On the 19th of December 1961, history was made when the Indian army, led by Brig Sagat Singh, declared complete victory against the Portuguese forces in Goa. For more than 450 years, Goa was ruled by the Portuguese. As a result, every year on December 19th, Goa commemorates its independence.
Even before the Mughals came, the Portuguese arrived and established their dominance over Goa. Other kings and dynasties came and went, but the Portuguese rule remained constant. All histories were witnessed by the Portuguese, including those of the British, French, Dutch, Mughals, Marathas, Tipu Sultans, Vijaynagar dynasty, and Adil Shahi monarchs. The Portuguese's luck, perseverance, and cruel control also proved to be a match for several internal revolts and movements against them.
The Portuguese had also colonised Brazil at the same time it conquered Goa. However Brazil could win its Freedom in 1820. Goa had to wait for 140 years before it could release itself from the racist Portuguese rule. Brazil was a colony of mostly European settlers as the Portuguese finished off most of the local population.
Goa Kranti Din
The Portuguese luck seemed to be continuing as rest of India was on the cusp of Freedom. But in 1946 the great activist and social reformer Ram Manohar Lohia visited Goa. He was appalled at the unjust rule of the Portuguese. Along with his friend Dr. Juliao Menezes he organised a political gathering in Panaji to protest against the foreign rulers. Dr Juliao was a respected Goan and was worried about the plight of the Goans. The activists were arrested and the crowd was disbursed with brutal force. Later Ram Manohar Lohia was sent back to India.
The venue of the political gathering is now a memorial to the freedom struggle. It is now known as Azad Maidan. The protest was held On June 18, 1946, which now known as Goa Kranti Din. Every year June 18th is observed as Goa revolution day to recall the sacrifices of freedom fighters and Martyrs of Goa's liberation struggle.
Figure 1 Azad Maidan Memorial
But this had kindled the flame of revolt in Goa and other Portuguese territories. They continued with the Civil Disobedience and armed struggle. The uprising against the foreign rule grew more popular.
Azad Gomantak Dal and RSS
Among the many young leaders and fighters in Goa, the Civil Disobedience Movement inspired a young Prabhakar Vitthal Sinari, to lead the fight against the Portuguese.
The Azad Gomantak Dal (AGD) was founded by Prabhakar Sinari, a young revolutionary. Later, to fight the Portuguese, the Azad Gomantak Dal and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) joined forces. They had a significant number of Indian patriots on their side. Nana Kaajrekar (a Pune wrestler), Sudhir Phadke (a music director), Babasaheb Purandare (a historian), and other nationalists took part in the uprising. Lata Mangeshkar, the nightingale of India, sang at a concert in Pune to raise cash for the purchase of weaponry to free Goa, Dadra, and Nagar Haveli from Portuguese rule. Azad Gomantak Dal raided police stations and factories, ambushed military patrols, attacked border troops, and blew up ammunition stores with splendid success.
The Portuguese were forced to relinquish control of Dadra Haveli as a result of the group's relentless battle. The insurrection was led by RSS cadres and other revolutionaries. The RSS played a key role in the independence of Dadra and Nagar Haveli from Portuguese rule in 1954-55, as well as the liberation of Goa in 1961. .. Because of the Portuguese government's severe response, some swayamsevaks died or were injured. The Portuguese army were defeated and captured by the armed insurgency at Dadra. Ultimately, the Indian Tricolour was raised at Silvassa on August 2, 1954. The armed factions then formally handed over the province to Indian forces.
But Goa was still under Foreign rule. Moreover, Portugal was a part of NATO, which restricted the responses of Indian Government. India also had severed diplomatic relations with Portugal over the issue of occupation of territories. The Indian government however could not ignore non-violent and violent protests against the Portuguese, by the Goans. It is reported more than 61 Portuguese police officers were killed by the violent protestors in a single year. Several protesters were killed or injured due to harsh measures by the Portuguese government. Goa was a colony ruthlessly administered by a racist and fascist colonial regime.
Pandit Nehru, the Prime minister of India, tried various diplomatic measures for 14 years after independence to persuade the Portuguese to relinquish control of Indian territories. India unsuccessfully campaigned in the United Nations to convince the Portuguese to leave India peacefully.
Salazar, the Portugal dictator, refused to budge.
On 24 November 1961, Sabarmati, a passenger boat passing between the Indian port of Kochi and the Portuguese-held island of Anjidiv, was fired upon by Portuguese ground troops, resulting in the death of a passenger and injuries to the chief engineer. This hastened Indian preparations for war, as public opinion was high.
As India prepared for war so did Portugal. Prime Minister Salazar sent a message to Governor General Manuel António Vassalo e Silva of Goa on 14 December, in which he ordered the Portuguese forces in Goa to fight to the last man. The Portuguese planned to delay the victory to Indian forces by demolishing bridges and land mines. The orders were to hold on to Goa for 1 week so that global pressure could be applied to India to withdraw.
India reclaimed its territories from Portuguese by military power. This was the last resort as the Salazar dictatorship of Portugal refused to leave. The "armed action" was code named Operation Vijay (meaning "Victory") by the Indian Armed Forces. It involved air, sea and land strikes for over 36 hours, and was a decisive victory for India, ending 451 years of rule by Portugal over its remaining exclaves in India. The engagement lasted two days, and twenty-two Indians and thirty Portuguese were killed in the fighting. Manuel António Vassalo e Silva the last Governor-General of Portuguese India chose to surrender rather than have the completely outgunned & outnumbered Portuguese force annihilated.
Globally India was censured for the violent action. The UN resolution was passed by majority members, but then vetoed by the Soviet Union. The resolution asked India to withdraw immediately and sort out the matter through talks. Ceylon supported India, while Pakistan publicly opposed Indian action. But Pakistan also denied logistical support to the Portuguese for transporting military equipment and forces. Egypt also denied passage to military ships of Portugal to India through the Suez canal.
The Indian army's arrival was warmly greeted by the Goans. There were a few individuals who did not enjoy being dominated by India. Dominic Francis Moraes, a well-known Goan English writer, tore his Indian passport in protest of the Indian move. Pandit Nehru was vilified by many Indians for delaying the armed involvement. Some even believed that Defence Minister V K Krishna Menon carried out the operation without Pandit Nehru's approval.
The Portugal dictator declared a bounty of 10,000 USD on Brig Sagat Singh.
It was never claimed, and Brigadier Sagat Singh went on to play key roles in the conflicts with China and Pakistan.
The Portuguese Governor Vassalo e Silva was greeted with a hostile reception when he returned to Portugal. He was subsequently court martialled for failing to follow orders, expelled from the military and was sent into exile.
António de Oliveira Salazar suffered a stroke in September 1968 and was unable to continue his duties and resigned as the Prime Minister of Portugal for 36 years. Salazar promoted Catholicism, motto of the Salazar regime was Deus, Pátria e Família (meaning "God, Fatherland and Family").
After 1974's Carnation Revolution, the new Portuguese government recognised Indian sovereignty over Goa, Daman and Diu, and the two states restored diplomatic relations.