Saturday, May 11, 2013
GOA’S ‘ LIBERATION’ FROM GOANS? by Jose Maria Miranda
While freedom was welcome, people were apprehensive that they would be lost in the vastness of the sub- continent
Jose Maria Miranda from the heart
We will soon be observing another day of Goa’s annexation to India. At the time when it happened, it was felt that it was liberation from foreign domination, but today it appears to be more a liberation of Goa from Goans. In any case, the term has no legal connotation and hence perhaps the reference to it as a “ conquest” by none other than India’s own Supreme Court. I was a teenager then. My classmates and I, studying Lyceum, were totally confused and bemused as we did not know what the future held in store for us.
Some panicked and shifted to English medium, others stayed put and opted to watch the developments.
Since everyone yearns for freedom, many of us looked forward to better days ahead, if not immediately as students, at least as citizens of a free country. Most of us at that age, did not know much about India, except that it was a very large country which had produced great men like Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore. Our elders too, shocked by the sudden turn of events, were themselves unable to understand whether the change was for the better, or for the worse. While freedom was welcome, people were apprehensive that they would be lost in the vastness of the sub- continent. Further, there was a strong suspicion among many Goans that if Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru could so easily betray his own fame as a “ pacifist”; renounce his repeated assurances made in 1955 in Parliament and elsewhere that he would not use force to merge Goa into the Indian Union and that “ that little bit of territory made no difference to this great country”; he could also go back on his assurance of allowing Goans to decide their own future.
And those who doubted Nehru’s sincerity were not wrong.
Except for Adv. Antonio Bruto da Costa from Margao, who, in fact, had advocated autonomy for Goa during the Salazar regime and had a physical duel with the Portuguese Governor, Com. Quintanilha Mendonca e Dias, no one else who mattered, raised their voice against the happenings in Goa. He shot a letter to the then Prime Minister, Nehru and later also to his daughter, Indira Gandhi pointing out to India’s illegal occupation of Goa, which was contrary to all international conventions.
Goans, docile as ever, preferred to accept gracefully a fait accompli.
But this gesture of kindness was taken as one of weakness by the Union Government. What perhaps deterred Goans from coming together and demanding that their rights and identity be protected is that there was a systematic attempt by Goan sycophants to push such people aside and label them as anti- nationals and pro- Portuguese. By a mere Act of Parliament, Goa was thrown open to an anticipated influx of people, who would have no regard for the culture, customs or sentiments of the locals. In exchange for freedom, we Goans were forced to tolerate the grabbing of our land, conversion of our fields, hills and even roads into open toilets, absence of sanitation, spitting on the walls and most of all an uncontrolled population influx, the frightening consequences of which are there for all to see.
Soon after annexation, Goans who headed all government departments and occupied the highest positions during Portuguese rule, excluding that of Governor, Military and Police Chiefs were replaced by “deputationists” against whom there were several protests. Times have changed everywhere, and hence we must stop drawing comparisons with “the good old days”. But what we must certainly resent and protest, irrespective of the consequences, is that the so- called liberation has brought today more evil than good. The country is in a mess and in turmoil. Goa could have been different, had our elders had the necessary foresight, and the Union a better sense of justice. Most ~ certainly not all ~ of those who fought for Goa’s freedom sincerely believed that the Portuguese had no place in Goa and that Goans had the right to be free from foreign domination. Some favoured Goa’s merger with the Indian Union.
Others autonomy. Portugal, which had granted independence to its colonies, conspired with India in depriving Goa not only of autonomy but also of safeguarding their rights within the Indian Union. A naïve Secretary to the then Portuguese Foreign Minister declared in Panjim, after being confronted by a citizen at a public meeting, that it was for Goans to decide their future. And his boss went ahead and signed, a day or two later, a treaty with India, without any conditions. It would have pleased every Goan had the State been given immediately after 1961, a Special Status akin to Kashmir, where Goa’s land and the customs and traditions of Goans were protected.
What is shocking is that some of those who claim to have been instrumental in freeing Goa, have remained blissfully silent for decades about the deteriorating situation in Goa. If they loved Goa and their fellow Goans, they would have raised their voice and they would have surely been heard, for they had a right to be heard. Why should an event, brought about with so many sacrifices of our compatriots, be almost ignored and even shunned by many Goans, who feel betrayed and distressed that it has eventually brought pain and suffering to most? Wouldn’t the Indian Union be happier if Goa was maintained as a pearl within its confines, a State with a natural beauty which would have been the pride of the country and the envy of the world? Even soon after annexation, Dr.
Antonio Colaco, appointed by Nehru to the Lok Sabha, disappointed with the developments in Goa, had expressed that Goa had turned into a “black spot in the map of India” and Time magazine had published an article titled From Province to Colony suggesting that Goa had turned from a Portuguese province to an Indian colony. Did India only try to expand its borders by annexing Goa or is it involved into an indirect ethnic cleansing of Goans, who totally frustrated and disgusted with the situation in their own State, are leaving in hordes for better pastures to countries that are certainly not paradises but offer better opportunities than their own? While one can appreciate that their own and their children’s future is at stake, the solution is certainly not migration, but staying back and fighting with all their might. While we are aware that it is pretty late now to make amends for a situation that looks irreversible, we can be sure that no initiatives can come from the impostors around and the renegade Goans, both in and out of power. For the Centre, Goa is a non- entity, which it can easily ignore.
With little dignity and much less determination, we have allowed the Union Government to heap injustices upon us.
Goans have suffered enough in silence. Even during the dictatorial regime, they were more vocal and respected. It is imperative that we rise and ponder whether it is not time that we stop the “Liberation” of Goa from being a liberation from Goans.