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Chronicling the women of ‘18th June’

Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues
This year the beginning of the Goa’s revolutionary movement will complete seventy years. I went through the reminiscences of Evagrio Jorge who was present on this eventful day, June 18, 1946, to find out more about the happenings in Margao. Evagrio’s memories are treasured in an eighty four pages booklet which is a firsthand report from an activist who was also arrested on that day. As a young man of 21, he like many others was eager that Goa be free from the colonial power. For years, we have only focused on a single personality when we talk about this event, and have forgotten that there were others who were equally important and responsible for this action. Persons like Juliao Menezes, –who in fact invited Ram Manohar Lohia to Goa– are rarely spoken of. Had he not invited Lohia, there would not have been an ‘18th June’. Purshottam Kakodkar, Vishwanath Lawande, Dionisio Ribeiro, Antonio Sequeira, Madheva Bir, and others are mentioned by Evagrio who were in some way or another involved with the happenings of that day.
But, for the proceedings it was not only men who were involved; on the day of the event, the big crowd that gathered also included women. When the government disrupted the proceedings and arrested the speakers, the people gathered at the venue shouted slogans and demanded their release. More people were arrested amidst a lot of violence.
There were some others who were arrested including Vishwanath Lawande and Evagrio Jorge. Incidentally, going through the memoir one also comes across the names of Vatsala Kirtani who was arrested on that day; Lalita Kantak, who guarded the national tricolour, at a procession some days later; Premalatai Zambaulikar, Jivana Karapurkar and Ratna Desai who were also arrested at the same procession.
Going through the information about these ladies in ‘Who’s Who of Freedom Fighters – Goa, Daman and Diu’, published by Goa Gazetteer department, reading about Vatsala Pandurang Kirtani corroborates with the one given by Evagrio in his reminiscences. After the arrest of Menezes and Lohia she came forward to deliver a speech. When she was arrested and asked by the police commandant Figueiredo about the reason for shouting out the slogan ‘Jai Hind’, she replied that if ‘Viva Salazar’ brought pride to his heart, ‘Jai Hind’ gave her the spirit to fight for her freedom. After her arrest a procession of about 40 women marched to the police station to demand her release. However, when the police released her, she refused to leave the premises and had to be forcefully brought out by the commandant himself. Kirtani was from Margao, was born on May 8, 1924, and was a teacher by profession in the city. In 1970, she moved to Bombay, where she taught in an Andheri high school and was qualified with a Matric Hindi Ratna. She died on November 16, 1971.
About Jivana Shankar Karapurkar, it is mentioned that she was born at Shiroda. Following the June 18, 1946 incident, on June 20 she participated in the procession at Margao to protest the arrest of Lohia, when she was arrested and later released. She was also associated with Vatsala Kirtani.
We have Premilatai Zambaulikar from far south Poinginim, Canacona taluka who was born in 1912. (However, I could not find her name in the Who’s Who book) Though initially educated only till primary, she continued her high school education from Pune Vidyapith only after her marriage. She was highly influenced by Purushottam Kakodkar with whom she propagated the idea of weaving with chakra. She also helped him arrange meetings in Margao for women and children. After her children were grown she got directly involved in the movement. She used to hold meetings at her house and helped Nath Poi, Bala Kakodkar, Vassant Moyo store bombs and explosive material at her house. For this she was arrested and imprisoned for a month. When she was about to be arrested again in 1952, she escaped to Bombay, returning only after Liberation and started working as a superintendent at the Provedoria’s Candolim Women’s home.

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