Miscellaneous

Goan Involvement in India’s freedom struggle

– Prof. Sushila Sawant Mendes

On the 75th anniversary of the independence of India, it is interesting to examine the Goancontribution to the national cause. Although most of these men and women contributed selflessly to the liberation of Goa, this study concentrates only on their work for the freedom of mother India. Popular support for the cause of India’s independence existed in Portuguese Goa much before 1947.

This was evident when Nehru made his first and last visit to Portuguese Goa on 9th Feb.1937, when his plane stopped for half an hour for refuelling at the then Sada aerodrome near Vasco, on his way from Bombay to Trivandrum to address a meeting at Cannanore in his capacity as the President of the Indian National Congress. Hundreds of Goansthronged to the aerodrome despite the prohibitaryorders of the Portuguese government which also prevented Nehru from addressing the people or accepting their garlands. The government officials who had volunteered to greet him were dismissed and charge-sheeted for treason.

This event was reported by the Portuguese press in the Journal da India, Diaro do Noite, O Ultramar, O Heraldo and in the vernacular press by O Bharat. The impact of this event can be gauged by the fact that on the 11th Feb.1937, the Chef de GabinetteJose Carneiro de Souza Faro, warned the authorities in Vasco to take precautionary measures in case Nehru stopped again in Goa on his way back to Bombay. Instructions were issued forbidding access to the road leading to the aerodrome and the gathering of people near it. 

In 1928, T.B.Cunha founded the Goa Congress Committee and had it affiliated to the Indian National Congress at its Calcutta session. Luis de Menezes Bragança accompanied T.B.Cunha to the Calcutta session, where they both heard Mahatma Gandhi speak and interacted with nationalists like the editor of Amrita Bazar Patrika, Motilal Gosh. It was here that there was a diametrical change in Menezes Bragança’s ‘vision of Goa’s future’. He was now comvinced that Goa should join the national struggle of freedom.  

Menezes Bragança imported the national discourse from British India across Goa’s borders and into the homes of citizens reading his newspapers. Goansread about the great nationalist leaders in India’s on-going freedom struggle against the British leaders like Motilal Nehru, G.K. Gokhale, Lala Lajpat Raiand Jawaharlal Nehru. He thus updated Goans withdevelopments in British India,   nursing the flame of political consciousness among his readers. If the people in British India had the courage and perseverance to fight their colonial masters, then Goans could also do so. He wrote inspirational stories of leaders who persevered in their quest for freedom despite persecution.

In the issues of Pracasha, the front full pages were dedicated to Swami Vivekananda, Dr.B.S.Munje(member of the Hindu Mahasabha delegation to Goa in 1928) or some other national figures with their respective photographs. Menezes Bragança was proud of his Goan and Indian roots. He often wrote on subjects like the Mahabharat, Kautilya, Patanjaliand the Arthashastra to illustrate his case that long before the Europeans came to India, there was already a well-developed civilization, which was steeped in spirituality, philosophy and jurisprudence much ahead of its times. These writings inculcated a sense of self-respect and respect for India’s rich heritage. 

T.B.Cunha was a member of the Anti-Imperialist League and collaborated with other Indian patriots in the Pro-Indian committee of the Information Bureau founded by Romain Rolland in Paris. Cunha also collaborated with Henri Barbusse who had openly sympathised with the cause of India’s freedom in Europe. He wrote on French newspapers like Clarte, L’Humanite and L’Europe Nouvelle,wherein he exposed the Jallainwalla Baugh massacre which was blacked out by the foreign press. He serialized a biographical study of Mahatma Gandhi in French before Romain Rolland did his own.  

In 1929, when hundreds of Kunbi’s (Goan Christian Adivasi’s) labourers were enticed by the British tea planters of Assam and made to work like slaves, it was largely because of the intervention of Nehru along with the Goa Congress Committee that succeeded in getting the unfortunate victims of ‘camouflaged slavery’ repatriated to their homes. 

Cunha organised the Goa Action Committee in Bombay of all Goan political parties. He supported the Goa Vimochan Sahayak Samhiti (GVSS) whose members came from every nook and corner of the country to offer satyagraha in the years 1954 and 1955 for the Goan cause.The propagation of the Swadeshi movement and temperance formed the most important feature of his activities as a writer and activist.

Peter Alvares gave up his well-paid job in the Port Trust of India in order to participate in the Indian freedom movement and actively participated in the Quit India movement of 1942 and was in jail for over two years. He was the founder of the GIP Railway Panchayat and a number of other unions of the Indian Railways. He was the President of the All India Railway Federation and for many years was in the fore front of the railway trade union movement in India. He wrote on economic issues for the Janata, the Socialist weekly of Bombay. As President of the National Congress, Goa he was instrumental in founding the GVSS which coordinated satyagrahis from different parts of the country to come to Goa. He worked in the last years of his life in Bihar for Jayaprakash Narayan’s JanataMovement.

Louis Mendes was member of the Indian National Congress and later member of the NCG. He participated in the Quit India Movement. He was forced to be in exile in Bombay as an arrest warrant was issued against him in Goa. He was the founder member and General Secretary of the Maritime Labour Union of India and the editor of its magazine. He wrote articles of how the Indian sea farers were paid lesser salaries than their European counterparts in the Goan Tribune. As General Secretary of the Goan Clubs Federation he was a member of the Goan Political delegation that met Nehru in Delhi.

Rev. Fr. H. O. Mascarenhas, was a staunch nationalist and a sympathizer of the freedom movement since he was ordained a priest in 1934.He was fluent in Sanskrit and well versed in the Bhagvad Gita and the Upanishads. He founded many branches of the Konkani Bhasha Mandal in the colleges of Bombay.

Vishwanath Lawande participated in the Quit India movement as a part of the Kolhapur Students Union. He organised the Rashtriiya Seva Dal branch in Kolhapur and thereafter was immersed in the Goa’s freedom struggle as an active member of the Azad Gomantak Dal. Shamrao Lad was also a participant of the Quit India movement. Yeshwant Bugdereceived lathi-charges from the British police for offering satyagraha in Ratnagiri during Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha Movement.

Diwakar Kakodkar joined the Communist Party of India in 1935 and participated in the Indian freedom struggle while in Bombay. He was an active member of the Bombay Students movement. Chandrakant Kakodkar was also a member of the CPI. He was arrested for his involvement in the QuitIndia movement and was lodged in the Nasik jail for 2 years. As Secretary of the Goan Youth League he and Joachim Dias met Gandhi in 1946 in Pune. Gandhi reassured them that Goans should not submit to the Portuguese and that the entire nation supported the Goan cause. Dias participated in the Indian freedom struggle during his student days and was arrested several times in the Castlerock area and in Belgaum.

Sindu Deshpande belonged to a family of nationalists and was drawn into the Quit India movement. She was later a member of the PrajaSocialist Party and organised its women’s branch in Maharashtra. Dattatraya Deshpande participated in the Quit India movement from 1942-45.He joined the Forward Bloc started by Subhash Chandra Bose and worked for it in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Anna Deshpande was in the struggle against the Nizam of Hyderabad and in the Quit India movement.

Most of the Goans were drawn into the Indian national movement because they were forced to livein exile in British India and could not remain mute spectators. On the other side hundreds of volunteers of the GVSS came to offer satyagraha at the cost of their lives. Although the colonial masters were different, the people were linked by an umbilical cord which made the struggle a common cause.  

Prof.Sushila Sawant Mendes

Author & Senior Faculty in History

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