Goa Liberation: A Rarely Talked About Chapter Of Indian History

Dr Vinay Nalwa

Dr Vinay  Nalwa  recounts the history of Goa liberation and sacrifices made for the same as Bharat celebrates ‘Goa Liberation Day’ on December 19 every year.

Goa was one of the major Indian states where a liberation movement took place to decolonise it from the Portugese rule after independence of India. The movement was built on the small scale revolts and uprisings of the 19th century, and grew powerful during the period 1940-1961. It finally culminated into the integration of Goa with India in 1961.

The Portuguese colonised India in 1510, conquering many parts of the western coast and establishing several colonies in the east. By the end of the 19th century, Portuguese colonies in India were limited to Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra, Nagar Haveli and Anjediva Island.

Despite 14 revolts against Portuguese rule (the final attempt in 1912), none of these uprisings were successful in ending the colonial era. The failure of these uprisings to affect meaningful change was attributed to the lack of a broad, active support base and their localised nature.

The   success of the Goa Liberation movement lies in the role played by a large number of individuals and organisations that can be broadly divided into three categories- Civil Society, Political Parties and Revolutionary Groups.

Role of Civil society

In 1787, the rebellion of the priests of the Pinto clan of Candolim  took place againt the Portugese occupation and hence it was named  ‘Conspiracy of the Pintos.’ One of the key reasons that triggered this rebellion was resentment of the locals due to dominance of Portuguese missionaries over local churches and government jobs.

Luís de Menezes Bragança (15 January 1878 – 10 July 1938)  a prominent Indian journalist, writer, politician and anti-colonial activist  founded on  22 January 1900, the first Portuguese language newspaper in Goa named ‘O Heraldo’ which was critical of Portuguese colonial rule. In 1933, with the António de Oliveira Salazar’s rise to power in Portugal, he placed himself at the head of the anti-colonialist movement in Goa. After the promulgation of the racist Portuguese Colonial Act in 1930, he proposed a resolution at the Legislative council in Panjim on 3 July of the same year. The resolution upheld the right of self-determination for Goans from the Portuguese rule, and was duly adopted. Menezes Bragança was the first person to call for an independent Goa and as such, was generally hailed as the “father of Goan unrest”.  He wrote on subjects like freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom from oppression. His writings provided a great deal of information about the Indian independence movement to the Goan public, and as such, was avidly read by them for news about the Indian mainland.

He died on 10 July 1938 in Chandor. Fearing an outbreak of nationalist protests in Goa, the Portuguese government stationed troops at his grave to prevent any homage from being paid to his memory.

One of the important civil society organisation that played a significant role in Goa’s liberation was ‘Pragatik Sangh’.  It  was formed in the Kawale Temple of Ponda Taluka in the year 1920 . The objectives of the ‘Pragatik sangh’ were to bring Hindus together and fight unitedly for their identity,  that they should have their voice in the formation of government and to work for their progress in education and culture in which they were lagging. Its president was Dadasaheb Kundaikar. Pragatik Sangh started Marathi schools and libraries at different places in Goa. In order to spread the spirit of nationalism, prominent nationalists were invited to speak on different occasions. At the same time, they also sent their representatives to the Portuguese Parliament to advocate for the freedom from colonial rule.

‘Ventru Nacionalist Indianu’ or Patria Nacionalist Hindu ‘, another civil society organisation came into existence in Portugal itself in December 1925. It was influenced by the ideas of Liberalism, Socialism and Nationalism it was formed by the Catholic Goans who had settled in Portugal for higher education, business and jobs. These Goan Catholics were more liberal minded and could clearly see the difference between the Monarchy and Republic and that too under the self-rule. And in order to work for `Swaraj or ‘Independence’ twenty eight nationalists came together under the leadership of Fernando de Costa, to form this organization.

Their work for Goa’s cause was initiated when they started  conducting interviews of intellectuals and important people in the government in Portugal to know their views regarding India in general and Goa in particular. They emphasised on the unity of Hindus and Catholics for nationalistic thought to further the cause of Goa. This organization got  wide publicity in Portugal and also in Goa .Various Goan organizations supported it wholeheartedly. But a year after its formation when Dr. Salazar came to power in 1926 and imposed a ban on all the civil liberties in Goa thereby putting a restriction on its expansion in Goa, the organisation lost its bearings.

The official Goa radio, being its prime voice was only instilling fear and feeding the people with lies and false propaganda about India and liberation struggle. It became imperative, therefore to inform the people in Goa about the reality and to sustain their morale. The nationalists had to find their way to expose the Portuguese lies and to counter their false propaganda. The answer came in the form of an underground Radio station.

‘Voice Of Freedom of Goa’  was started on 25th November 1955 and continued till 19th December 1961.Libia Lobo Sardesai  gave up her job as a lawyer and on the 25th of November 1955, she launched with Vaman Sardesai an underground radio station called “Voz da Liberdade”, Goenche Sadvonecho Awaz in Konkani. It was Amboli, a hill station at the border of Maharashtra from where they started to broadcast news to Goa, morning and evening, in Portuguese and in Konkani.

Among the Revolutionary organisations  it was Azad Gomantak Dal(AGD) founded by Vishwanath Lawande, Narayan Hari Naik, Dattatraya Deshpande, Prabhakar Sinari. It  vowed to fight the Portuguese using direct action strategies. Along with other nationalist groups, its members carried out series of attacks on Portuguese police stations and banks. They were able to take control of Dadra and Nagarhaveli .  The leader of the military organisation Vishwanath Lawande declared himself as Governor of Dadra and Nagarhaveli.

Goa Liberation Army  was founded in the 1950s by Shivajirao Desai, an Indian army officer having  direct action nationalist ideology. It attempted revolutionary tactics and direct action strategies to challenge Portuguese. It blasted Sesa Goa’s Sonshi mine, which caused temporary suspension of the mining activity of the Portuguese. The Goa Liberation Army was credited with many other blasts and raids, and played a pivotal role in defending the bridges at the time of Indian invasion.

Many other organisations also came up and they all formed initially a United Front for liberation of Dadra and Nagar Haveli. By August 1954 , both these territories had been liberated from Portugese rule but India did not immediately assimilate these enclaves into the Indian Union. For some time, both enclaves functioned as de facto independent states, administered by the Varishta Panchayat of Free Dadra and Nagar Haveli.The successful annexation of Dadra and Nagar Haveli provided the Goa anti-colonial movement a renewed thrust and motivation to continue the struggle for liberation from Portugese rule.

Political organizations

The growth of nationalism that was taking place in Goa, among the Goan youth slowly started taking the shape of political organizations during 1920s. These organizations were built along the lines of the different ideologies prominent in the Indian National Movement.

Goa Vimochan Sahayak Samiti (1954)  was formed by Indians to help the Goans in their efforts of liberating Goa from Portuguese rule. It helped Goans in continuing the civil disobedience campaign and provided financial and political assistance to the satyagrahis.

Goa Congress Committee(1928)

It was formed by Dr. T. B. Cunha, a Goan nationalist in 1928.On 12 October 1938, Cunha with other members of the Goa Congress Committee met Subhas Chandra Bose, the President of the Indian National Congress, and on his advice, opened a Branch Office of the Goa Congress Committee at 21, Dalal Street, Bombay. The Goa Congress was also made affiliate to the Indian National Congress and Cunha was its first President.

Other significant organizations which participated in Goa’s liberation movement were Tarun Hind Sangh, Goa National Congress, Goa Seva Sangh. They spread the feeling  of nationalism among Goans by celebrating national days, singing of Vande Mataram, flag hoisting, praying etc. Besides this, they used to conduct lectures on the nationalism along with discussions on political issues. They opened up libraries in many parts of Goa and propagated their views through hand-written monthly papers/magazines .

Outside Goa, a  civil disobedience movement was started by Dr. Ram Manohar  Lohia, on 18th June 1946. It attracted significant support from all sections of society. Many Goan nationalists also believed that even in the National Movement of India, freedom was acquired  because of the heavy hammering from Azad Hind Fauj and due to the mutiny of navy in 1945-46 against Britishers .

However,  various  Indian leaders had  different attitudes towards the Goan problem. Acharya Kripalani believed that India can solve the international problems with the help of peace-keeping forces. He was convinced by the decision of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru of not allowing Indian satyagrahis to cross the India-Goa border. This may be because Portugal called Goa as ‘overseas province’ and not a colony. And this was recognised by the international community.

However, almost all the organizations formed specifically for Goa’s cause had one thing in common. All of them were keen to liberate Goa from four hundred years Portuguese rule.

On 27 of February 1950, Indian government tried to resolve the issue with diplomacy by asking the Portuguese to consider accession of the territory to India amicably.

The process of decolonization that began in 1947 was not fully realised with the independence as the state of Goa , Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Pondicherry were still under foreign rule .The liberation of Goa was a significant step towards realizing  the concept of India as a nation-state with united geographical entity. It is important to recognise  that while the nationalist movement largely emanated from Goan soil with local civil society, political parties and revolutionary groups playing an important role,  ,the civil society and political parties from outside Goa also played a significant role in Goan’s quest for freedom.

(The writer has co-authored ‘Ramjanmabhoomi:Truth,Evidence Faith’. Her forthcoming book is on liberation of Goa.)  




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