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Mainstream, VOL L, No 9, February 18, 2012

Goa — The Liberators and the Lesson

Sunday 19 February 2012, by Ajoy Ghosh


[(On February 20 this year falls the 103rd birth anniversary of Ajoy Ghosh, the fourth General Secretary of the CPI and the last of the undivided Communist Party (October 1950-January 1962). While remembering him we reproduce, with due acknowledgement, the following article he wrote in New Age, the CPI organ, after the liberation of Goa from Portuguese colonial rule at the fag end of 1961. This article appeared on January 7, 1962 less than a week before Ajay’s tragic demise on January 13. This article is of special relevance now that we have observed the fiftieth anniversary of Goa’s independence and its merger with India.)]

Pandit Nehru in his Press Conference of December 28, 1961 made certain revealing statements, which need to be highlighted and pondered upon.

The Times of India (December 29, 1961) reported him as saying: “The situation in Goa had ripened from day to day, so that the final decision was virtuality taken out of the Government’s hands.

“If the Government had not acted when it did it woiuld have been faced with hundreds of Indian people determined to march into Goa. The choice then would have been to let them be massacred by the Portuguese—as happened in 1955—or to shoot them down ourselves.

“The Portuguese administration had crumbled down long before Indian troops entered Goa...”

Nehru’s Admission

IN another statement at the same Press Conference Nehru said that “during the last 14½ years Goa was a constant pricking on our mind and our conscience. Even if we (the Government) had been complacent, there were enough members of the Opposition to remind us constantly about it.”

These observations of the Prime Minister underline two basic facts about the liberation of Goa, facts which the people must remember and evaluate.
First, the role of the democratic movement and the pressure of public opinion in making possible the entry of India’s armed forces into Goa. Second, the hammer blows dealt at Portuguese imperialism by the Goan patriots and, above all, by the heroic Goan commandos.

No one would deny the fact that the decisive and final blow to the Portuguese usurpers of our territory was dealt by the Indian Army. It was precisely because of this that the Communist Party and the entire democratic movement kept pressing the Government to send in our armed forces.

No one would deny that the Government of India deserved great praise for having taken the decision that ultimately returned Goa to the motherland. It was precisely because of this that the Communist Party and the entire democratic movement, while expressing their thrill and joy, immediately congratulated the Prime Minister and his Government.

More than a suspicion remains, though, whether all members of the Cabinet, which includes, after all, Morarji Desai, felt quite happy about the final act.

The fact remains, however, that the Communist Party and the entire democratic movement have every reason to congratulate themselves for the energy, the steadfastness and the dedication with which they laboured for Goa’s freedom.

Let us recall the middle months of 1955. In May of that year an all-parties committee of Members of Parliament was set up to cordinate and to plan activities throughout India for the liberation of Goa. A few weeks later came the decision of the All-Parties Goa Vimochana Samiti (set up in Maharashtra in June 1954) to launch a statyagraha movement for Goa’s recovery.

A wave of enthusiasm swept our land. Volunteers poured in and thousands upon thousands more made ready to rush to the border.

The Vimochana Samiti volunteers in Maha-rashtra moved throughout the State, helping to set up district committees. Whenever a batch of satyagrahis left for Goa, it was given big send-off meetings in a number of towns and villages on the way to Goa.

On May 12, 1955, the first batch of satyagrahis, led by Senapati Bapat and N.G. Goray, entered Goa. On June 11, came the turn of the batch of satyagrahis of the Communist Party, led by Rajaram Patil.

It is inspiring to recall that this intrepid band of 126 volunteers came not only from Maharashtra but from every State of India. They came from all religions and from diverse strata of society. It was the biggest and most representative batch to march into Goa till that time. Other batches followed.

It is scarcely necessary to recall the bloody beatings and torture to which all those who went into Goa were subjected. Despite this savagery and even after the martyrdom of Aminchand Gupta, thousands of new satyagrahis enrolled themselves to make the march to Panjim.

The June 1955 meeting of the Central Committee of the CPI paid its tribute to the fighters for Goa’s liberation, strongly condemned the atrocities committed by the Portuguese and resolved that “all Party units should give every help to further strengthen the freedom movement of the Goan people”. It called upon the Government to take “direct action”.

Communist Call

IN answer to a pressman’s question on June 29, 1955, I stated: “On the question of Goa, the Communist Party wants the Government to intervene in favour of the people of Goa. That will not lead to the heightening but to a lessening of tension.” (New Age, July 3, 1955)

This mounting mass campaign had its impact on Government policy. Pandit Nehru lashed out at the “Portuguese interference with India’s political system”. The railway service to Goa was stopped and the Portuguese Legation in Delhi was closed down.

But it was quite evident that Nehru and the other Congress leaders were not at all happy at the way in which the people were moving into action. Congressmen were allowed to join the satyagraha only on their personal responsibility.

Both the Prime Minister and the Congress Working Committee in July 1955 issued a fiat against any mass satyagraha. In his Lok Sabha statement at that time Nehru also indicated that India would not liberate Goa other than by peaceful means.

Supreme Sacrifice

HE said: “What are the basic elements of our policy in regard to Goa? First there must be peaceful methods. This is essential unless we give up the roots of all our policy and all our behaviour... We rule out non-peaceful methods entirely.” It should be noted that this statement was hailed by the late John Foster Dulles both as “wise and brave”!

At that very time the Communist Party pointed out that certainly all possible methods of negotiations and diplomacy should be employed by the Government. But it insisted that the Government must not tie its hands and that it must act decisively and soon.

On August 3, 1955 another batch of satya-grahis, mainly made up of Communists, crossed the Goa border. The Portuguese fascists opened fire and two Communists made the supreme sacrifice—Baburao Thorat and Nityanand Saha. Their names are inscribed among the immortals of the long freedom-fight of our nation.

Then came August 15. 1955—certainly a date of destiny for India. Let it be remembered that the 500 satyagrahis who marched to certain death that morning were led by the late V.D. Chitale, a veteran leader of the Communist Party of India. Let it be remembered that among the heroes who fell were Madhukar Damodar, Karnail Singh, Brij Nandan, Tarada Singh, Kalyan Sharma and S.K. Mukherjee, who while they brought glory to our Motherland, brought honour, too, to the Communist Party.

It cannot also be forgotten that in the midst of the tidal wave of anger and admiration that raced across India, Pandit Nehru and the Congress leaders sat silent. They refused even to adjourn Parliament even for 15 minutes as a mark of homage to the martyrs and of protest against the Portuguese.

On August 17, Pandit Nehru, rising to make a statement on Goa, declared that the Government would pay compensation—not to the families of the martyrs—but to the Portuguese Government for alleged damage caused by the enraged citizens of Calcutta and Bombay.

And in repeated utterances the Prime Minister emphasised that military action to liberate Goa would not be taken as this was against the principles of the Government’s foreign policy!

Despite all the frowns and fumblings of the tallest leaders of the Congress, the people of the country, irrespective of party affiliation, rose to their full stature. Unprecedented general strikes, hartals and demonstrations raged like a mighty storm across the land. With one voice the people called on the Government to act at once to avenge the dead and to uphold the nation’s honour against imperialist arrogance.

The Government’s reply—and that of the AICC, too—was not only to reassure the Portuguese that no armed action was contem-plated but also to ban satyagraha in all forms. It declared that satyagrahis would be arrested if they tried to approach the Goa border.

Nehru declared in Parliament on September 7, 1955 that “for the removal of Portuguese rule we should limit ourselves to peaceful methods...From every aspect of principle as well as expediency it will be clear that we should not take military measures.”

Since satyagraha was to be banned and military measures were not to be taken, it was clear that the Government had decided that no action of any kind was contemplated against the Portuguese and for Goa’s freedom.

The London Daily Mail rushed to congratulate the Prime Minister: “He has shown himself sensitive to foreign reaction and for this responsiveness we have nothing but praise.” (September 6, 1955) The Washington Post called the decision “a much needed step”.

This was nothing but abject retreat before imperialist pressure and the result of illusions about possibilities of “peaceful” transfer of power in Goa, coupled with fear of the enormous democratic upheaval at home on the part of the Congress leaders.

Congress Isolated

ALL the notions of its own invincibility, of its unchallenged popularity seemed to be threatened when the nation rose as one man after the massacre of August 15 and the Congress Government found itself hopelessly isolated.

The use of the coercive state apparatus and the powerful influence of the Congress undoub-tedly dampened down the struggle for Goa’s freedom for a number of years. It can be said that right in 1955 itself it was quite feasible for the Indian Army to have moved in and hoisted the tricolour on Panjim. Conditions were fully ripe. The nation wanted it and our friends were standing by ready to support our action.

The question naturally arises: why did the Government move after all in 1961? If the delay for five years was due to Government policy, why the change?
Credit, in the first place, for bringing about a decisive shift in the Government’s policy on Goa must be given to be National Campaign Committee for Goa, headed Aruna Asaf Ali, set up the early months of 1961. The Committee and its tireless and ardent President once again roused the passion for Goa’s liberation in the hearts of millions of our countrymen.

Unity Achieved

UNITING in its fold people of diverse a political affiliations and concentrating on the single objective of rousing mass demand for the Government’s armed action, leaders of the Committee toured the entire country. From the cities, towns and village a steady stream of resolutions began to pour to the Government chambers in New Delhi.

The leaders of the Committee had meetings with the leaders urged that the problem of Goa be raised in Parliament and be made one of the central planks of the propaganda and agitation of all the parties.

On the very eve of the march into Goa, Aruna Asaf Ali announced that if the Government hesitated any longer over 5000 volunteers were ready to breach the Portuguese defences.

Shaking off any false modesty, it can be said that the Communist Party responded with all its energy to the call of the Committee. Its units throughout the country cooperated to the full to organise meetings for Goa. Its members in Parliament more than once raised the question in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. Its dailies and weeklies mounted a long and intense campaign.

Secondly, great credit must be given to the Goan patriots and to the Goan commandos. Fascist terror made it imperative that armed action should be the main form of struggle.

From the middle of this year armed actions in Goa noticeably increased in scope and tempo. Despite heavy Portuguese censorship, stories began to filter through of numerous raids on Portuguese check-posts, of the blowing up of ammunition dumps, of the ambush of Portuguese military convoys and the like.

To meet this flare-up of militant patriotic activity, Portuguese terror daily increased and the Goans were clearly marked out for treatment similar to that being meted out to the Angolans. Events were moving to a climax within Goa.

Thirdly, credit must be given to the new upsurge in the anti-colonial struggle, more parti-cularly in Africa where enormous Portuguese colonial possessions are located. The African awakening, more particularly the armed struggle in Angola, not only morally and materially weakened world imperialism but created an atmosphere of liberation, as it were.

In country after country, anti-imperialist circles began to ask: if Angola can take up the Portuguese gauntlet, how is it that mighty India sits quiet aboiut Goa? If the people and the Government of India are genuine in their sympathy for the struggle in Africa, why do they not do something about Goa, which would be the best form of help?

It was becoming increasingly evident that India’s whole prestige was at stake and her anti-colonial bona fides were becoming suspect.

Things came to a head with the Seminar on Portuguese colonies held in September 1961 in New Delhi. Far from being a platform for mere academic discussion, far from being a tribune for moral sermons on the superior virtues of “soul force”, the Seminar became a militant meeting where the demand was loudly raised for armed action by India to free Goa.

It was significant that it was at this Seminar that Pandit Nehru for the first time stated that the use of force could not be ruled out. And it was at the public rally to mark the conclusion of this Seminar that he made virtually a public repudiation of Morarji Desai’s shameless utterance that there would be no “invasion” of Goa.
It was equally evident that the newly-freed countries of Asia were watching with an amount of concern as to what India intendede to do about Goa. Their subsequent acclamation of Goa’s liberation and the pressing forward of Indonesia’s claim to West Irian only served to underline this fact.

In the fourth place, credit must be given to the immense strengthening of the socialist camp. In event after event in the past decade, it has been demonstrated that in the socialist camp, above all the Soviet Union, freedom fighters the world over have a sure sword and shield. The easy export of counter-revolution has bccome impossible in the new epoch in which we live.

Pandit Nehru has emphasised time and again in his last Press Conference that he did not have any consultations with the Soviet Union and that all the diplomatic parleys were with the UK and the USA.

This in itself is a revealing commentary on the state of our foreign relations. Goa has shown that the only purpose served through the conversations and letters with the imperialist countries was to delay action, without any resulting gain. Despite all the soft-soap and talk the imperialists behaved with all their customary viciousness during and after the Security Council debate.

And the Soviet Union? Evidently, taking Nehru at his word, no consultations were held with it. Yet, even before the Indian Army marched in, President Brezhnev declared full support for the liberation of Goa. Later the USSR scotched the imperialist conspiracy to stop India’s action with the use of its veto. All the other socialist countries, including the People’s Republic of China with whom we have a serious border dispute, came out solidly for India.

It has to be noted, further, that in the very dens of imperialism—in Washington, Paris, London, Lisbon etc.—it was the Communist Parties who came out boldly against the tremendous barrage of racialist lies and slanders let loose by the imperialist warlords. The only British paper to acclaim India’s action was the Daily Worker.

Is it not something to think over that in Washington, London and Paris the only papers and the only spokesmen to tell the truth about Goa belonged to the Communist Parties of those countries?

Is it not something to think over that despite being hounded by Salazar’s savagery, deep from the underground it was the galant Communist Party of Portugal that has consistently supported the freedom struggle of Goa?

We not only offer our gratitude to our fraternal parties but feel immensely proud to belong to this vast army of vanguard fighters for freedom.

And, while welcoming the action taken by the Government of India, we cannot help regretting that in his Press Conference Pandit Nehru talked about the so-called division of Black and White over the liberation of Goa. This is not only totally contray to facts but serves to conceal the basic truth of the true division of the world into imperialist and anti-imperialist forces.

Thus, it can be sasid that the forces that enventually secured Goa’s liberation were many and powerful. And as our hearts fill with joy at the thought that India’s tricolour flies over Panjim, it is with deep homage that we recall our martyrs and with deep gratitude and pride all the liberators of Goa.

Goa has shown who are our friends and who are not. It has given a powerful impetus to the natioinal liberation movement all over the world. It strengthens the cause of world peace and weaknes imperialism. It is the greatest event since India became free.

We earnestly hope that the Government of India will draw correct lessons from this event. The curse of colonialism still hangs heavily over many areas of the world. The people fighting for national liberation expect our country to give them all possible support.

There should be no further delay on our part in according recognition to the revolutionary provisional Government of Algeria. Also, the voice of India must ring powerfully in full support of every nation struggling to be free.

With the last vestige of foreign rule wiped out from our country, with our prestige higher than ever, we can and must act in a way which hastens the end of colonialism all over the world.

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