Sunday, April 14, 2013
THE GOA, DAMÃO AND DIU FREEDOM MOVEMENT CONFERENCE PALAIS D’ORSAY, PARIS 3 TO 4 DECEMBER 1963 By Paulo Dias
On the 3rd Dec 1963, Goans from all over the world gathered at the Palais d’Orsay, in Paris for a Goan Conference. The Conference was convened by the Goan Association of Nairobi but Goans from all over the world attended.
The Conference decided to set up an organization called the Goa, Damao and Diu Freedom Movement or, in short, the Goa Freedom Movement. In giving publicity to the outcome of the Conference, the Movement placed its case before the world public opinion and appealed to all persons who love Justice to support the people of Goa, Damao and Diu in their firm demand that the Indian Union vacate forthwith her aggression in their beloved homeland and enable them to exercise their legitimate right to free and unfettered.
How many Goans aspired for independence? Who were their leaders, what did they do and how did they struggle to get independence? We do not know how many aspired for independence. The idea of holding a plebiscite after 1961 was exactly to find out the answer to that question.
What we know is that there were 3 different groups:
1) Pro merger with the Indian Union;
2) Independence from Portugal;
3) Continue with Portuguese rule.
We also know that before 1961, Goans were strongly pressing Salazar for a plebiscite. Salazar always refused to hold a plebiscite. I put that down to the lack of democracy in Portugal and its overseas provinces. As you know, the regime was a dictatorship. But Salazar did give a large degree of autonomy to Goans to rule over Goa. The Governor was European Portuguese but the second in command (the procurador da Republica) was a Goan – Dr. Abel R. Colaco. As I already said before, at least in the last years of Portuguese rule, most of the key posts in the bureaucracy were given to Goans – Hindus and Catholics alike. Several Hindus held the posts of Directors of the Public Works Department, Education, Economy, Civil Administration, Finance, Post and Telegraph. The Finance and Statistics departments were headed usually by Catholics. The judiciary was 100% Goan (Catholics and Hindus), including the Chief Justice. In fact, the post of Chief Justice had been taken by Goans since the Portuguese Monarchy (pre-1911)! In fact, there were several Goan Chief Justices not only in Goa but elsewhere in the other Portuguese provinces and in Portugal itself. Nobody can deny the fact that the Portuguese recongised at a very early stage that Goans were indeed hard working and loyal and therefore, Goans were trusted with very high positions in Goa and in the rest of the Portuguese empire.
This was never matched by any of the other colonial powers such as Britain and France. For example, British India never had an Indian Chief Justice, or an Indian embassador or an Indian Governor. But Portugal did have Goans in all those posts, including the post of Provincional Governor. Without wanting to defend the Portuguese, we have to give them credit for that trust that did indeed exist!
But going back to the plebiscite, Nehru was very much aware of this Goan wish for a plebiscite and he knew perfectly well that there were Goans who aspired independence and others that wanted to remain under Portuguese rule.
Nehru said the following on a public speech delivered on 4th June, 1956:
“I want to explain myself. If the people of Goa, that is, minus the Portuguese Government, and when the Portuguese go and the people of Goa deliberately wish to retain their separate identity, I’m not going to bring them by force or coercion or compulsion in the Indian Union. I want them to come, and I’m quite certain they want to come too. But that is not the point. I merely say that my national interest involves the removal of the Portuguese from Goa, not coercion being used in bringing about the union of Goa with India although I wish it, I desire it and it is the only solution….
“That is matter ultimately for the people of Goa to decide…. I want to make perfectly clear that I have no desire to coerce Goa to join India against the wishes of the people of Goa…. But the point is that we feel that Goa’s individuality should remain and that whenever the time comes for any changes, internal or other, it will be for the people of Goa acting freely to decide upon them.”
But this never happened. Nehru failed his promised and the so called “Liberation” became the Indian conquest and subjugation of Goa, directly contradicting what he had said in 1956.
The movement had representations in many countries including in India (Bombay and Calcutta where a large number of Goans were concentrated). It is very interesting reading the letters from the Bombay representatives who despite living in India were very much against the merger with specific complaints about how the Indian Union treated them pre and post 1961. All this can be found in a book called “Nehru’s Aggression Condemned”, by the Goa Freedom Movement, published in 1964 which is very clear about who pressed for independence and who continued to press for independence after 1961 until at least 1964. There are excerpts of this book available on the internet.
What about Goans in Goa? The group that aspired for independence in Goa was very much scared of the Portuguese regime pre-1961. As you must know, after 1961, anti-Indian sentiments became illegal. Nothing much changed. Yes, Goans got democracy but they could not demonstrate publicly any self-determination sentiments. The conquest was fait acomplait and independence thoughts were not welcomed in Goa or anywhere else in the Indian Union. In fact, all organisations that defend separatism are still considered today as terrorist organisations. One really wonders who Goans were more scared of in those days. The previous conquerors or the new conquerors ?
The following are the words of Mr. John Menezes who lived through the transition:
“The Indian Union made changes to the Constitution (Twelfth Amendment) in 1962 “regularizing” the incorporation of the ex-Portuguese territories. The 14th Amendment Act of 25 August 1962 provided for the creation of Legislatures in the Union Territories of Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Goa, Daman and Diu and Pondicherry broadly on the pattern which was in force in Part C States before the reorganisation of the States. The Government of Union Territories Act 1963 passed by the Indian Parliament on 10 May 1963 Provided in the First Schedule of that Act a Form of Oath or Affirmation, to be made by a candidate for election, reading: ” I will bear true faith and Allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, and that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India.” The latter addition – an anti secession provision – was not there earlier and, per se, applied only to the Union Territories covered by the said Act. Thereafter, through The Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act 1963 dated 5 October 1963 was the anti-secession provision extended to the rest of the country on the Recommendations of the Committee on National Integration and Regionalism appointed by the National Integration Council.
Through the anti-secession provision added to the oath required to be taken by candidates for election – first in the Union Territories – the Government of India forestalled any possibility of the elected legislatures being used as a forum for the expression of any right of self determination – particularly where the erstwhile Portuguese territories were concerned -pre-empting the application of the UN General Assembly Resolution of 14 December 1960 to former Portuguese India.”
This is why the Goa Freedom Movement was much more active outside Goa than in Goa itself. For fear of reprisals from the Indian Union side that would treat it (just like the Portuguese did) as an attempt to damage the integrity of the Union. There were some bombs in Goa post 1961 and the Indian Union immediately labelled the culprits as members of the Goa Freedom Movement. The movement was considered a terrorist organisation for a while and slowly ceased to exist. But it did exist. There is no doubt. They demanded a plebiscite for several years and Nehru always refused, contradicting what he had promised on his public speech of 4th June 1956.
Again, Fait Acomplait should not prevent us from knowing the other side of history! There is a lot to learn as most of us do not know the real facts.
The fact remains that the Indian Union systematically put out a set of lies – a deliberate campaign of mischief and malice, forged evidence, provocation and exaggeration in order to convince the world that Portugal was brutally oppressing Goans and building up militarily in and around Goa. Sadly, we now know all this was false but it is Fait Acomplait.