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Brave memories of Goa’s freedom struggle

Sanjeev V Sardesai

On the same date as the Patradevi brutality, another horror was unfurling itself near Tiracol Fort in North West Goa. A group of about 127 Satyagrahis, led by Tulshiram Balkrishna Hirve aka Hirve Guruji, entered Goa from the Shiroda-Reddi border of Maharashtra. The Portuguese soldiers warned them not to hold any satyagraha and tried to snatch the Indian flag from them. However, facing retaliation, they shot and killed Hirve Guruji. Today a monument rests under a banyan tree, near the entrance of the Tiracol Fort, dedicated to the sacrifices of late Hirve and late Sheshnath Wadyekar.

The fire of protest for Goa’s freedom, had not only spread out of Goa and onto the international stage, but had fuelled the rage of the people in Goa itself. This outrage, coupled with the fiery inspiration of Ram Manohar Lohia, a few years ago – had fortified the determination of those against the Portuguese regime, to retaliate against the administration – peacefully, by holding processions and carrying the Indian flag; and also to take up an armed underground movement under the name Azad Gomantak Dal (AGD).

Parallel to these two movements, a third aspect had opened up a literary front which saw the Menezes Braganza family, T B Cunha, Laxmanrao S Sardesai inking their protest and ideologies.

One of the lesser known, and discriminatorily, non-vocalised phases which contributed immensely to demoralise the Portuguese administration, from 1955 to 1961, was the broadcasts of ‘Voice of Freedom’. Originating from Castle Rock, at the eastern border of Goa, and intermittently shifting to other locations for safety reasons, these were the broadcasts of pro-Indian messages to the people of Portuguese Goa by – Libia Lobo, Waman Balkrishna Naique Sardesai and Nicolau Menezes. These broadcasters later assisted the Indian Armed forces to placate the Goans, when the Indian Army made aggressive in-roads into Goan territories under Portuguese control.

Today Libia Lobo Sardesai ( she married Waman Sardesai) stays a very reclusive life, drawn away from the flashier Goa, which she and her husband fought for. She deserves the Goans’ salutes of pride!

Apart from this, every year on 18th June, we celebrate Goa Revolution Day and pay our tributes to those that laid down their lives for the freedom cause. Events are held at many locations, where the state government has erected masonry monuments – which spring to life, once or twice a year, but are mere masonry structures otherwise.

One of the main martyrs’ memorial is located in the capital city Panaji, at a square known as Azad Maidan which translates to ‘Freedom Sqaure’. This square was earlier known as ‘Praca de Sete Janelas’ or the ‘open area of the Seven Windows’. This was because during the Portuguese era, the Police HQ, which was just a ground floor structure (another floor was erected in the post liberation area around end 1970’s), had three parts – two on either ends (Printing Press and Institute Menezes Braganza) and one over the Police HQ gate, which had an upraised floor displaying seven windows. These windows can still be seen on the facade today.

There are two memorial structures on Azad Maidan. One is dedicated to the sacrifices of the Liberation struggle, while another domed and pillared architecture nearby hosts the relics of freedom fighter Tristao Braganza Cunha. Initially this structure, hosted a life size statue of the Portuguese conqueror of Goan lands – Afonso de Albuquerque. This was unseated from the pedestal and totally damaged.

The two pillars on either sides of the main structure of the memorial hosts the 67 names of the individuals who gave their life, during the freedom satyagrahas.

The first name that one can read is that of Bala Raya Mapari, a young mine worker from Assanora, Bicholim, who was brutally put to death on 4th March 1954. What is most surprising is the name listed at No 3 – Nityanand Saha – who came from East Bengal, presently known as Bangladesh.

Out of the various queries and explanations’ given about the tall structure, that is found tangible is that it signifies “the upholding (tall height) of the sacrifices (signifying the ‘pile of ashes’ denoted by a pyramid atop this structure) of the people who came from “all four sides” (denoted by four arm like digits, on top of the structure).

Many such martyrs memorials dot Goa, lying unknown and bowing their heads in humble respects to the sacrifices of known and unknown satyagrahis, who fought for the freedom of Goa. These memorials are calling out to its people to be granted their due recognition!

Educational institutions and the academic syllabus must include these structures as part of the educational policy, so that the younger generation can bond with the bravery of its people, from the past era.

Till then, it is us Goans, who must make it a point to take our children to these memorials and build a sense of respect, by remembering and recollecting the inspiring incidents of the past!

Categories: Zest
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