Sunday 30 August 2020

Liberation of Goa

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The liberation of Goa happened between 18 Dec – 19 Dec 1961. It was a synchronized effort by the Indian army, navy and air force. When Goa was liberated, I was in school and very curious. I heard about this from my father, there was joy and celebration all over India, especially Goa. Then, had heard a few names in the course of this talk, which has remained etched in my mind from a young age – Wing Commander Pinto, sinking of the Portuguese ship Albuquerque and the surrender of the Portuguese. Many of the present generation may have not heard about it or what transpired to free Goa.

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The Portuguese arrived and colonized India in 1510, conquering many parts of the western coast and establishing several colonies in the east. By the end of the 19th century, Portuguese colonies in India were limited to the west coast of India, Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra, Nagar Haveli and Anjediva Island. The Portuguese were not allowed to rule long in Mangalore because of the stiff resistance there by the people, later Tippu Sultan when he conquered Mangalore, and a courageous queen, Rani Abbakka ruling nearby, who attacked and harassed the Portuguese making their life difficult and hastening their decision to give up Mangalore for good. Maybe the Portuguese realized it was easier to subdue the Goans.

Within Goa and Portugal, periodic demands for autonomy for Portuguese India continued. In July 1946, a public meeting was held which openly petitioned the Salazar administration to grant autonomy to the Estado da India. The meeting was facilitated by José Inácio de Loyola, and inspired the formation of a committee chaired by Uday Bhembre to pursue autonomy. Bhembre's committee failed to provoke a response from the Portuguese administration, and subsequently the last demand for autonomy was made by Purushottam Kakodkar in early 1961.

After India's independence from the British in August 1947, Portugal continued to hold a handful of territories on the Indian subcontinent—the districts of Goa, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli—collectively known as the Estado da Índia. Goa, Daman and Diu covered an area of around 1,540 square miles (4,000 square km) with a population of 637,591 people. The Goan diaspora was estimated at 175,000 (about 100,000 within the Indian Union, mainly in then Bombay). The population then was 61% Hindu, 36.7% Christian (mostly Catholic) and 2.2% Muslim. The economy was primarily based on agriculture, although the 1940s and 1950s saw a boom in mining—principally iron ore and some manganese. And later hotels, resorts and tourism.

Resistance to Portuguese rule in Goa in the 20th century was pioneered by Tristão de Bragança Cunha, a French-educated Goan engineer who founded the Goa Congress Committee in Portuguese India in 1928. Cunha released a booklet called 'Four hundred years of Foreign Rule', and a pamphlet, 'Denationalisation of Goa', intended to sensitize Goans to the oppression of Portuguese rule. Messages of solidarity were received by the Goa Congress Committee from leading figures in the Indian independence movement including Dr Rajendra Prasad, Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose. On 12 October 1938, Cunha with other members of the Goa Congress Committee met Subhas Chandra Bose, the President of the Indian National Congress, and on his advice, opened a Branch Office of the Goa Congress Committee at 21, Dalal Street, Bombay. The Goa Congress was also made affiliate to the Indian National Congress, and Cunha was selected as its first President.

In June 1946, Ram Manohar Lohia, an Indian Socialist leader, entered Goa on a visit to his friend, Julião Menezes, a nationalist leader, who had founded the Gomantak Praja Mandal in Bombay and edited the weekly newspaper Gomantak. Cunha and other leaders were also with him. Ram Manohar Lohia advocated the use of non-violent Gandhian techniques to oppose the government. On 18 June 1946, the Portuguese government disrupted a protest against the suspension of civil liberties in Panaji (then spelt Panjim) organised by Lohia, Cunha and others including Purushottam Kakodkar and Laxmikant Bhembre in defiance of a ban on public gatherings, and arrested them. There was disquiet among the people, and there were intermittent mass demonstrations from June to November.

Besides the non-violent protests, armed groups such as the Azad Gomantak Dal (The Free Goa Party) and the United Front of Goans conducted violent attacks aimed at weakening Portuguese rule in Goa. The Indian government supported the establishment of armed groups like the Azad Gomantak Dal, giving them full financial, logistic and armament support. The armed groups acted from nearby bases located in Indian territory and under cover of Indian police forces. The Indian government—through these armed groups—attempted to destroy economic targets, telegraph and telephone lines, road, water and rail transport, in order to impede economic activity and create conditions for a general uprising of the population. And in a way the attacks succeeded in disrupting normal life and frustrate the Portuguese.

A Portuguese army officer stationed with the army in Goa, Captain Carlos Azaredo, stated in 2001 in the Portuguese newspaper Expresso: "To the contrary to what is being said, the most evolved guerilla warfare which our Armed Forces encountered was in Goa. I know what I'm talking about, because I also fought in Angola and in Guinea. In 1961 alone, until December, around 80 policemen died. The major part of the freedom fighters of Azad Gomantak Dal, were not locals or Goans. Many of them had fought in the British Army, under General Montgomery, against the Germans."

According to the Portuguese, the Annexation of Goa was the process in which the Republic of India annexed the former Portuguese Indian territories of Goa, Daman and Diu, starting with the armed action carried out by the Indian Armed Forces in December 1961. In India, this action is justified and referred to as the Liberation of Goa.

Though the liberation of Goa was the process in which the Republic of India merged the former Portuguese Indian territories of Goa, Daman and Diu into the Indian Union, starting with the armed action carried out by the Indian Armed Forces in December 1961. In Portugal, it is referred to as the "Invasion of Goa". Following the end of Portuguese rule in 1961, Goa was placed under military administration headed by Kunhiraman Palat Candeth as Lieutenant Governor. On 8 June 1962, military rule was replaced by civilian government when the Lieutenant Governor nominated an informal Consultative Council of 29 nominated members to assist him in the administration of the territory.

The armed action was code named Operation Vijay (meaning Victory) by the Indian Armed Forces. It involved air, sea and land strikes for over 36 hours, and was a decisive victory for India, ending 451 years of Portugal rule over its remaining Portuguese territories in India. The engagement lasted two days, and twenty-two Indians and thirty Portuguese were killed in the fighting. The brief conflict drew a mixture of worldwide praise and condemnation. In India, the action was seen as liberation of historically Indian territories while Portugal viewed it as an aggression against its national soil and citizens.

The Goan question came alive when Portugal paid no heed to a UN resolution of December 1960 asking it to indicate when it would grant independence to its colonies in Asia and Africa. In December 1961, Portuguese soldiers in Goa fired at the villagers. Finding that his policy of patience and adherence to international ethics had not yielded results, Nehru decided to free Goa by force. Though advised by American President John F. Kennedy, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and UN Secretary-General U Thant to postpone action, Nehru made up his mind. On December 18, after a brief fight against the Indian troops, the Portuguese gave up resistance. The Governor General of Goa, Vassalo e Silva, signed a document of unconditional surrender.

Indian troops reclaimed the Goan territory with little to no resistance and forced General Manuel Antonio Vassalo e Silva to sign the certificate of surrender, thus ending 451 years of the exploitative rule of the Portuguese over the territory on December 18. However this military action drew international reaction.

The Western media assailed the action as a display of “Indian hypocrisy”, which represented a breach of international law by a nation that professed non-violence. Though the liberation of Goa by force raised the prestige of the government in India, it adversely affected Nehru’s international image, but only briefly. Kennedy told B.K. Nehru, India’s ambassador to the U.S., that after taking military action in Goa, Nehru may not be able to talk of non-violence as he did before. But Kennedy came to India’s rescue in India’s 1962 conflict with China. The merger of Goa was at a time when India after Independence was settling down as a nation and trying to get a foothold in international affairs and understanding. In hindsight, it was a correct decision by the government.

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Atal Rohtang Tunnel

The Rohtang Tunnel is being constructed in the Pir Panjal ranges of Himachal Pradesh, since the Manali-Sarchu-Leh road remains closed for nearly six months in a year due to the Rohtang Pass being completely snow clad between November and April. Work on the long-delayed strategic all-weather Atal Rohtang Tunnel that will connect Manali to Lahaul and Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh throughout the year has been completed and will be ready for inauguration in two weeks. The tunnel is scheduled to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September.

The strategic tunnel which is nearing completion, is a step in the direction of providing all weather connectivity to remote border areas of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh, which otherwise remained cut off from the rest of the country for about six months during winters. The tunnel is also significant from a military logistics point of view and will provide better connectivity to the armed forces in reaching Ladakh.

On completion, it is set to become the world’s longest road tunnel at an altitude above 3,000 metres. Upon completion, the all-weather tunnel will connect Manali to Lahaul and Spiti valley throughout the year and will reduce the road length of the Manali-Rohtang Pass-Sarchu-Leh road by 46 km. The Rohtang Tunnel was rechristened Atal Tunnel by the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December last year. The decision to construct a strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass was taken by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2000.

In 2002, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared the construction of Rohtang Tunnel and laid the foundation of the approach road to the tunnel. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) engaged RITES in March 2002 to undertake feasibility studies. The 8.8-kilometre long tunnel is the world’s longest tunnel above an altitude of 3,000 metres. It will reduce the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 kilometres and reduce travel time by 4.5 hours. It is a 10.5-metre wide single tube bi-lane tunnel with a fire proof emergency ‘escape tunnel’ built into the main tunnel itself.

On September 24, 2009, a contract was awarded to Strabag-Afcons Joint Venture (SAJV) for the tunnel’s construction. Construction for the project finally began in 2010, in the presence of then UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. The long-delayed tunnel has, however, gone through tough challenges for construction owing to the geographical location and difficult topographic profile of the region. The delays due to tough weather conditions also escalated the cost of the project from Rs 1,458 crore to around Rs 2,500 crore.

It has been the most challenging project in terms of construction due to geographic conditions, weather and multiple hazards faced during the construction. We have faced multiple avalanches. In 2013, the tunnel collapsed at the north portal. In 2014, we had to evacuate the site in a hurry due to sudden harsh weather conditions. Army helicopters had to be used to rescue nearly 100-150 workers. Full credit goes to Strabag-Afcons and the Border Road Organisation for their strict safety regulations and hawk-like vigil in the tunnel construction that was able to ensure the tunnel was constructed without any fatality in the project,” Satish Paretkar, Director, Hydro and Underground division, Afcons said. The bi-lane tunnel will be a boon to the locals, tourists and army in times of emergencies and otherwise to transport material to forward areas.

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