December 19, 1961


December 19, 1961 is celebrated in Goa as Liberation Day. On December 19 of every year, flowery speeches are made by politicians, a parade is held and many celebratory functions are held all over the State.

The question is: Are Goans truly liberated?
TGF says: NO!

Let us examine what we know.

1. In the early 16th century, Goa was ruled by the Muslim Kings from Golconda. It was a particularly violent era in the history of the subcontinent. Hindus & Muslims butchered each other, ravaged each others' places of worship and confiscated their women.

2. At that very time, the Portuguese were trying to get a foot into the lucrative spice empire hitherto controlled by their archenemies, the Muslims (Arabs). The Arabs controlled the seas (Arabian Sea) and the tolls for the spices (black pepper) necessary for the preservation of meats. Refrigeration was not yet available.

3. The spice capital of the world was Calicut, on the West Coast of the Indian subcontinent (Malabar, Kerala). Any spot on the West Coast was better than having to fight for spice from anchored ships.

4. The devastated Hindus of Goa approached the Portuguese for help against the Muslim King, Adil Shah. After initial suspicion, the Portuguese agreed to help. The Adil Shah forces were defeated. Goa was gifted to the Portuguese.

5. After a period of relative calm and good relations( especially during the tenure of Afonso da Albuquerque ), the Portuguese rulers displayed their own brand of intolerance. This surprised the Goan Hindus. Turmoil followed with the political use of the Inquisition. Many Goans lost their lives and loved ones to the Horrible Inquisition.

6. Towards the beginning of the 19th Century, Portuguese strength, influence and arrogance waned. Goa went through a period of relative calm. Life was simple & peaceful. Little development took place.

7. In the 1940s, the world was in turmoil with the Second World War. Portugal was neutral. Portugal was also under the iron grip of Antonio Oliveira Salazar. Dr. Salazar initially set about putting order to the absolutely chaotic Portuguese economy and was immensely popular with the populace. Power went to his head and turned him into a stubborn and ruthless dictator.

8. Goa suffered during the Salazar era. The same ruthlessness which the Portuguese felt in Portugal, was felt in Goa. The vast majority of Goa's colonial police were Goans.  In fact, the "white Portuguese" ie the "pakhle" took a lot of rap for the high handed actions of Goan policemen. [Of note, many of these very same Goan policemen were invited to join the new Goa Police (Indian) , the day after the December 1961 action!]

9. May educated and thinking Goans began whispering opposition to the Portuguese. They felt that it was time for the Portuguese to go.

10. Among the more vocal opponents of Salazar, were Jose Inacio Francisco Candido (Fanchu) de Loyola, Dr Ramakrishna Hegde, Tristao de Braganza Cunha, Laxmikant Bhembre, Purshottam Kakodkar, Dr Pundalik Gaitonde and eminent Goan physician Dr. Froilano de Mello. Fanchu de Loyola was one of the leading intellectuals and a political activist of his day in Goa.  Dr Ramakrishna Hegde, Laxmikant Bhembre, Purshottam Kakodkar and Dr Pundalik Gaitonde were vocal opponents of the Dictatorship of Salazar and made intellectual contributions to Goan political thought.  De Braganza Cunha demanded  that civil liberties be restored in Goa while  Froilano, the only Independent member of the Portuguese Legislative Assembly openly demanded that Portugal give Goa, independence. Dr. de Mello was successful in obtaining the revocation of the discriminatory  Acto Colonial. Sadly neither Froilano  nor  de Braganza Cunha  survived to see December 19, 1961 and the departure from Goa of Salazar.  Fanchu de Loyola returned to Portugal where he passed away in 1973 alone and away from his beloved family and beloved Goa.  Sadly too, Dr. Froilano passed away in 1955 in faraway Brazil, quite disappointed and let down by his fellow Goans

11. During their struggle against Salazar, not many Goans supported the Goan Nationalists. Among the Salazar supporters, was Big Business.

12. Big Business was quite happily making fortunes while Portugal was getting the false rap for striping Goa of its resources. A retrospective analysis will show that Portugal remained poor while Big Business grew astronomically.

13. Many Goans went into exile in Bombay and developed the Freedom movement there. India was fighting its own Freedom battle with Britain. Allies were to be found with similar causes.

14. A number of Goans were brave enough to oppose the Portuguese in Goa. They found themselves promptly incarcerated.

15. Not all those who were incarcerated in Goan or Portuguese jails were Freedom Fighters. Many were in jails for criminal acts such as robbery. Some of these ( like the Mariel refugees from Cuba ) slipped into the ranks of the Freedom Fighters.

16. This takes us into the period 1947-1961. There were only a limited number of Portuguese officials in Goa. Many top administrators, law and order officials and civil authorities were Goans. The vast majority of Goans lived in the villages and were quite oblivious of the rumblings in the upper echelons.

17. Goa was clean, inexpensive, and safe. The standard of living was very high even though several parts of Goa did not have electricity or structured roads. Personal security was not an issue. Hence, nobody really bothered to shut their doors at night. Communal harmony was the norm. Catholics, Hindus and Muslims lived peacefully as neighbours and colleagues.  Educational and employment opportunities however, were limited. Goans traveled to Bombay, East Africa, Karachi or on board the ship in order to work.  Even so, with Portuguese Government subsidies in situ, life in Goa was infinitely less expensive compared to life in IndiaGoans had access to many items which were not easily found in India. Scores of Indian business folks made their livelihood smuggling goods from Goa to India.

18. The year was 1961. General elections were due in India. The Congress Party under the rhetoric leadership of the centre-left Prime Minister Nehru was heading for defeat. There was much discontent in India with Nehru and his "all talk littleaction" 5 year plans. His right hand man and colleague from London School of Economics days, ultra leftist VK Krishna Menon came up with a master diversionary stroke. "Let us take over Goa". War always encourages support for the government. It also hides governmental inefficiency and corruption.  So, Nehru went for it. As it is he thought that Goans were fit only to be "cooks and butlers". No need to ask them how they felt.

19. Goans were not consulted and it is unlikely that many in the group of Freedom Fighters were taken into confidence either. Consequently, no Government in Exile was formed. 

20. It was December 3, 1961. Huge convoys of Indian troop had commenced their movement towards Goa. The Anjadiva incident was used as a pretext to invade Goa. In order to offset the disparity among the two forces, Salazar had ordered the mining and booby trapping of Goa. Goa was to be destroyed if it was to be lost. The Roman Catholic Patriarch of Goa and the Portuguese Governor of Goa blocked this plan. Goa was saved from destruction. Indian troops accepted the surrender of a the paltry Portuguese force of soldiers and policemen on December 19, 1961.

21. Huge crowds of Goans came out of their houses. Relief is a minor word to describe the feeling of that day. The days of Salazarist oppression were over. The dictator Dr. Antonio Oliveira Salazar was defeated. Hooray! 


June 18, 2001
updated: May 26, 2002 ( acknowledge input of Lino Leitão to # 10 above )

Next: The Big Let Down

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