Goa remained a Portuguese colony when India became independent

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Illustration: Pariplab Chakraborty


When India became independent in 1947, it was hoped that Goa’s turn would soon come. However, Goa was only liberated from over 450 years of Portuguese rule on December 19, 1961. The blame for this 14-year delay must be placed on Jawaharlal Nehru. History made him bear the responsibility for this delay. But it is important to analyze the roles played by different leaders and people, especially Nehru, amid the current controversy that he alone was responsible for the failure of Goans to deploy the Indian tricolor on Goan soil.

Nehru had believed since 1946 that “Goa was a little pimple on India’s beautiful face and it would not take long to pinch it once India had gained independence”. Fully involved in the struggle against British imperialism, Nehru engaged in the Goa question after 1947, addressing conferences, rallies and seminars, meeting delegations from Goa and above all making important political statements on the floor of the house.

Today, much to the chagrin of history buffs, historiography seems to be influenced by the color of political ideology. Leaders are either humanized or demonized depending on which side of the political spectrum they belong to. Historians, however, cannot see past events based on the color of the glasses they wear. It is therefore the need of the hour to record historical facts and geopolitical constraints in world politics at this time.

On August 15, 1947, Nehru, in a message to the press, expressed his anguish that many could not share the freedom that had come, although they were part of India and added that they would remain so what let it happen. . Goa has always had a distinct linguistic and geographical identity, as well as a cultural and emotional connection resulting from its unique past. This fact was recognized by national leaders as early as December 1948, when the INC passed a resolution that if change took place; The culture and institutions of Goa would be maintained within the larger framework of free India. It is pertinent to understand that respect for the unique identity of Goa can never be questioned once Goa is liberated from colonial rule.

Nehru had made it clear that his government’s policy was to settle this matter through peaceful means. A Portuguese consul was stationed in Bombay and his Indian counterpart in Panaji. On February 27, 1950, Nehru’s government began negotiations for a peaceful transfer of power; however, on August 14, Nehru announced that it had been rejected. On December 6, 1950, he lamented that all these years we had reasoned, argued and used peaceful methods, without any result. Portugal knew perfectly well that it had no legal or moral right to claim the right of passage through Indian territory, but it still dragged India to the world court in The Hague, from which it received a large rebuff.

Negotiations had been initiated with France in 1947 to integrate the remote French pockets of Chandranagore, Mahé, Yanam, Karaikal and Pondicherry with India. The French response was positive. In 1955, all pockets were incorporated into the Indian Union. Attempts at similar negotiations with Portugal failed. Portugal argued that Goa was an overseas province of Portugal and belonged to it for reasons of historicity and that culturally Goa was Portuguese. On April 12, 1954, in a speech delivered through the national broadcast, the Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar clarified that “Goa was not negotiable to simply let go, as if it were an object to give away or sell. However, Nehru had until then believed that Goa would become part of India through a peaceful settlement like Pondicherry.

In 1954, India and China declared the Panchehel, the five principles of peaceful coexistence. Nehru based India’s foreign policy on these five principles: coexistence and respect for the territorial and integral sovereignty of other countries as well as non-aggression and non-interference in their internal affairs. Committing military aggression meant that Nehru would be criticized for not practicing what he preached. V. Gadgil believed that Nehru was reluctant to act not because it was difficult, but he feared losing his role as a peacemaker in the world political arena. Dadra and Nagar Haveli were liberated in July and August 1954 respectively, with the Azad Gomantak Dal as the vanguard.

The years 1954-55 were the years of the Satyagraha movements led by the Goa Vimochan Sahayak Samiti. Nehru’s government, fearing a backlash against the innocent and unarmed satygrahis, ban Indians from entering Goa. The deportations to Portugal and the resulting massacres did not provoke Nehru and he believed that non-violence would solve this problem. The Portuguese then sealed the borders and cut the rail links. In response, the Nehru government imposed an economic blockade.

Nehru, in a debate at the Lok Sabha, criticized Salazar’s argument that Goa was an overseas province of Portugal and argued that even the pro-American bloc of Allies or NATO powers (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) could not be compelled to deal with the problem. The hidden fear of this treaty was that if one of its members was attacked, the others had to come to its aid. Of course, Salazar wanted to keep his colonies under one pretext or another. Two mass rallies were addressed by Nehru in Bombay on October 2, 1955 and June 4, 1956 solely on the issue of Goa. The Goan Grandstand newspaper printed the entire speech verbatim. He reiterated that no coercion would be used to reach India.

Nehru addressed another rally from Goa to Bombay on June 13, 1958. “Nehruismo” is a full-page article on the leader’s political philosophy written in the Goan Grandstand, by its publisher Lambert Mascarenhas. This article expresses the anguish of the Goans over Nehru’s uncooperative behavior. “He is said to have played into the hands of Salazar”, and he is mocked as “Nehru – the patient, Nehru the peaceful”. The author felt that Salazar’s “heroism” should be dubbed “Nehruismo”. Nehru’s assurance that “the Goa problem will be solved sooner than most people expect” has been questioned. “How long is the soonest?” was the question asked. The publisher was in fact expressing the aspirations of all Goans.

In March 1961, Nehru met a delegation from the Goa Political Convention in Delhi. This delegation had representatives from different sections of the Goa community in Goa and India like lawyer Louis Mendes (my father) as a representative of the Goa Clubs Federation. Some other members were Lambert Mascarenhas, Bertha Menezes Bragança, George Vaz, Vishwanath Lawande and Fr H. Mascarenhas. This made the Prime Minister realize the need for a speedy settlement.

In October 1961, the seminar of the Portuguese colonial possessions in New Delhi resulted in African leaders asking Nehru “to show the way”, so that their own freedom would follow. At the Chowpatty rally in Bombay the same month, Nehru spoke for the first time about the need to use “other methods” to solve the problem.

Subsequently, in November, Nehru traveled to the United States, Yugoslavia and Egypt. Defense Minister Krishna Menon was responsible for the final decision on Operation Vijay, but this could not be done without Nehru’s approval. Ultimately, the ease with which Goa, Daman and Diu were liberated and the way it was addressed by the Soviet Union and India in the UN Security Council only goes to show that the conditions would have been no different in 1947. On the contrary, Portugal were powerless to confront the question of the liberation of Goa in the Security Council or in the General Assembly of the United Nations of which it was not a member at the time. ‘era.

Lawyer Antonio Bruto da Costa dedicated his life to a cause forgotten by Indian and Portuguese historiography. Although his view has no popular support (except for a group known as the Circuit of Margao)he talked about to the corresponding Terceira which brings to light a third current/force, which rejected both Portuguese colonialism and Indian nationalism by fighting for autonomy and perhaps also independence. After 1961, he accused Nehru of breaking his promise to refrain from violence and thus usurping the natural right of the Goans to plebiscite and sovereignty. Goans have always been known to be strongly opinionated and even the writings in the newspapers of this period like the Gomantak and the Goan Grandstand show that there was no unity among the “freedom fighters”.

Ultra-nationalists often insinuate from public platforms that historians need to investigate the reasons for this “long 14-year wait”, and seem to be allergic to the very name “Nehru”, naturally due to their own political compulsions. The accusation that Nehru was deliberately responsible for delaying the liberation of Goa is unwarranted and has no place in historiography. Nehru believed in peaceful negotiations and preventing bloodshed at all costs. He continued to believe that the Goa question would eventually be resolved by the method of negotiation similar to that followed by the French at Pondicherry. However, the fascist dictator António de Oliveira Salazar never believed in negotiations and it is a lesser known fact that he never even visited Goa. The jingoists of this nation must stop making judgments on an issue of such great geopolitical importance based on their own political biases.

Professor Sushila Sawant Mendes is an author and historian in Goa.

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