Wednesday, March 11, 2015
A TERCEIRA CORRENTE by Jose Maria Miranda
“A Terceira Corrente” is the title of a book in Portuguese, recently published by senior Advocate, Mario Bruto da Costa containing an interesting and very relevant selection of letters, speeches and articles of his late father, Adv. Antonio Anastasio Bruto da Costa, a fearless Goan, who valiantly opposed many of the policies and decisions of the Salazar regime, particularly during the last fifteen years of his dictatorial and controversial rule in Goa. I must confess that I do not feel competent enough to venture into a review or appreciation of the book and hence will never be able to do justice to such an important and extensive collection.
I wish, however, to bring to light some of the contents of the publication pertaining to a comparatively unknown or perhaps deliberately obliterated period of Goa’s political history, revolving around the last two decades of the Portuguese rule in Goa.“A Terceira Corrente” meant the third alternative considering that there were two others, one which supported the continuation of Portuguese rule or was indifferent to Goa’s political status and the other which demanded the ouster of the Portuguese and Goa’s merger in the Indian Union. Bruto da Costa, Dr. Antonio Colaco and many other prominent Goans were in favour of Goa’s autonomy within the Portuguese Empire and fought for it, albeit, unsuccessfully .
Goa’s movement for its merger with India was given a boost from Goa’s soil by Dr.Ram Manohar Lohia in 1946. Unfortunately, however, sustained and courageous efforts by people like Bruto da Costa to attain civil liberties have been ignored. They considered this as the viable alternative, taking into account the Portuguese intransigence in granting Goa complete independence, which might have been a reality later, as it happened with other Portuguese colonies, had the events of December 1961 and the India-Portugal Treaty of 1974 not sealed the fate of Goa as an integral part of India.
For Bruto da Costa then and for many even today, the denial by the Indian Government of the right to the Goans to decide their own future was a total betrayal of all the assurances given by Nehru and a complete violation of international laws. A few days prior to Goa’s takeover, Pandurang Mulgaonkar, Gopal Apa Kamat and others approached Bruto da Costa to lead a delegation to plead with Salazar for administrative and financial autonomy and thus avoid an imminent military intervention.
It was perhaps too late to materialize. In August 1962 Bruto da Costa, in a long letter to Nehru minced no words in denouncing the military operation in Goa, despite Nehru’s pronouncements to the contrary in and outside India’s Parliament, He quoted extensively from UN charter, international laws and treaties to bring home the fact that India had violated all these while invading Goa and denying Goans the right to decide their future.
Perhaps one of Bruto da Costa’s first reactions to dictatorial rule came In 1937 when an article published in ‘O Ultramar’, a weekly edited by him, criticized the racial tone of a discussion held in Assembleia Nacional of Portugal on the general organization of the Army. The article escaped the rigors of censorship but the publication of the newspaper was suspended by the Government. Bruto da Costa, both as a citizen and as a Member of Government Council, was extremely vocal about the citizens’ interests and particularly about Goans’ civic aspirations.
The climax of his constant struggle in this direction came during the visit of the Overseas Minister, Sarmento Rodrigues, when after the meeting he and Dr. Antonio Colaco had with the Minister, the Governor Quintanilha Mendonca Dias called Bruto da Costa aside to another hall and assaulted him, only to find in Bruto da Costa a powerful opponent, who, in an heroic act of self-defence, pinned the Governor to the ground, until the latter’s son-in-law came to his rescue. The Government preferred to ignore the incident perhaps because of the reaction it could cause. But one can well imagine the consequences had a similar incident taken place even with an ordinary Minister or MLA in this full-fledged democracy!
The provocation came after Bruto da Costa had broached with the Minister the Governor’s denial of permission for a meeting of citizens in Margao convened to convey to the Minister the people’s “just aspirations”. It would be long to detail herein every letter, speech or event that marked Bruto da Costa’s sustained attempts at securing administrative and financial reforms in tune with Goa’s legitimate aspirations. Bruto da Costa wrote repeatedly to Salazar and even met him in Portugal, when he courageously made known his views about the Acto Colonial and later about the Estatuto Politico, both of which were controversial legislations, which were an affront to the dignity and prestige of his countrymen. In 1959, Bruto da Costa suffered a detachment of the retina and sought permission from the local Police to visit Bombay for surgery.
This was declined and he was directed to approach the Governor General. Two days later, the Governor offers Bruto da Costa and his wife tickets to go to Europe for the surgery. Bruto da Costa bluntly declines the offer and informs the emissary that the cost of the tickets comes from public funds which the Governor was not free to utilize at his own sweet will to finance trips of private individuals. However, helped financially by some friends, Bruto da Costa went to Spain for the surgery, but too late. He had lost his eyesight. Yet, he had not lost his will power and his determination to fight for what he thought was right, both during the Salazar regime and thereafter. However, his was, unfortunately, the only voice that was boldly raised about the injustice that he and many others felt was being meted to Goans.
It is interesting to note that despite stiff opposition and constant tirades against the Government, the Portuguese never dared to take any action against Bruto da Costa. This contrasts with their attitude towards those who favoured Goa’s merger with India. This was perhaps because it was considered an attempt against Portuguese sovereignty, as today too any similar attempt here would be treated as ‘sedition’. People may have agreed or disagreed with Bruto da Costa’s views but undeniable is the fact that his stand throughout was principled and marked by sincerity, courage, selflessness and sacrifices which are rarely seen in today’s Goa. The present nearly unanimous call for Special Status reflects the unheeded farsightedness of many people who, like Bruto da Costa, had anticipated the consequences of Goa’s merger with India without safeguard of any rights or privileges that would see Goans lost in the vastness of the subcontinent.