Goa: 71 Years Ago, A Little-Known Story of Independence
18 June 1946 was the beginning of the end of the Portuguese rule in Goa.
It’s a little known story, but the first blow for Goa’s liberation from the Portuguese in 1961 was struck on 18 June 1946 by freedom fighter Ram Manohar Lohia.
India was then on the cusp of Independence, but it took 14 long years for the Portuguese to leave Goa. The Portuguese were among the very first to colonise parts of India and were the last to leave. India gained independence on 15 August 1947, but Goa got its freedom on 19 December 1961.
The Portuguese invaded Goa in 1510, and ruled it for over four centuries, subjecting Goans to the most diabolic torture. By 1540, they started the bloodiest period of inquisition and persecution of Hindus and Goan Catholics, as well as the suppression of the Konkani language. They destroyed Hindu temples and placed prohibitions on Hindu marriage rituals. Hindus voluntarily converting to Christianity were exempted from land taxes for 15 years. After the Portuguese came under the dictatorship of Antonio Salazar in 1932, things only got worse. People were denied basic civil liberties; the right to speech, assembly and press were also taken away. Even simple things like marriage invitation cards were censored.
In 1946, at the time when the rest of India was inching towards freedom, on the invitation of Goan academician and writer, Dr Juliao Menezes, Ram Manohar Lohia arrived in Goa. What was originally a visit to a friend, evolved into a movement for civil liberties. When the Goans heard of Lohia’s arrival, nationalist leaders rushed to Menezes’s residence to apprise Lohia of the plight of the Goans.
18 June 1946, was the beginning of the end of the Portuguese rule in India. 71 years ago, the first cry for freedom emanated from the streets and sands of Goa. Freedom fighter, nationalist and socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia launched a movement to fight for the lost civil liberties of the Goans.
June 18, 1946, defying the ban on public meetings, Lohia launched the Civil Disobedience Movement.
June 18 movement was a movement to gain back the lost civil liberties. Dr. Lohia along with Dr. JuliaMenezes arrived in a horse carriage at the venue. The Portuguese police had planted their people all over. The moment Dr. Lohia alightedfrom his carriage and took out the speech, the Portuguese officer hurled apistol at him which Lohia brushed aside and was about to give his speech, that is when they arrested him and lodged him in the Margaon Police station.
– Prajal Sakhardande, Historian
While Lohia was arrested and the movement was quashed, it left a lasting impression on the minds of a number of young Goans like Prabhakar Vitthal Sinari, who was just 13 years old during the movement.
When we reached the venue of the protest, the police officers started beating us. They used to make special whipswith Hippopotamus hide, The moment you get a lash, the whole skin would comeoff. They started thrashing children with those whips. This was the incident that changed my whole life and I thoughtthat I must eradicate the Portuguese even though I was so young.
– Prabhakar Vitthal Sinari, Participant in the movement & Member, Azad Gomantak Dal
It was the spirit of people like Sinari that lived on to ultimately liberate Goa from the Portuguese. Sinari along with revolutionaries like Prabhakar Trivikam Viadiya and Vishwanath Lawande were among those brutalised during the non-violent civil disobedience movement. These men went on to form a revolutionary outfit called the Azad Gomantak Dal that played a crucial role in keeping the battle for freedom of Goa alive.
Even after Lohia was expelled from Goa, this movement inspired Goans to openly defy the ban on public meetings. People began to meet, organise and strategise Goa’s liberation.
June 18, 1946 was the ultimate catalyst in making the Goans believe that their land, seas and sand could breathe the same air of freedom as the rest of India.
(This article is being republished from The Quint’s archives. It was first published on 18 June 2015.)
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