Goa was liberated by the Indian Army on December 19, 1961. However, this could not be achieved without a long struggle by the Goan freedom fighters. An outline of the various phases is given, herewith, which will give an idea of the movement.
MARIA DE LOURDES BRAVO DA COSTA RODRIGUES
The struggle to get the Portuguese out of Goa started in 1550 with the resistance by the inhabitants of Assolna, Velim, Cuncolim, Veroda and Ambelim to the forced conversions to Christianity. Much later in 1787 the native clergy revolted in protest of racial discrimination and this conspiracy was known as the Pinto’s Conspiracy or the revolt of the native clergy. There were also some uprisings led by the local chieftains, the Ranes, as well as a rebellion by the native army stationed in Goa in 1871. This could be termed as the first phase of the struggle.
The second phase of the movement can be considered from the time the Goa Congress Committee was established by Tristao Braganca Cunha in 1928, which was affiliated to the Indian National Congress at its Calcutta Session. Unfortunately, it was derecognised in 1934 on the ground that it functioned in a territory under alien rule. In 1938, Juliao Menezes led an upsurge in the villages of Assolna, Cuncolim and Velim. Nationalists in Bombay formed the Goan Youth League in 1945 in order to inspire Goan youth to participate actively in the freedom movement.
The last stage begins with Ram Manohar Lohia who on June 18, 1946 launched a movement in Goa for civil liberties by defying the ban on public meetings at Margao. This set in motion the subsequent mass movement for freedom from Portuguese rule. In August 1946 various political groups in Goa united to form the National Congress (Goa) in a session at Londa to carry forward the movement and R Ram Hegde was elected the first president. The last stage also saw violent activities by the revolutionist organisation for freedom of Goa, the Azad Gomantak Dal, led by advocate V N Lawande, which was set up in April 1947. It was during this stage that many volunteers were arrested by the Portuguese authorities and some deported, while others were imprisoned at Aguada Jail and many lost their life in the struggle.
The Martyrs Memorial at Azad Maidan at Panaji is built by the Freedom Fighters Association in memory of those who lost their lives. In its publication on the occasion of the inauguration of the Martyrs Memorial, titled ‘Goa Freedom Struggle (A window on events)’, names of the martyrs are published and the introduction says, “Those whose names are given below are martyrs of the last phase (1946-1961) of the freedom movement. Some of them were sons of the soil; witness to the humiliation heaped by the Portuguese on the population and of the repression unleashed to preserve what the Portuguese believed was their own. Others were from all parts of India whose sight had never danced on this beautiful land but were moved only by the desire to wipe out the last vestige of colonialism from the face of their motherland. Most of them were young, in their prime of life, with a future before them. It was their honour to die for a cause, which is the noblest.”
The Martyr’s Memorial was designed by architect Ralino J de Sousa, and the construction engineers were S V Gadgil and Audhut Kamat. It was inaugurated on March 23, 1973 by General K P Kandeth, who led the military forces and was the first military governor of liberated Goa. The memorial is 14 metres high and on top it ends with open arms which signify universal brotherhood, without any prejudice. When built it was only of cement, it was only later that it was covered with granite. The aim to have such a design was not to have any controversies and to build something that would be acceptable to all religions, caste or creed. It rests on a base and there is a column with the names of the martyrs. The roll of honour has 67 names, and many of them are from across the state border, including Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and West Bengal. Money to build the memorial came from donations called for by the Freedom Fighter’s Association.