Indians march for Goan Liberation, 1954-1955

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Timing
Time Period:  
June
1954
to
August
1955
Location and Goals
Country: 
India
Location City/State/Province: 
Goa
Goals: 
Liberate Goa from Portuguese rule and gain the support of the Indian government.
 

Goa, a state in Western India that borders the Arabian Sea, was a Portuguese colony until 1961. The anti-colonial movement of Goa started in 1910, when the Portuguese monarchy was abolished after a popular revolution, and went through several phases and sub-movements until India took Goa through force in 1961. This included constant diplomatic efforts and negotiations, several instances of extensive non-violent action, and ultimately Indian military action.

A major satyagraha campaign in the Goa liberation movement lasted from 1954 to 1955. Satyagraha, both a philosophy and a practice, roughly translates as an “insistence on truth” that takes the form of nonviolent civil resistance.

In June of 1954, Indians of various political parties formed the All Party Goa Liberation Aid Committee, known as the Samiti, to create propaganda and give financial aid to the National Congress of Goa, the group that was actually organizing the resistance. The National Congress was made up of Goans but met outside of Goa for safety reasons. On 15 July, a committee of the National Congress announced that volunteers would march on Goa on 15 August to start the satyagraha campaign in Goa.

Upon hearing this, the Portuguese government told the Indian government that it was prepared to defend Goa militarily. Although the Indian government itself was not involved in the campaign for Goan liberation, it stated that it supported peaceful methods without the use or support of violence. The Portuguese asked that impartial observers be present on 15 August, and the Indian government agreed.

Two days before the march was to begin, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, unexpectedly announced that Indians would not be allowed to cross the border into Goa. Although four to six thousand people were prepared to participate in the march to Goa, thousands were turned away at the border by the Indian police, and a minute portion of the satyagrahis made it into Goa. However, from 15 August onward, small groups of satyagrahis continued to trickle into Goa on a monthly interval. The next several months constituted a lull in the movement, though there were several satyagraha demonstrations. However, outside support was limited and Goan nationalists felt frustrated.

On 26 January 1955, the anniversary of the formation of the Indian Republic, which was an inspiration for the Goan liberation movement, the satyagraha entered a new phase of action and urgency. People sat on the railroad tracks going into Goa to hold up traffic, and demonstrations were held all over Goa. The police arrested many people, and intense repression continued for several months. By early April, Portuguese repression had put a stop to the majority of internal resistance. All in all, from February 1954 to April 1955, the Portuguese government arrested 2567 people in Goa for participating in the freedom movement.

It was at this point that the National Congress decided to hold their annual meeting in Goa for the first time. Although the Portuguese police and military quickly shut it down with searches, beatings, and arrests, the meeting was highly significant for Goans, as it represented strength in the face of what had previously been seen as indomitable repression. Tension within Goa steadily increased, more Indian politicians vocalized their support for Goa, and Indian national interest started to pick up around the issue.

On 20 July, the India-based Samiti decided to launch a mass movement on 15 August and asked for the help of all political parties. The Indian government, led by Nehru, started to act in a more positive and protective manner toward the movement. By the end of July, trains stopped running between Goa and India, and on 8 August, India closed the Portuguese Legation in Delhi to show Indian displeasure.

3,000 satyagrahis from all political parties tried to enter Goa on 15 August. Out of the 1,711 that crossed over, the Portuguese turned 1,691 back. Repression occurred at entry points into Goa with differing levels of violence, but by the end, Portuguese police and military had killed 22 marchers and wounded 225. The Indian government expressed outrage at the violence, but after this violence and defeat, all parties decided that the satyagraha campaign must stop. For the next couple years, there was a break in action for the Goan liberation movement, and there was little non-violent, violent, or even political activity geared toward Goan liberation.

Research Notes
Sources: 
Anon. n.d. “Goa Freedom Movement.” NRI Commission. Retrieved (https://web.archive.org/web/20151024135158/http://www.nri.goa.gov.in/eminentgoans.html).

Anon. 1954. “Few Marchers Turn Out For Goa 'Invasion'.” Chicago Daily Tribune, August 16.

Anon. 1955. “Nationalist Activities In Portuguese Settlements, June - August, 1954.” Keesing's Record of World Events X.

Anon. 2010. “Goa Freedom Struggle Satyagrahas.” Goa Holiday Guide. Retrieved (http://www.goaholidayguide.com/history/goa-freedom-struggle-satyagrahas.php).

Gaitonde, P. D. 1987. “The 1954-1955 Satyagraha.” in The Liberation of Goa: a participant's view of history. London: C. Hurst.

Kamat, Pratima. 2011. “THE ROAD TO LIBERATION.” The Times of India. Retrieved October 24, 2015 (https://web.archive.org/web/20151024135542/http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/THE-ROAD-TO-LIBERATION/articleshow/11174565.cms?).

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Irina Bukharin, 26/09/2015