Goa: Another Landmark

Reproduced from the Frontline Magazine, May 30-June 12, 1987 issue by Lucio Mascarenhas.
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[Article in the Frontline, May 30 - June 12, 1987, by M. Madan Mohan, Panaji]

In the 25th year of its liberation from Portuguese rule, Goa is becoming the 25th State of the Indian Union. ANother page is being turned in the chequered history of the territory. But will the change in status accelerate its overall growth? A study of Goa's evolution.

Goa, often fondly described as a jewel of India, is poised to make its debut as the 25th State of the Indian Union. Parilament having already given the green signal for the formation of the separate State and another Union Territory for Daman and Diu, only the formalities remain to be gone through. The official function is slated for May 30.

Goa's history has seen many an ebb and flow. Hence the occasion, besides being of historical significance, evokes nostalgia, sweet and sour.

For centuries this tiny pocket remained cut off from the rest of India as the Portuguese doggedly held on to the territory even when colonial rule had become obsolete the world over. While other parts of the country enjoyed the fresh air of independence, Goa continued to groan under the repression of the dictatorial regime of Salazar of Portugal. D-day came in December 1961 with the Indian Army driving out the Portuguese. The sweetness of the deliverance was however tempered with anxiety about the future, the demand for its merger with Maharashtra threatening to obliterate Goa's identity. But Goa withstood everything and survived with the determination to see the fulfilment of two desires which epitomised its craving for a separate identity. Konkani, spoken by more than 90 per cent of the local people, was accorded the status of an official language through a special Official Language Bill passed by the Assembly of the Union Territory. On its morrow comes statehood.

It was Jawaharlal Nehru who first made a commitment about preserving the identity of Goa. All the three Prime Ministers who succeeded him swore by the commitment but did nothing tangible to translate it into reality. Ultimately it was left to Rajiv Gandhi to fulfil it in the wake of the silver jubilee celebrations of Goa's liberation.

Now Goa is also snapping the umbilical cord that bound it with Daman and Diu, on and off the Gujarat coast respectively. these territories, along with Dadra and Nagar Haveli, had remained under the Portuguese after the British left India. Dadra and Nagar Haveli were the first to get out of the basket. These enclaves were liberated by volunteers of the Azad Gomantak dal, a commando organisation working for the liberation of all Portuguese-held areas, and by local People's Party workers in July-August 1954. In the process they also captured 155 Portuguese at Nagar Haveli. The Portuguese administrator of Dadra surrendered with 55 armed personnel. Portugal, which demanded the right of way to reach these pockets, took the issue to the World Court but it turned down the claim in 1961. Dadra and Nagar Haveli were incorporated into the Indian Union in August 1961 and became a Union Territory. Four months later it was the turn of Goa, Daman and Diu to get liberated but despite their location not being contiguous they were made a Union Territory. For the administration of Daman and Diu a separate Union Territory is now being formed.

Incidentally, Goa has the dubious distinction of being the only pocket in the country which had a very long innings under colonial rule—more than four centuries. It was among the earliest to come under alien rule and practically the last to get out of it.

As teh legend in Kerala goes, Goa is part of the stretch of land on the west coast reclaimed by Parasurama. There are Puranic references to Goa. It has always held a coveted place with its long coastline regared by maritime powers as a gateway to India. It has been witness to the rise and fall of many a dynasty and the cause of antagonism between powers in the ancient and medieval periods. The golden period of Goan history was during the nearly three-century rule of the Kadambas (1008 to 1330 A.D. who had Chandor in south Goa as their capital. The Kadambas originally ruled from Banavasi in the present Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, then shifted to Palasige, the present-day Halsi in Karnataka's Belgaum district, and later branched out to Goa. With the decline of the dynasty, the territory became a pawn on the Deccan chess board. It came under the sway of the Vijayanagar kings, the Bahmani Sultans and later the Sultan of Bijapur. It was through Alfonso de Albuquerque that the Portuguese got their foothold in Goa in 1510 and they contined to hold on despite occasional challenges thrown by the Sultans of Bijapur and the Marathas under Shivaji.

First the Portuguese captured in March 1510 the island encircled by the rivers Mandovi and Zuari which comprised present-day Panaji and old Goa areas. Aftern that they suffered a temporary setback and were pushed out by the Sultans of Bijapur. But in November the same year they regained their territory and it remained with them for the next 450 years, one month and four days till the liberation on December 19, 1961. Bardez and Salsete in the adjoining areas and Daman and Diu came under Portuguese possession during the 16th century. Within the next 200 years, Portuguese power extended to cover the present Goa district. Barring occasional skirmishes with neighbouring powers, the dissent and revolt of a "native" priest named Pinto and a shortlived rebellion by the Ranes, the chieftains of Satari in northern Goa, there was hardly any challenge to the Portuguese presence in Goa.

Political rumblings stemming from the struggle for independence began to have their impact on Goa form the thirties though the nationalist-minded found it difficult to organise any movement within the territory because of the oppressive policies of the Salazar regime. The man who gave a new orientation to the movement against the Portuguese was Ram Manohar Lohia. While on a holiday in Goa he took a lead in organising a civil disobedience movement on June 18, 1946, a day which has immense relevance to the Goans. A maidan at Margao where Lohia addressed a meeting has been named after him and one of the prominent roads in Panaji has been christened the Eighteenth June Road. The movement electrified the atmosphere both inside and outside Goa. Mahatma Gandhi commended the services rendered by Lohia to the cause of civil liberties, especially with regard to Goa.

Men and women, Hindus and Christians, were arrayed shoulder to shoulder in the movement that followed. The harsher sentences awarded to the leaders did not dampen their spirit. While the National Congress (Goa) got busy chalking out moves for the liberation of Goa, India's independence in August 1947 saw the emergence of the Azad Gomantak Dal with the avowed intention of using arms to achieve the goal.

The most important event in the struggle for liberation which stirred the conscience of the world, however, took place on Independence Day in 1955 when under the banner of the Goa Vimochan Samiti nearly 4,000 volunteers from all over India crossed into Goa and other 1,500 entered Daman. The Portuguese opened fire on the unarmed, peaceful volunteers. At least 32 persons lost their loves; 225 were injured. In Daman one volunteer was killed and three injured. With more volunteers eager to face the bullets, India imposed a ban on such movement on September 1, 1955. Diplomatic relations with Portugal were severed and an economic blockade was imposed. India also announced that it would assume responsibility for the liberation of the Portuguese pockets on Indian soil. In December 1961 the Indian Army marched into Goa and unfurled the national flag. It was the end of a chapter and the beginning of another.

The liberation, through the decisive action taken by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Defence Minister V.K. Krishna Menon, caused unbounded joy all over the territory. But in its wake came fears about the future under the new dispensation. Where would this territory fit in? Would it remain as a separate entity or should it be merged with the neighbouring States? The question remained uppermost in the minds of everybody. Karnataka, which has a longer border with Goa than Maharashtra, never staked any serious territorial claims over Goa. In fact, its leaders like S. Nijalingappa proved to be the source of inspiration and sustenance for the anti-merger forces.

The controversy had its origin in the atmosphere of mutual distrust that marked the relations between Hindus and Catholic Christians in the wake of liberation. The majority of the Hindus, wary of the likely domination of the other community in the administration, favoured a merger with Maharashtra. The Catholics had their reservations over the merger move. Any merger with a neighbouring State would reduce them to non-entities, they feared. Even the tussle for official status for Marathi or Konkani, the two languages "used" and "spoken" in Goa, could be traced to this atmosphere of distrust. Pro-merger elements buttressed their demand saying that Konkani was nothing but a dialect of Marathi. But the Konkani protagonists disputed it and maintained that it was a separate language. The fact that the majority of the Hindus were identified with marathi and the merger idea and that most of the Catholics and the upper strata of Hindus, especially the Saraswat Brahmins, favoured Konkani made matters worse. The atmosphere was emotion-charged as the territory prepared to face elections to the first territorial Assembly within two years of its liberation.

The Congress was banking on the assurance of the Prime Minister about the identity of Goa being preserved. The party, which entered the arena hoping to cash in on its role as "liberator," was in for a surprise. In the elections held in 1963 the Congress got a drubbing and could not win a single seat in Goa which accounted for 28 of the 30 seats in the Assembly. That it got the lone seat from farawy Daman was poor consolation. The Diu seat was bagged by an independent.

It was apparent that the Goan electorate, operating under severe emotial strain, had plumped for the two regional parties—the Hindu-dominated Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party and the Catholic-supported United Goans Party, bot of whom had made the future of Goa and the official language issue their main plank. The MGP which stood for merger with Maharashtra and primacy for Marathi, was voted to power while the UGP, which was for the territory's separate identity and primacy fo Konkani got only 12 seats. Dayanand Bandodkar, the mine-owner turned president of the MGP, became the first Chief Minister of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu.

The MGP vicotry only aggravated the controversy over Goa's future. On the strength of the electoral verdict a case was made out for the merger of Goa with Maharashtra and Daman and Diu with Gujarat. But a stiff resistance to such efforts in which Maharashtra leaders, both of the Congress and the Opposition, were taking active interest, was launched by the anti-merger forces. In this context of conflicting claims the Central Government took the unprecedented step of holding an opinion poll on the ticklish issue. A special enactment enabled the poll held in January 1967. But the pro-merger elements failed to carry the people with them. The other side had made its point.

From this time Goa's political future ceased to be a matter of interest and discussion on it seemed to have become academic. Despite an adverse vote in the opinion poll, the MGP won the elections in 1967, 1972 and 1977. A change in the stewarship of the party following the death of Bandodkar, with his daughter Shashikala Kakodkar stepping in, hardly made any difference to the fortures of the party. But it finally lost out following a rebellion within the ranks. Then the Congress (U) came to power, ending the 17-year rule of the MGP. It was for the first time that a national party had been voted to power in the territory. The Congress (U), then headed by Devaraj Urs, later joined forces with some who had quit the UGP and the MGP and merged with the Congress (I). Chief Minister Pratap Singh Rane who headed the ministry went over lock, stock and barrel to the Congress (I). In the 1985 elections Rane led the party to victory and is still in the driver's seat.

The emergence of the Congress (U) turned Congress (I) ministry in 1980 saw a revival of interest in the twin issues of statehood and language virtually forgotten after the opinion poll. During the second Congress (I) term the issues began to assure serious dimensions. A snowballing violent language agitation threatened to tear the territory asunder. Normal life was disrupted and several lives were lost. The Rane Government, after a spell of dithering which almost cost the Chief Minister his position, had the Official Language Bill moved and adopted in the Assembly, declaring Konkani the official language while provideing for the use of Marathi in Goa and Gujarati in Daman and Diu.

With the language row out of the way it was only a question of time before the statehood issue was resolves. It may be a sheer coincidence, but the issue seemed to have acquired urgency after the Congress (I) lost virtually the entire South following its rout in Kerala recently.

Behind The Names

Is it going to be a simple Goa State or Vishal Gomantak or Konkan? The three names with different connotations have cropped up during any discussion on statehood.

Goa alone means that statehood is being granted to Goa district of the present Union Territory of Goa, Daman & Diu.

Vishal Gomantak was envisaged as a bigger State made up of present Goa and the territories including Belgaum involved in the Karnataka-Maharashtra border dispute. The Vishal Gomantak idea was floated as an alternative if the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti failed to get Belgaum merged into Maharashtra.

The Konkan concept is of a new linguistic State which would include not only Goa which is the home of Konkani but also the Konkani-speaking areas of the neighbouring States of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Many of the village panchayats in Sindhudurga, a Maharashtra district across the border, are reported to have passed resolutions expressing their desire to join a Konkan State.

But by opting for the creation of a State of Goa pure and simple, the Indian Central Government and Goan politicians have chose to steer clear of any controversy. "We don't have territorial designs and certainly we do not like to disturb the atmosphere in the neighbouring States of Maharashtra and Karnataka," maintain local politicians in a bid to explain why they have opted for "Goa." But behind the protestations remains the hard fact that the Goans would not like to lose their identity or numerical strength, bot of which may become casualties in any bid to enlarge the State by roping in others. And this they want to avoid at any cost.
The attainment of the goal of statehood amy have satisfied the emotional craving of the people but would it be a harbinger of accelerated growth? The burden in terms of resource mobilisation the nascent State may have to shoulder, despite the massive Central assistance which will continue for the present at the existing level as a special case, has been the subject of debate.

The State will be the smallest in the country in terms of area (3,702 km2), but its population of 1.002 million places it above others like Arunachal Pradesh (0.628 million), Mizoram (0.487), Sikkim (0.315) and Nagaland (0.773). The territory has recorded a faster rate of development, a phenomenon which has not escaped the attention of planners and others. Investment in socio-economic development over the years has been estimated at Rs. 55.8 billions.

Regional income at current prices has registered a growth rate of 30%, going up from Rs. 7.7 billions in 1970.71 to Rs. 44.5 billions in 1984-85. At constant prices the growth rate has been computed at 8% over the same period. Per capita net Domestic Product has been worked out at Rs. 3,810 at current prices and at Rs. 1,524 at constant prices, said to be the highest in the country. But an unusual and significant trend has been that while the contribution from the primary sector has come down steeply from 31% to 22% during the past 15 years, that from the secondary sector has increased from 26% to 32%. Per capita power consumption has gone up from 13 kWh to 260 kWh during the past two decades. The growth in population may be the highest for the country with the exception of metropolitan towns. Goa's literacy rate at 57% and population density of 285 per km2 are high.

In just two decades Goa's urban population has doubled from 16% in 1961 to 32.46% in 1981. Agriculture has been a weak link and yields from horticultural crops are unsatisfactory. Overall, the benefits of development have not spread evenly; they are concentrated in the taluks of Panaji, Mapuca and Mormugao.

Though there has been a steady increase in revenue both from tax and non-tax soruces, Central assistance given as grant-in-aid to cover revenue gaps and loan to meet the deficit under capital account continues to be sizable. Such assistance for Plan and non-Plan schemes under both revenue and capital accounts was Rs. 11.18 billions as per actualys available for 1984-85, Rs. 13.6 billions as per the revised estimates for 1985-1986 and Rs. 13.8 billions as per the budget estimates for 1986-1987. The question is whether the Centre can maintain the present level of assitance even after the conferment of Statehood. In terms of the formula laid down by the Eight Finance Commission, Goa's share of Central assistance will be much lower. Now it will be put in a special category of States entitled for liberal assistance. But how long?

Another possible fallout of the change in status is a polarisation of political parties. Today the Congress (I) is the sole national party in Goa. For the Opposition Goa Congress which was in the forefront of the fight for Konkani and statehood and the MGP which stood for Marathi and merger with Maharashtra the rationale behind their very existence is lost with the present developments. Some of them may gravitate towards the ruling party but the Congress (I) itself is riven by schism. The shape of things to come in Goa politics should be interesting to watch.

Dadra & Nagar-Aveli

[Frontline, July 11-24, 1987]

The article "Goa: Another Landmark" (May 30-June 12) needs correction. Dadra was "wrenched out" of the "basket" on July 21, 1954 by the United Front of Goans and two local policemen, Aniceto do Rosario and Antonio Fernandes, died in battle.

If the nomenclature Portuguese refers to ethnic Europeans and not the local Portuguese citizens, then there were only two in Nagar Haveli, the Administrator, Captain Fidalgo, and the police chief, Lt. Falcao, and not 155. Before the Azad Gomantak Dal marched in on August 1, 1954, a Goan officer in the Indian police advised them to surrender at a point on the border with Nasik district in order to avoid bloodshed. And so they led a tactical police retreat to Canoel (Khanvel). The local police senior, Manuel Pereira, wanted to put up a fight at Canoel but when he found that Fidalgo and Falcao had already retreated across the border, he surrendered along with his men. They were kept prisoner in Canoel till November 1954 when they were allowed to go to Daman.

The World Court verdict in the famous "Rights of Passage Case" was ambiguous. It affirmed Portuguese sovereignty in Dadra & Nagar-Haveli till July 1954 but kept mum on the political status thereafter. While giving Portugal the right of passage for civilian officials, it upheld India's right to refuse transit to armed personnel from Daman. When the judgment was given in April 1960, both sides rejoiced!

A marble slab in Daman on the road to the airport says the Portuguese Governor of Damao, Major Antonio Jose da Costa Pinto, surrendered on December 20, 1961, after 36 hours of grueling fighting. Another one inside the Fort states that Daman was captured after a heroic fight.

J. Menezes, Bombay.

Comments by Lucio Mascarenhas

  1. The Indians had no business interfering with Goa. Goa is NOT a part of India. The "volunteers" who violated the boundaries of Goa came with the intension of perpetrating aggression upon the Goans and to enslave them to India; they richly deserved summary execution, instead of which they were impatiently chucked back across the border.
  2. Goa did not ask India to interfere in her internal affairs, and did not join India. Therefore, Goa is not a part of India. India merely has the possession of Goa by right of having stolen goods, and its right is merely that of holding and not returning stolen goods.
  3. Portugal, acting on the advice of a Goan patriot, countered the Indian economic blockade by opening the mines in East Goa at its expense. These made Goa economically self-sufficient. That Portugal was fair is proven that the mines were left in the ownership of their Hindu landowners. India after the occupation, has arrogated to itself the bulk of the revenues from the mining operations, which amount to over 300 billion rupees per annum, yet claims that Goa is economically deficient. The Indian Government, under Rajiv Gandhi, agreed to grant "statehood" to Goa only very reluctantly, and only because Goans insisted, but has retained the revenues of the mining operations.

Reproduced from the Frontline Magazine, July 11-24, 1987 issue by Lucio Mascarenhas.
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