menezes, and two stalwarts discussed the Goan scenario and decided to defy the ban on public meeting imposed by Portuguese. That’s from where first civil disobedience movement against the then 435-year-old Portuguese rule started.
Goans got inspired
While Lohia was arrested and movement was quashed, Goans got inspired by this and people began to meet, strategise and organise. Locals Goans like Prabhakar Vitthal Sinari, who was just 13 years old during the movement got inspired by the freedom his fellow Indians were enjoying. Other revolutionaries Nana Kaajrekar, a wrestler from Pune, Sudhir Phadke, a music director and nationalist from Bombay collaborated with the Azad Gomantak Dal (AGD) to form a grand coalition called the United Front of Liberation.
Famous playback singer Lata Mangeshkar also played her part as she performed in Pune to raise funds to help the revolutionaries to buy arms to free Goa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli from Portuguese rule.
While unlike the Operation Polo where India got control of Hyderabad after accession, Goa remained occupied by Portuguese until 1961 because India new government wasn’t willing to get into conflict with a European power.
However, it kept pressing the Portuguese diplomatically to leave Goa, but Portuguese didn’t nudge.
Portugal was the part of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), a US-led group of nations against USSR led the Communist group. India, on the other hand, was one of three founders of Non-Align Movement aka NAM and therefore, it didn’t want to irk the US by using force against Portuguese in Goa.
But 1961 Afro-Asian Conference changed India’s view
In 1961, the Afro-Asian conference in Delhi questioned India’s stance on Goa. India was one the most powerful countries leading a third group of newly liberated nations in Asia and Africa and therefore it became need of the hour to act against Portuguese if they don’t nudge.
Thus, Operation Vijay
India asked Portuguese to vacate Goa, but Portuguese instead provoked India by firing at Indian steamers and fishing boats, killing one fisherman. Portuguese navy also tried to take villagers from Indian territory hostages.
Now India decided to use force and PM Jawaharlal Nehru led government ordered action and 30,000 Indian troops with full air and naval support launched offensive and within 48 hours, the nearly 450-year-old rulers of Goa gave up and Goa was liberated.
News credit : Indiatimes