The Uprising of 1857 was one of the first attempts made by Indian soldiers to fight against British rule.
This movement touched length and breadth of the country, but Goa was one of the few states that remained quiet peaceful during this period.
However, the Portuguese governor at that time took all precautions to deal with any eventualities in this scenario. Dr Timothy Walker, associate professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth recently held a talk on the topic – Crisis in Goa: The Portuguese Response to the “Mutiny” in British-Occupied India (1857-1860), at Fundacao Oriente, Fontainhas, Panaji.
Before he could focus on the topic he elaborated on the trade scene that existed in this period. He mentioned that there used to be trade of two commodities – mainly slaves from East Africa to India and opium from India to China.
Portuguese also tended to use these slaves as soldiers in case of emergency in the 16th century. “In the year 1842, Anglo-Portuguese Anti-Slavery Treaty of 1842 was signed in order to stop slavery. These slaves were needed for prestige rather than for labour work,” informed Walker.
He further said that the uprising had reached Hyderabad and since it was close to Goa the Portuguese governor feared that an uprising would follow in Goa too. “There was a third type of soldiers called ‘Sepoy’ who were Indo-Portuguese Christians. Actually they were mainly from the Hindu community. So, the governor asked for help from Lisbon, but it would have taken a year to get help from that quarter. So then he approached the Mozambique government to provide African soldiers. But, the Mozambique government said that it could not help as it feared capture by British Navy on the way,” informed Walker.
Walker further mentioned that the Portuguese governor wrote back to the Mozambique government to send at least 200 troops in exchange for Sepoys. “But there is no record of the arrival of these 200 troops in Goa. Also the population of Goa didn’t rebel during that period,” said Walker.