Saturday, December 9, 2023

A story of Independence

By Satish Singh

Action in Goa” is a collection of letters, speeches and statements written by Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, which he wrote and addressed to the people of Goa during his stay in Goa. In this book, the thoughts expressed by Mahatma Gandhi about the people of Goa, the writings of the freedom fighters of Goa, Dr. Julio Menezes, Mrs. Shanti Nayak etc. have also been collected. This book is also a mirror of the economic, social, political and religious dimensions of the then Goa.

This book was first published on 1st January 1947 by August Publication House located in Bombay, now known as Mumbai. Thereafter, for 75 years this valuable historical document was lost in the darkness of oblivion. Mr. Abhishek Ranjan Singh, President of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Research Foundation, New Delhi has been collecting valuable documents related to Dr. Lohia for the past many years. In this sequence, Mr. Singh discovered this priceless book from a private library. Not only this, he also republished it in June, 2021. It will be released during two days seminar named  “National Brainstorming”, which will be organized by Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Research Foundation, New Delhi from 27th to 28th November 2021 at Rabindra Bhavan, Margao, Goa.

A research journalist from Goa, Shri Sandesh Prabhu Desai, has written the foreword to “Action in Goa” titled “A Dream Unfulfilled”. This preface is the gist of the book. Shri Desai believes that this book is relevant even today, which is not wrong conception at all. By following the path shown by Dr. Lohia, Goa can touch the pinnacle of prosperity even today, because Goa & the people of Goa have not yet become completely self-reliant.

Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia went to his friend Dr. Julio Menezes’ house Assolna, Goa on 10th January 1946, so that he can take rest for a few days, but he saw the people of Goa living their lives in panic & distress. There are no civil liberties, no freedom of speech, no right to form organisation, no freedom to write etc. Not only this, there is almost ban on getting the wedding card printed as well. Seeing such an unfavourable environment, Dr. Lohia decided to wake the people of Goa from a deep slumber.

On 18th June, 1946, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia addressed the people of Goa at Municipal Chowk in Margao, Goa, today known as Lohia Maidan, in which more than 5000 Goans were present. The people of Goa listened to Dr. Lohia’s speech without any fear. Throughout the speech, the skies of Margao resonated with the slogans of Dr. Lohia Zindabad and Jai Hind.

The people of Goa were awakened after hearing Dr. Lohia’s passionate and succinct speech. The clouds of fear were removed from their hearts and minds. The youth spontaneously started protesting. Non-violent Satyagraha started emerging from every part of Goa. The spark of independence flared up all over Goa. However, the very next day Dr. Lohia is forced to leave Goa by Portuguese rulers.

The National Congress, Goa was formed under the guidance of Dr. Lohia. Many top leaders were tried in the military court due to the continuous picketing & non-violent Satyagraha. Leaders like Dr T B Cunha, Shri Purushottam Kakodkar, Laxmikant Bhembre etc. were put in jail. Later, Dr. Cunha was court-martialled and sent to a prison in Africa. Mr. Kakodkar was a political prisoner. Yet, in the prison he was being treated like ordinary prisoner. The food and lodging arrangements in the jail were very poor. To bring the situation better, Mr. Kakodkar started Satyagraha in jail itself.

Dr. Lohia returns to Goa again on 29th September, 1946, but Dr. Lohia is arrested and imprisoned in Aguada Jail from Kolem railway station, located on the Goa-Karnataka border. Dr. Lohia is released from there on 8th October, 1946. Panicked by Dr. Lohia’s growing popularity in Goa, the Portuguese regime banned Dr. Lohia’s entry into Goa. Dr. Lohia writes a letter to the judge of the High Court of Goa about the wrongful arrest of him by the Portuguese ruler and the inhuman treatment by the jail authorities, the poor arrangement of food and stay in the jail, etc, so that the judge of Goa know the inhuman approach of Portuguese ruler & prevailing poor & substandard arrangements in the jail.

Dr. Lohia believed that only the Goans have the right to decide whether to merge Goa with Karnataka or Maharashtra or make it an independent state. Dr. Lohia also believed that Konkani language is simple and easy to understand, which anyone can learn easily. Therefore, Konkani should be the language of the people of Goa.

About 5 months after his first speech in Goa, Dr. Lohia writes a letter to the people of Goa in December 1946, which was termed as an ‘open letter’ to Goans. In this letter, Dr. Lohia exhorts the people of Goa to fight for the independence of Goa and for the development of Goa.

Mahatma Gandhi wrote in “Harijan” magazine that I am amazed to see the atrocities of the Portuguese rulers in Goa. The people of Goa are living their lives in the shadow of fear. They do not have any kind of freedom. Mahatma Gandhi wrote in a letter to the Governor General of Portugal, H. E. José Bossa, that I hope that you will change your views and take the initiative to end caste and other discriminations which are going on in Goa.  Mahatma Gandhi also wrote that Goans should stop fearing the Portuguese ruler. People in other parts of the country have also stopped fearing the British ruler.

Dr. Julio Menezes believed that even though the Portuguese have been ruling Goa for a long time and are forcibly imposing foreign religion, education, way of life, language, culture etc. on the people of Goa. Yet, they cannot stop us from thinking about our native land, to liberate it and develop it. An article by Mrs. Shanti Nayak, an associate of Dr. Lohia, was published in the November, 1946 issue of Bharat Jyoti magazine, in which Mrs. Nayak has described the eight days spent by Dr. Lohia in the dark cells of Aguada Jail.

In this way, Dr. Lohia taught the people of Goa to struggle, to get independence, to become self-reliant and to develop the state. Dr. Lohia told the people of Goa that Goa has all the resources needed for development and has immense potential for development of industry, power generation, agriculture etc. in Goa, but these can be materialized only if the Goans make concerted efforts in a planned manner.

(Author is Chief Manager at State Bank of India, Mumbai. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected].)

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