Goa’s Liberation From The Portuguese

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Goa, one of India’s top tourist destinations, was once the headquarters of the Portuguese Empire for 450 years. And yet it all came crumbling down in just 36 hours, when Portugal surrendered Goa in 1961.

The Portuguese were the first among European colonial powers to arrive in India (1498); they were also the last to leave, in 1961. With the collapse of the monarchy in Portugal in 1910, there was hope of freedom for its colonies. Alas, nothing changed.

Bust of Luís de Menezes Bragança | Wikimedia Commons
Bust of Luís de Menezes Bragança | Wikimedia Commons

Among the first to call for Goa's independence was Luis de Menezes Braganza, co-founder of Goa's first Portuguese daily O Heraldo. He created a political consciousness among fellow Goans through his writing.

But the Portuguese administration in Goa cracked down and curtailed civil liberties. The freedom movement received a boost in 1946, when Juliao Menezes and Ram Manohar Lohia addressed a public gathering in Goa and called for a revolution.

Tristão de Bragança Cunha 1998 stamp of India | Wikimedia Commons
Tristão de Bragança Cunha 1998 stamp of India | Wikimedia Commons

Next, Braganza's brother-in-law Dr Tristao de Braganza Cunha, known as the 'Father of Goan Nationalism', was imprisoned for opposing colonial rule. After his release in 1954, he set up the Goa Action Committee in Bombay, to coordinate the Goan freedom movement.

Meanwhile, Indian revolutionaries kept crossing the Goa border and raising the Indian flag as a form of protest. Satyagraha campaigns also entered the state, the first batch led Maharashtrian freedom fighter Senapati Bapat.

Between 1955 and 1961, India used dialogue as the primary means to seek independence but in vain. Thus, in 1961, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said the time had come to “consider afresh what method should be adopted to free Goa from Portuguese rule”.

Casket of Saint Francis Xavier | Wikimedia Commons
Casket of Saint Francis Xavier | Wikimedia Commons

The Indian government launched a military operation, 'Operation Vijay', in December 1961 to liberate Goa. Anticipating this, the Portuguese began taking their assets out of India and even prepared to take the casket with the remains of St Francis Xavier back to Lisbon.

To thwart Indian troops, the Portuguese blew up bridges connecting to Goa to the rest of India but India deployed the navy and air force, and swiftly took control of Goa. Operation Vijay did not last more than 36 hours.

Governor General Vassalo Silva | Wikimedia Commons
Governor General Vassalo Silva | Wikimedia Commons

On 19th December 1961, defying Portuguese Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar’s orders, Governor-General Vassalo e Silva signed the ‘instrument of surrender’, thus ending Lisbon's rule in Goa after 451 years.

Cover Image: Free Press Journal

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