By Prabhakar Sinari
06 November, 2003
A systematic campaign is underway to distort
and rewrite the history of Goas freedom movement. The RSS is trying
to take belated credit for a struggle in which its role was, at best,
marginal. This is being done with the patronage of the BJP-led governments
in Delhi and Panaji. This spin cannot go unchallenged.
The campaign began
in 2001, with the Centre flouting rules to bring 115 RSS men under the
Swatantrata Sainik Samman Pension scheme. They were said to have liberated
Dadra and Nagar Haveli, when historical records show underground groups
from Goa and locals did so.
Yet Home Minister L.K. Advani and Petroleum Minister Ram Naik presided
over a function at Pune on December 10, 2001, where it was projected
that the 115 RSS beneficiaries were the only liberators of Dadra and
Nagar Haveli. The fighters from Goa and Daman who captured larger Portuguese
forces were ignored.
The honouring of
these RSS workers contradicted the Indian governments affidavit
in the International Court of Justice, the Hague, that no Indian
nationals were involved in the Dadra and Nagar Haveli operation
and that it was entirely an internal uprising against the Portuguese.
As a direct participant,
I can say that Goans and Damanians, under the banner of the United Front
of Goans, Azad Gomantak Dal (AGD) and Goan Peoples Party accomplished
Dadra was liberated
on the night of July 21, 1954, by a group led by Francis Mascarenhas,
Woman Sardesai and 10 others (none from the RSS). Thereafter, the process
of liberating Nagar Haveli began, under the aegis of the Azad Gomantak
Dal. I was part of that team.
We attacked the
police post and the taluka headquarter on the night of July 28. We had
10 RSS volunteers with us. The AGD had worked out a clear understanding
that the volunteers were participating as individuals and not RSS members.
We captured Naroli,
Pimparia Post and then Silvassa. We learnt the administrator, Captain
Virgilio Fidalgo and Lieutenant Falcao and Chefe Pegao had moved to
Khandvel, on the southern side of Nagar Haveli, with a force of 150.
While retreating to Khandvel, they were forced to halt at Rakholi for
the night of August 2, since the Damanganga river was in spate. When
the rains did not subside the next morning, they crossed all the same.
The Portuguese set
up rearguard defences on the other bank, while we were faced with the
flooded Damanganga. I formed a unit of eight Goan volunteers and two
from Daman. Early on August 10, with the help of a local ferryman, we
crossed the furiously swirling waters, two at a time.
By noon we arrived
at the outskirts of Khandvel. Though moving under cover of bushes, we
knew we were being monitored. So we were not surprised when a hail of
bullets greeted us. One group under the leadership of Prabhakar Vaidya
charged the enemy positions on the left flank. I headed for the police
When I saw Sub-Chefe
Pereira firing at us, I took cover. At the appropriate moment, I pounced
on him and snatched his stengun. He begged for his life. I stuck the
stengun in Pereiras back and got him to order his soldiers to
lay down their arms. It took us two hours to disarm around 80 members
of the Portuguese force. Most of them were drunk, demoralised and mortally
was holding up the rear, while his seniors led by Captain Fidalgo, Lieutenant
Falcao and Chefe Pegao were on the run, hoping to sneak into Daman.
When they learnt of Khandvels fall, they preferred to surrender
to Indian authorities. Thus Dadra and Nagar Haveli were liberated.
There was not a
single RSS volunteer with the United Front of Goans or the Goan Peoples
Party. Its only the AGD that used their services. The number of
such RSS volunteers would have been 40-45. Of these about 15, mostly
from Talegaon arrived at Silvassa on August 3, 1954, after its liberation.
They dragged out the priest of Silvassa church, disgracing the movement.
Morarji Desai, then
chief minister of Bombay state, sent John Lobo, then deputy commissioner
of police, to Silvassa. On his report, most of the RSS volunteers were
removed from Nagar Haveli. Now its Goas turn to face the
RSS spin. It is learnt the Centre has decided to sanction the Samman
Pension 4,000 persons from Maharashtra and another 6,000 from other
states. The logic: they had offered satyagraha in Goa, 1954-55.
The reality is these
10,000 people were never actually able to participate in satyagraha
in Goa. A few who could, like N.G. Gore and Shirubhau Limaye, are already
recipients of pensions. The bulk of the satyagrahis could not even reach
Goas borders because of a Bombay government ban.
The Centre can at
best give these people a special certificate, not push them into the
lifelong Swatantrata Samman Scheme. That would bring a bad name to the
entire liberation movement. Some 1,500 local Goan freedom fighters are
being equated with 10,000 or even more from outside.
(The author took
part in the liberation of Goa. He later joined the IPS)