Sunday, May 19, 2013
LIBERATION? A RETROSPECTION by Adv. Antonio Lobo
The moment the Indian Army annexed Goa, the first step taken by the Military Government was to impose martial law and put in place a curfew. Nothing of this kind had ever been promulgated in Goa earlier during the entire period of one of the world’s most rigorous dictatorial administrations such as that of Dr. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, which extended for close to forty years. Such imposition puts in question the very term “liberation” freely used to define the happenings post 19th December 1961, which by its very definition should have been received by the local population with open arms. That the “liberation army” under K.P Kandeth thought it fit to put in place such draconian measures indicates that none of this took place.
Photographs of the said period showing crowds as welcoming the Indian troops do not obviously reflect the ground reality at the time. This period also saw the establishment of an administration which was placed under the control of a hand-picked civil servant, albeit unofficially, who was attached to the government of Goa by the name of Handoo who orchestrated public demonstrations of support for the invasion, the persecution of identified individuals (and any other upstanding individual belonging to the earlier administration) such as that of the Advocate General of Goa Dr. Jose Quadros, a Goan by birth, who was pulled out of his house in the late evening, by a mob of fifty odd people at the height of the curfew and paraded in his underclothes through the City streets of Panjim accompanied by fist blows and forced to shout “Jai Hind” while being watched impassively by the police.
The elimination of the High Court of Goa(Tribunal de Relacao de Goa) whose Chief Justice, Dr. Ismael Gracias another Goan, was forced to migrate to Portugal, where he was given a new posting. The same Handoo personally threatened several Goans including the Secretary General of Goa(a position equivalent to that of the Chief Secretary) Dr. Abel Colaco of having him court-martialed merely because he had given shelter on humane and humanitarian grounds to the wife of the last Governor General of Goa, Brigadier Vassalo e Silva, after her husband had been interned by the Indian Military and as she had to abandon the Palacio do Cabo(Cabo Raj Nivas now) for obvious reasons and had nowhere to go.
This same individual was responsible for many more actions which ended up terrorizing not only the Civil servants but also the population of Goa, specially the catholics, which was also exposed to the taunts and misbehavior from organized groups composed of rabble from the majority community. Such rabble, which hardly understood a word of Portuguese, was instigated and encouraged to carry out attacks multiple times on the printing presses of the Portuguese language newspaper “Heraldo”(not to be mistaken with the “O Heraldo”) due to the criticism leveled by the said newspaper at the goings-on at that time and which met with disfavour of the martial administration causing destruction of the machinery and physical harm to its editor, Mr. Alvaro de Santa Rita Vas, who ultimately was forced to shut down the newspaper on April 15th 1962 and flee to Portugal.
Such actions were definitely responsible for the fact that a great section of goans were effectively silenced, and thus protests were nipped in the bud. In contrast however, many tears were shed in private, not so much for the going of the Portuguese but for the substitution of new chains in place of the old. Except for a few brave individuals such as late Dr. A.A. Bruto da Costa, who despite his early blindness, wrote a protest letter accusing late Jawaharlal Nehru of betraying and trampling upon the very principles enunciated by him along with Mr. Chou En Lai of China and termed as “Panch Shila”, two of which were non aggression and peaceful co-existence amongst nations.
The bitter irony for the Goans is that most of the things bandied about, many times falsely, against the Portuguese regime was that which had taken place during the dictatorial period and which was also applicable to Continental Portugal itself. It was not something meant only for the colonies as is projected in the history books and in the propaganda. One of the benefits of the so-called liberation, we were informed and are still being informed by “opinion makers”, is that Goa was now part of a democracy and that people were free to speak their mind....
A few weeks prior to the invasion, thousands of Goans left for Portugal due to the fear of what might befall Goa and themselves post annexation. That this exodus continued even after 19th December 1961 and the route for such exodus was via Karachi, Pakistan where the Portuguese Government had organized flights to ferry Goans and other citizens from the erstwhile “Estado da India” free of cost, was sufficient evidence that the so-called Liberation of Goa did not result in giving goans a sense of freedom, satisfaction and fulfillment. This exodus is continuing even today and is evidenced by the fact that thousands upon thousands of goans are migrating to Canada, Australia, new Zealand, The U.K. Portugal etc (Should it not be said, with greater reason, that goans are now protesting with their feet?). This should have been an eye opener for India and a sufficient motive to call for an introspection regarding the causes for such migration involving disposal of their immovable properties and other assets and choosing a foreign country to settle in and abandoning their ‘liberated’ Goa.
The so-called freedom fighters some of whom, excluding the few that had the courage to admit that Goa during the Portuguese days was a better place than the Goa of today, and by such admission brought a modicum of dignity upon themselves in the eyes of many Goans, could only carry-out acts of vandalism at various times, such as the blasting of the statue of General Manuel Antonio de Sousa, a Goan gaocar of Mapusa, which had been erected by the Portuguese at the entrance of the City, the blasting of the statue of the great Portuguese poet Luis de Camoes, which stood at Old Goa, the breaking of “Azulejos”(blue tiles) set up on private homes of residents in Fontainhas Panjim, only because they bore the street names of the area in Portuguese, all with the blessings not only of the Military Government earlier as well as of the subsequent governments under D.B. Bandodkar, S. Kakodkar and others.
To their eternal shame, these freedom fighters expected and got a prize for their efforts, by way of pensions and their ranks kept increasing year after year by addition of persons who had nothing to do with any kind of struggle and were further swollen by rogues who happened to be in prison for crimes unrelated to anything remotely related to Portuguese colonialism. These people were generally rejected by the people of Goa in the elections. Proof enough of the level of esteem that the general public had for them.
Curiously nobody talks or writes about the fact that the dictatorial regime in Portugal came to an end a short 13 years later on 25th April 1974 and soon thereafter all the Portuguese colonies not only attained independence but democracy was ushered-in in Portugal. This is conveniently not mentioned. It is also not mentioned as to why the Government of India under Nehru and Krishna Menon did not accord the people of the erstwhile “Estado da India”, the right to self determination enshrined in the United Nations Charter and owed to any colony which, according to the Charter of the United Nations to which India was a signatory, was a country not self administered being a colony and which, for that reason, had the right of deciding whether it wanted to merge with a neighbouring country, whether it wanted to be associated with it or whether it wanted to be independent. Such choice could be decided only by a Referendum. All this was forgotten....Democracy indeed!