By Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues
Goa will be celebrating the Goa Revolution day on June 18 with a number of activities to remember the day on which Dr Ram Manohar Lohia, Dr Julião Menezes and others defied the ban and censorship and launched a Civil Disobedience Movement that gave impetus to the last phase of the movement for the freedom of Goa.
The Portuguese had suppressed the Goans who had no freedom to talk or protest against the government.
Dr Julião Menezes had met Dr Ram Manohar Lohia in Berlin where both were studying, the former medicine and the later economics at the Berlin University. Both friends were on the same wavelength regarding issues of nationalism and it did not take long to develop a lasting friendship, which after their return to India, helped them fight foreign rule in the country.
In Goa, press censorship and other such shackles did not permit the press to freely exercise its rights. Public meetings were totally banned, while meetings inside halls or under cover could not be held without prior permission of authorities concerned. Associations or unions could not be established unless its statutes or bye-laws were duly approved by the government. Permission to establish any political organisation was refused since only the official party “União Nacional” could function in the Estado Novo (New State) of the dictator Dr Oliveira Salazar, the Portuguese prime minister.
Participation in the government was totally denied for Goans. The Government Council which had only consultative powers was partly constituted of members appointed by the government and partly by members elected by 20 of the highest land tax-paying landlords, who definitely did not represent the Goan populace. The municipal councils were appointed by the government. Black market flourished and fiscal problems arose because of non-availability of currency which caused problems for the people.
Unhappy with this state of affairs those in the movement for freedom were trying to get away from this situation. The visit of Dr Lohia at the invitation of Dr Julião helped them organise a movement that acted as a catalyst to those that happened after June 18, 1946, ultimately leading to the Liberation of Goa, Daman and Diu from Portuguese rule. Dr Lohia proposed a direct action. He was applying the same methods used in the rest of India. He told that Goans would have had to resort to mass civil disobedience in defiance of all the restrictive measures.
Lohia completed his Ph D and returned to India in 1933 and joined the Indian National Congress. He was also one of the founders of the Socialist Forum in the Congress and a hero of the 1942 Quit India Movement. Dr Julião was in touch with Dr Lohia who was underground in Mumbai and often gave him shelter after the Indian National Congress (INC) and Mahatma Gandhi gave call for ‘Do or Die’ in August 1942. Dr Lohia expressed his desire to hide in Goa but Dr Menezes advised him not to do so as the British agents were active in Goa just as in Mumbai. Taking the advice of his friend, Dr Lohia escaped to Nepal but was arrested by the police in 1943. After his release he was arrested once again when he arrived in Mumbai in 1944 and was taken to a notorious prison in Lahore. After his release from Lahore in 1946, he came to Mumbai and met Dr Menezes who examined and told him that he needed rest. He offered to take him to his village Assolna, Goa. Dr Lohia accepted the invitation and arrived at Dr Juliao’s place in Assolna on June 10, 1946. The news of Lohia’s arrival spread among some Goans, but when Evagrio Jorge reported it with biographical notes of Lohia in O Heraldo the news spread all over Goa.
Dr Juliao’s place in Assolna became the meeting place for many Goan intellectuals and political activists of that time, who went there to consult with Lohia and Julião. It was there that the movement for Goa’s civil liberties was born making Juliao’s house in Assolna a historical landmark.
Dr Lohia decided to fight for the civil liberties of Goans. Till June 14, the two leaders met various important people from all walks of life at Dr Menezes’ residence. On June 15, Dr Menezes took Dr Lohia to Mormugão at the invitation of the Nationalists and the next day they met in Panaji. But the climax of civil disobedience movement arrived on June
18, 1946 at Margão as planned. Purushottam Kakodkar was given the responsibility of organising the meeting at Margão. Goans came in flocks to welcome Dr Julião Menezes and Dr Lohia. As they were entering Margão square in a horse carriage they were halted by the crowd at the Capela de Batalhão, now Church of Nossa Senhora de Graça, to garland the leaders. The Municipal garden was filled with people. The police did not allow the leaders to make any speech and arrested Dr Julião and Dr Lohia and took them to the police station and then moved them at night to Panaji police station.
The news of their arrest spread throughout Goa, and the people demonstrated in most of the towns. In Margão, the following morning, citizens drove in procession, and in the evening they gathered in front of the Câmara. Even though the troops sought to disperse the crowd they squatted resolutely on the ground shouting in unison at the top of their voices, which resounded throughout the town: “Jai Hind! Dr Lohia ko chodd do! Dr Juliao Menezes ko chodd do!”
The next evening Dr Lohia was taken to the border at Collem and released. Dr Menezes was released in Margão. After this historical meeting there was no looking back and the freedom fighters took enough courage to act against the government.