- ‘De-Ethnicisation’ of Goa
- Nehru stands steadfast
- Union Territory status
- Genie of merger
- Kakodkar Persistence Prevails
- Politics of Polarisation
- Pressure mounts
- Goa Assembly hara-kiri
- Countdown to The Poll
- Goa Opinion Poll Bill
- Heat and Dust
- Day of Reckoning
- Anatomy of Victory
- Through the Looking Glass
- First Person Singular
- Unsung heroes
‘Figure’ing it out
I WAS BORN in Pune in 1947 and my earliest memories are of huge processions, sometimes preceded by the body of one of the martyrs of the struggle for the liberation of Goa from the Portuguese colonial yoke. I still have very clear and distinct memories of the resounding slogan raised by the procession of masses of the people through the streets of Pune proclaiming, “Goa Hindustan ka, nahin kisi ka baap ka” (Goa belongs to Hindustan; it does not belong to anyone’s father). The slogans were in Hindi, not in Marathi.
Ever since, I have been fascinated by the story of the Opinion Poll, particularly when I realised in my latter years—both as an amateur student of political history and as a journalist—that the Opinion Poll held in Goa was unique. The Government of India had strongly resisted the demand for a referendum on the Kashmir issue in the United Nations. Subsequently, during the integration of the erstwhile princely states with India, the then home minister, Sardar Patel, had rejected similar demands for a referendum in the case of Junagad where, though the majority of the population was Hindu, the ruler wanted to merge his kingdom with Pakistan.
During the reorganisation of the states on linguistic basis, there were many demands from Maharashtra for a referendum to decide the disputed status of Belgaum, Karwar and Nipani, which were included in Karnataka. Even at the time of writing there is a movement for a separate state of Vidharba, which was part of the Central Provinces but allotted to Maharashtra during the reorganisation of the states and the agitation for a Samyukta Maharashtra. The documentation that the research team has compiled for this book reveals that the demand of Goa’s merger with Maharashtra also originated during the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement.
Over the last year my curiosity about the factors that led to the Opinion Poll, the decision to hold the landmark poll and its outcome—the demand for merger with Maharashtra was decisively rejected—increased exponentially. This is because, after almost three decades of living in Goa, I saw not only demands to acknowledge Jack Sequeira as the father of the Opinion Poll, but found his statues springing up all over the place, including on a traffic island at Dona Paula where I have been living for twenty-six years. At another function to commemorate the anniversary of the Opinion Poll held in the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry hall, there were loud protests from Siddhant Buyao, son of Ulhas Buyao—the bard of the Opinion Poll, questioning the insistence of one of the speakers, Suresh Amonkar, that former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was the father of the Opinion Poll.
I was therefore delighted when Dattaraj Salgaocar accepted my offer to produce a thoroughly researched and meticulously documented book on the Opinion Poll in which his father, the late V.M. Salgaocar, played a very significant role. Unlike many others who boasted about their contribution to the battle against merger of Goa with Maharashtra, V.M. Salgaocar never claimed credit for his monumental contribution to the defeat of the pro-merger forces in the Opinion Poll. TRIUMPH OF SECULARISM: The Battle of the Opinion Poll is based on extensive research into the history of the Opinion Poll and the various factors that led to the decision to hold the Opinion Poll and influenced the outcome. Our belief, corroborated by the late Chandrakant Keni, is that the outcome of the Opinion Poll was the victory of secular forces over communal forces in Goa and Maharashtra, who wished to divide Goans along communal lines.
The Battle of the Opinion Poll is not about personalities. It is not about who is the father or the grandfather or the uncle or the aunt of the Opinion Poll, it is about the social and political processes which led to the demand for merger of Goa with Maharashtra. This dates back to the days when the various pressure groups in the erstwhile Bombay Presidency were fighting for the creation of Samyukta Maharashtra, a state which would unite all Marathi-speaking people. It was literally personalities, both in Maharashtra and Goa, who were obsessed with Marathi and all political leaders and parties—including the Congress, the Praja Socialist Party and even the Communist Party of India in Maharashtra—that were behind the conspiracy to merge Goa with Maharashtra on the presumption that, linguistically and culturally, Goans and Goa had very close affinity with Maharashtra. Even, senior leaders of the Communist Party, including a leading Urdu poet named Amar Shaikh, participated actively in the Opinion Poll campaign in favour of merger.
History, would have perhaps taken a different turn if Goa had been liberated simultaneously with the rest of India, in which case there may have been a larger Konkan state comprising the entire Konkan area of Maharashtra, Mangalore and other parts of Konkani-speaking Uttar Karnataka and even perhaps Kasargod in Kerala, which has a significant population of Konkani-speaking people. But—unfortunately for the leaders of the Konkan many other socialists and even senior Congress leaders—by the time Goa was liberated, these Konkani-speaking areas were already part of Maharashtra and Karnataka. Which of course did not prevent some Konkani mogis from persisting with the demand for a ‘Vishal Gomantak’.
Conversely, Maharashtra did not reconcile itself to the fact that the people of Goa had decisively opted, by a margin of over 30,000 votes, to retain their then status as a union territory. Unfortunately, the choice offered during the Opinion Poll was not between full-fledged statehood for Goa and merger with Maharashtra but only maintenance of the status quo as a union territory and merger with Maharashtra. Indeed in the first session of the Maharashtra Assembly after the Opinion Poll verdict, the then chief minister of Maharashtra, V.P. Naik, initially made a statement that the question of the future status of Goa was still not closed. Taking a cue from Marathi fundamentalists like P.P. Shirodkar, who was the first speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the union territory of Goa, the Marathiwadis continued to persist with their demand not only for the merger of Goa with Maharashtra, but for recognition of Marathi as the official language of the state. In fact, the ghost of merger was only exorcised after a prolonged agitation by Konkani activists, which finally led to the declaration of Konkani as the exclusive official language of Goa on February 4, 1987 by the Legislative Assembly of Goa followed by full-fledged statehood on May 30, 1987.
What distinguishes this attempt at tracing the history of the Opinion Poll and the socio-economic and cultural factors which led to the demand for merger with Maharashtra is the exhaustive research and documentation which has gone into the preparation of this book. The exhaustive research and documentation for the book has been principally undertaken by Prof. Prajal Sakhardande, a lecturer of History at the Dhempe College of Arts and Science.
The book is based on an exhaustive survey of all published material on the Opinion Poll, including newspaper articles in all Goan, Maharashtrian and Kannadiga newspapers in Konkani, Portuguese, English and Kannada. This included locating copies of publications like Rashtramat, Gomantak, Kesari, A Vida, O Heraldo, Pradip, Roti, the Goa Tribune, Kul, some of which are no longer published. Documents relied on include papers and books written on the subject and related issues by eminent authors and historians, including Y.K. Phadke, Sarto Esteves, Narayan Desai, Froilano Machado, Suresh Amonkar, Sadanand Kanekar, Uday Bhembre, Teotonio de Souza and several others.
The research institutes and libraries accessed by the team include the Parliamentary Library in New Delhi, the Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University Library in New Delhi, Teen Murti Bhavan, which houses documents relating to the Nehru family in particular and the Congress in general, the United Nations Library, the Asiatic Library in Mumbai, the Mantralaya—the seat of government in Maharashtra, the Vidhana Soudha—the seat of government in Karnataka, and the Department of Archives of Maharashtra. The Ranade and Gokhale Institutes and Vishrambaghvada in Pune, the Bombay University Library and the Central Library and the Xavier Institute for Historical Studies in Goa also yielded a treasure trove of rich material.
In addition, as part of oral history, the research team headed by Prajal Sakhardande interviewed not only those who took active part in the Opinion Poll on both sides, ranging from Gajanan Raikar of the MGP to surviving members of the first Legislative Assembly belonging to the UGP including Maurilio Furtado, Dr. Proto Barbosa, Dr. Max de Loyola Furtado (the son of Dr. Alvaro de Loyola Furtado, the founder of the UGP), activists like Victoria Fernandes, Vilas Sardessai, senior Congressmen like C.P. D’Costa and many others. Activists from both sides were also spoken to. The then leader of the Council for Action, Ravindra Kelekar, editors like the late Chandrakant Keni and Uday Bhembre gave us valuable insights. We also spoke to senior journalists in Maharashtra, including Arun Tikekar, Narayan Athawale, Michael Gonsalves and others. We also had the privilege of speaking to former colleagues of the late V.M. Salgaocar, who testified that his commitment to the cause of retaining the distinct identity of Goa was so passionate that some of them were worried about the future of the company.
Thanks to the help rendered by Rajya Sabha M.P. Shantaram Naik, senior journalist Dharmanand Kamat and poet Brian de Mendonca, the research team was able to access the debates on the Union Territory of Goa and the Opinion Poll Bill as also the resolutions passed by the All India Congress Committee on the merger issue. A bonus was being able to interview V.C. Shukla, the then minister of state for home, who moved the Bill to hold an Opinion poll in Goa as his boss, then home minister Y.B. Chavan was reluctant to do so. In the course of the research into the archives of the Sakal Group of Publications in Pune, the team also managed to track down and record the memories of Mohan Dharia, the then general secretary of the Congress in charge of Goa. The quest for documentation for the book covered New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Kholapur and the private libraries of many distinguished Goans and non-Goans who had preserved material relating to the Opinion Poll.
We have focused on presenting facts based on the largest database ever put together on the Opinion Poll. The greatest challenge was, of course, to get permission to access the material and, subsequently, to procure translations of the material, which was mostly in a host of languages like Marathi, Kannada, Hindi, Devnagri Konkani, Konkani in the Roman script, Gujarati and Portuguese. We could not find translators fluent in all the languages and so had to hire different translators to translate from the various languages into English. The book is based on vast documentation, painstakingly collected by the team. There were times when I wanted to abandon the project or at least put a stop to the collection of additional data. But my energiser would have none of it and insisted that every statement that we made in the book should be substantiated. She is still not happy and believes that there is more material that needs to be looked at.
There are numerous people who helped put together this pioneering socio-political, but I would like to express the gratitude of the team to Dattaraj Salgaocar, who made it all possible and has shown exemplary patience. I only hope that the book will fill an important gap in the socio-economic and political history of one of the most important events, not only in the history of Goa or the country but the history of the world.
MY LATE FATHER, V.M. Salgaocar, was very passionate about both Konkani and preserving the unique and distinct identity of Goa. He was very disturbed, both by the manner in which the first general elections to the Goa Assembly was fought and the outcome of the first general elections. Not because of his allegiance to any of the political parties which then existed in Goa, but because he was disheartened by the communal polarisation of the electorate, both by the MGP and the UGP. He was convinced that only Konkani could unite the people of Goa.
My father had a deep and abiding love for Goa, which he considered his Janma Bhumi, meaning the land of his birth. The land which had nurtured and sustained him and given him whatever he had in life. He believed that it was the red soil of Goa that was his mother and he was totally devoted to Konkani, his mother tongue. So when members of the Anti-Merger Front approached him for help, he not only readily agreed but became one of them. V.M. Salgaocar risked the entire financial empire, which he had built from scratch, on the outcome of the Opinion Poll. He resisted all pressures, harassment and persecution, not only by then chief minister Dayanand Bandodkar, but also the powerful lobby in Maharashtra and the Centre. When the industries minister of Maharashtra approached him for support to the cause of merger on purely economic grounds, V.M. Salgaocar—after giving him a patient hearing—silenced him with a simple remark, “After merger, will we all become Maharashtrians or can we remain Goans?”
V.M. Salgaocar was one of the founders of the Rashtramat, the Marathi daily, which was started in 1963 soon after liberation. The original idea for the creation of a Marathi daily that would take up the cause of preserving the identity of Goa came from Shripad Gharse, a mine owner. He got in touch with a writer, Vasant Vaikunth Kare, for advice on the nitty-gritty of starting a publication. Kare, who did not have a journalistic background, got in touch with Chandrakant Keni because he had experience of publishing and editing a publication, Triveni. Before coming to Goa, Keni ran the Goa Information Centre in New Delhi.
Keni is reported to have approached Krishna Kurwar, the owner of a printing press. Kurwar, in turn, put him in touch with V.M Phanse, popularly known as Anna Phanse who was closely associated with the Maratha and was an officer of the Education Department in Bombay. Keni was a little diffident in the beginning because he thought that Phanse was a strong Marathi protagonist. Keni, however, was pleasantly surprised when, on his revealing that the paper would be committed to retaining the identity of Goa, Phanse was very enthusiastic and in fact urged that the proposed publication should take up the cause vigorously.
It was Kurwar who made the necessary arrangements to secure the type faces and other infrastructure for the newspaper. Phanse is also reported to have used his contacts to secure the services of some experienced journalists from Mumbai, including Praful Kumar Mokashi, Jagan Phadnis, Ratnakar Pawaskar and others. The first editor, Kare, withdrew when the Rashtramat committed itself fully to opposing the ‘mergerists’ when the Opinion Poll campaign heated up. This was consequent to his house being stoned by the mergerists. It was under these circumstances that Keni, who was closely associated with the project, became the editor.
The original promoters or financers of the Rashtramat were members of three prominent Goan industrial families; the Salgaocars, the Gosalias and the Timblos, who were all mine owners. The agreement was that, besides contributing to the initial expenses, the three would also chip in for the working capital or the running expenses every month. While the Salgaocars contributed their share regularly, the other two families were unable to do so when the expenses started mounting as the Opinion Poll campaign gathered momentum. It was under these circumstances that V.M. Salgaocar took upon himself the entire financial burden of running Rashtramat; a Marathi daily published from Goa that was committed to maintaining the identity of Goa. However, the Timblos and the Gosalias, who were among the original promoters of the Rashtramat, continued to be committed to preserving the identity of Goa. Uday Bhembre, who was a key member of the Konkaniwadis involved in the Opinion Poll battle, recalls that Shantilal Gosalia placed a car at his disposal for a month leading up to the Opinion Poll.
At the time of the Opinion Poll, V.M. Salgaocar was the sole promoter and financer of the Rashtramat that played a vital role in persuading a significant proportion of the majority community to vote against the merger. He gave the team, comprising the publisher Gharse, who was virtually the chief executive officer, the editor Chandrakant Keni and team Rashtramat a free hand. The team—besides Chandrakant Keni and Gharse—included Ravindra Kelekar, Uday Bhembre, Shankar Bhandhari and Janardhan Phaldessai among others. Rashtramat, under the stewardship of V.M. Salgaocar, was totally committed to defeating the mergerists to the extent that it was seen as a “viewspaper rather than a mere newspaper”. V.M. Salgaocar took a keen interest in the day-to-day functioning of the paper, though he did not impose his views on the editor or the editorial team.
V.M. Salgaocar, who never did things in half measures, committed himself completely and totally to the war against the pro-merger force. He personally monitored the progress of the campaign and took care to ensure that the activists were looked after while they were fighting the battle. I recall senior executives telling me and my brother that the Salgaocar office had been converted into the anti-merger office for almost two months preceding the Opinion Poll, with commercial and business activities coming to a halt. Though V.M. Salgaocar was not only the finance minister, but also the information and broadcasting minister and the logistics manager of the Opinion Poll, he never sought to take credit and saw himself as just another humble soldier fighting to protect the identity of his Janma Bhumi.
To our eternal regret, he did not live to see Konkani being recognised as the official language of the state of Goa and Goa achieving statehood. But, inspired by his example, the family has striven to continue the legacy of his love for Konkani and for Goa by starting the Sunaprant, the first and only paper in the official language of the state, Konkani in the Devnagari script. We have also been taking the initiative to fill the gap in the literary material available on the socio-cultural history of Goa. This book, the third in our series of publications after Aparanta and The Saraswats, is part of our initiative to encourage publications relating to the socio-cultural history of Goa.
We hope to publish a trilogy, which would include the history of the liberation of Goa and the history of the Konkani movement to complement the current volume on the story of the Opinion Poll, which is appropriately called Triumph of Secularism: The Battle of the Opinion Poll. It is the secular and cosmopolitan character of Goa which inspired Nehru to repeatedly insist that the unique and distinct identity of Goa should be protected and preserved. We, the heirs of V.M. Salgaocar, are committed to strengthening the unique and distinct identity of Goa from new threats to the identity of Goa. We believe that the socio-cultural history of Goa should be documented and recorded for the benefit of present and future generations. People who know “Their History” will not only be proud of Goa, but not repeat the mistakes that their predecessors made.
Triumph of Secularism: the Battle of the Opinion Poll is dedicated to the unsung heroes of the Opinion Poll.
‘De-Ethnicisation’ Of Goa
THE FIRST PRIME MINISTER of the country, Jawaharlal Nehru, always felt Goa was unique. However, in the face of claims by the Portuguese government that Goa had been ‘transformed’ during the long years of colonial rule—as a justification for its continued occupation of Goa even after Indian independence—Nehru dismissed the theory that Goa was ‘different’ from the rest of India. Jawaharlal Nehru pointed out that, by culture and tradition, Goa was as much a part of India as any other part of the country. It may have acquired a distinct socio-cultural identity because of the conscious Lusitanisation imposed on it, but—with the indigenous genius for adaptation through syncretisation—Goans, both in the Old and New Conquests, had retained their Indian roots throughout their chequered history. In any case, the Portuguese could not claim that Goa was a province considering that it was separated by 6000 nautical miles from Portugal. During the Indian independence struggle, the Congress Party and other groups fighting for liberation of India from British colonial rule did not refer to the liberation of Goa and Pondicherry, which were occupied by the Portuguese and French respectively. It was assumed that freedom for India included freedom for all the other foreign occupied territories in the sub-continent. Nehru and other nationalists pointed out that the very fact that, as per the 1960 census conducted by the Portuguese government itself, the percentage of Portuguese-speaking people in Goa was less than two percent proved that Goa was an integral part of India. Of the then total population of five lakhs, more than 95% had declared Konkani, an indigenous Indian language, their mother tongue.
The social and linguistic rift in Goa dates back to the annexation of Goa by the Portuguese and, as a writer noted at the time, the move was a “deliberate creation of the Portuguese. Till the arrival of Portuguese rule in Goa, there prevailed a true social harmony. Everybody had the same cultural heritage. And, therefore, whatever the rift between the Hindu and Catholic community that is there is the work of Portuguese rule. I think that the rift is so small that it can be filled easily and the social harmony that was present before the Portuguese can be restored in the near future. The present social rift is due to the forcible conversion of the Hindus into Christianity by the Portuguese…”1. Unfortunately, the artificially created rift was sought to be used as an alibi by the pro-merger group to serve their own who expansionist ambitions. The ostensible rationale offered by those who were pro merger was that Goans needed to be liberated from the colonial influences and brought back into the mainstream of Indian cultural ethos.
The Portuguese converted Goans into “black Europeans” and used, or rather abused, the Christian religion only as an instrument to implement their own policy, which was to denationalise Goa and convert it into a Portuguese enclave. Indeed, the Portuguese government, particularly during the tenure of the dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, referred to Goa not as a colony, but as a province of Portugal2.
In fact, it is believed that the Church and the state worked together in their mission of colonising various parts of the world. It was with the support, patronage, benediction and, most important of all, the resources of the then very powerful maritime state that missionaries were sent to Goa as they were interested in harvesting spices for their colonial masters as much as they were interested in harvesting souls. At that time in history, there was a convergence between the political interest of the major maritime powers like the Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish on one hand and the Vatican on the other.
This was not the case in respect to the colonisation of the rest of India by the British, primarily because the Church in the United Kingdom had broken away from the Vatican on the issue of King Henry VIII’s insistence on divorcing wives because they were not able to bear him any children or heirs. It may be recalled that the notorious Henry VIII chose to solve the problem by having successive wives guillotined! It was on the suggestion of Henry Beckett, then chancellor in the court of Henry VIII, that the Church of England was formed with Henry declaring himself the head of the Church. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England allows its clergy to both marry and divorce.
There is considerable evidence, both in the works of European historians and biographers of St. Francis Xavier and the letters of St. Francis Xavier himself, that the Portuguese colonial administration in Goa, in the early years, sought to Lusitanise ‘Goa’ and Goans. The Portuguese colonial regime forced the Hindus converted to Christianity by St. Francis Xavier and other missionaries to discard their traditional dhoti and choli and adopt Portuguese attire3. In a letter dated November 13, 1560, a priest wrote, “We are postponing the conversion of 200 Goan Hindus as we do not have any Portuguese attire to give them to wear during the conversion ceremony.” In 1763, the Portuguese banned the dhoti and choli, and even forced the new converts to change their names and adopt Portuguese names4.
Contrary to the perception that St. Francis Xavier brought the Inquisition to Goa because he was upset with Hindus who refused to convert to Christianity, the missionary was enraged by the new Christians he had converted, who continued to persist with what he believed was ‘their heathen ways’. It was intended to discipline the neo-converts, who had a tendency to lapse into their old Hindu beliefs. It is of course another matter that once the Inquisition started, it spun out of control and hundreds of Hindu temples were destroyed to make place for grand, gilded churches. A significant proportion of Hindu Goans fled Goa, along with their deities, to neighbouring states which then formed part of British India (which was not as fanatical about the observance of orthodox Roman Catholic Christian practices either by newly converted Catholics or, for that matter, even the majority of the Hindu population of British India). Within Goa itself, the deities were taken from the Old Conquest areas, which were the first to come under Portuguese colonial control, to the New Conquest areas. For instance, the image of Shantadurga, originally located in Cuncolim, was moved to Fatorpa to escape the atrocities of the fervour of the Counter Reformation. To this day, just before the feast or zatra, the Shantadurga idol is taken back to Cuncolim. Indeed, such is the attachment of even the Catholic converts to Shantadurga of Fatorpa that the original Catholic gaoncars of Cuncolim still have precedence of worship at the temple over Hindu gaoncars.
During the first two centuries of Portuguese colonial rule, several thousand Hindus migrated to Karnataka, Maharashtra and even to Kerala. Which is why, even today, there is a significant population of Konkani-speaking people in Uttar Kanara, particularly Mangalore. Similarly, there are a large number of Goans in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) and parts of the Konkan in Maharashtra. In Mumbai, in fact, various villages of Goa established their own dormitories called kudds which offered accommodation to Goans looking for jobs in Mumbai or seeking a placement with the Merchant Navy. Many of these kudds located in and around Dhobi Talao or Metro Cinema areas in Mumbai still exist. The fact that there is a significant Konkani-speaking population in Kasargod in Kerala is also a consequence of the persecution of not only Hindus, but new Catholic converts who would not abandon their traditional Hindu customs.
Those who stayed back in colonial Goa, whether Hindu or Catholic, had no choice but to adopt Portuguese customs, at least in attire and language. As historian A.K. Priolkar points out, the Portuguese were successful in converting not just Catholic, but even Hindus into black Portuguese. Both Goan Catholics and Hindus, particularly from the upper classes, who chose to collaborate with the Portuguese colonial regime, adopted Portuguese culture and traditions. The Portuguese followed the carrot and stick policy of offering lucrative jobs to converted Hindus and this deepened the rift between Hindus and Catholics.
The Portuguese were diabolical in suppressing Konkani and promoting Portuguese and Marathi. Not surprisingly, the then Portuguese governor of Goa, Conde de Alvor, declared, “In the next three years, Portuguese language will take the place of official and communication language of Goa and all Indian languages will be banned”5. It was in pursuance of this policy of de-nationalising Goa that the Portuguese limited educational facilities in Goa to the Lyceum, which offered education only up to the present day equivalent of standard X. After that, those who sought higher education had to go to Portugal or one of the Portuguese colonies in Africa such as Angola or Mozambique or, closer home, to Macau. In the latter half of the Portuguese rule, they did permit Marathi medium schools, but only primary and secondary schools. This compelled several generations of Goans to migrate to Karnataka and Maharashtra for higher education, the favourite being Dharwad University, which was the closest to Goa. It was because of all this that, when Goa was liberated, it did not have any qualified engineers. The Portuguese government refused to permit the setting up of even degree colleges, let alone professional colleges. The only exception was the Goa Medical College, which was not set up for the benefit of Goans, but because the Portuguese could not meet the demand for doctors for its colonies in Africa!
Not only did the Portuguese suppress the Konkani language, they also suppressed any form of cultural expression by indigenous Goans, particularly the local theatre or tiatr, plays which were usually critical of the Portuguese colonial regime. Contrary to general perception, the tiatr was born and flourished as a dramatic art form in Mumbai, not Goa. Tiatr became popular in Goa only after the liberation of Goa in 1961. But the worst victim of Portuguese imperialism was the common native language of Goa, Konkani. If a significant proportion of Goans turned to Marathi for cultural and religious needs, it was not because they loved Konkani less but because Marathi literature and its cultural institutions were not as brutally suppressed by the colonial regime as Konkani literature and its cultural institutions. This is dramatised by the fact that, at the time of liberation, while there were hundreds of Marathi medium primary and secondary schools, there were no Konkani primary schools!
Ironically, there was apparently no change in the attitude of the thoroughly brainwashed sections of the Catholic community, even during and after the freedom struggle in India against the British colonial regime. A.K. Priolkar reveals that, in the Times of India directory in 1947, Goan Catholics living in Mumbai were classified as European residents! The Goan Catholic, when it came to British India from Portuguese India, demanded the facilities that were offered to the European community living in India. Fortunately or unfortunately, the British never accepted this demand. Instead, the British treated them as Anglo-Indians just as Goans treat the products of historical Goan-Portuguese marriages as mestiços. It was this that led the Catholics in Mumbai, during the Goan Congress held in 1960, to finally declare, “We accept that we are Indians. We are enjoying the status of Europeans because we have adopted western culture and traditions…”
Notwithstanding the acceptance of the majority of the Goan Catholics that they were Indians, some of them shifted their allegiance to their state of refuge: Maharashtra. To the extent that a group of Mumbai-based Goan Catholics, including a trade union leader and former mayor, were recruited by the Maharashtrawadis to campaign for Goa’s merger with Maharashtra. Long periods of forced exile outside Goa resulted in divided loyalties. However, even ‘Maharashtrianised’ Goans maintained their religious-cultural links with Goa by commemorating the feasts of their patron saints and their kuldevatas. So much so, the soul of Goa remained firmly Indian, despite the brutal attempts by the Portuguese to destroy the identity of Goa and attempts by the Mahashtrawadis to obliterate the identity of Goa.
Indeed, as Priolkar points out, some Goan intellectuals who visited Europe in 1850 came to the conclusion that Indian culture and religion was as rich as European culture. As far back as in 1861, the famous Goan nationalist, Francisco Luis Gomes, wrote in a letter to the French poet Alphonse de Lamartine saying, “I am proud that I was born in India, a home of poetry, spirituality and a great history. I am proud that I am born in the tradition of the great people who wrote the Mahabharata and invented the game of chess. But, today, these Portuguese people have converted my holy land into a cemetery.”
To conclude the sorry and sordid story of how the Portuguese colonial rulers tried to denationalise and Lusitanise Goans, Priolkar comments that it was a historical mistake to impose an alien culture on the Goan people. The intellectual community were left with a dilemma on what policy to adopt after its merger into free India. Commenting on the situation on the eve of liberation, Priolkar noted, “By promoting Christianity in Goa, the Portuguese made efforts to build a community of black Portuguese and, because of this, the Catholic community suffered a lot. The Hindu community reacted strongly against the Portuguese and this created a permanent communal rift between Hindus and Catholics. Hindus basically believe in communal harmony.” This is why perhaps when it came to the question of deciding between merger with Maharashtra or retaining the distinct and unique identity of Goa, a large number of Hindus, despite the MGP propaganda, voted in favour of retaining Goa’s distinct identity during the historic Opinion Poll.
Goans periodically expressed the above sentiments on several occasions. It was opined that, following liberation, Goa would be given an opportunity to participate in national events and share the same sort of elated passion6. The need to confront the three crucial problems of political consciousness, democracy and what “we” would do in a democratic Goa was outlined in the context of radical institutional changes in the wake of liberation7. It was opined that there was an artificial difference between the Catholic and Hindu way of life. The ‘Catholic Civilisation’ introduced by the Portuguese had affected the thinking of the minority Goans – a Catholic prefers to call himself a Goan rather than a simple Indian and thinks of his country as Goa, not India. This constituted the basis of the Goa Dourada Paradigm8 and was the thrust of the rather controversial denationalisation thesis that was made profound by T.B. Cunha. Despite persecution and the repressive policies of the Portuguese, Goan Hindus maintained distinct characteristics and way of life throughout the centuries. They believed that Goa was always a part of India and the imposition of Portuguese culture and Christianity on unwilling Goans was a fanatical piece of villany. On this basis, the much touted Goa Indica paradigm was constructed by the neo- Nationalists9.
- A.K. Priolkar, The Goa Inquisition.
- Chandrakant Tamhane made this comment during an interview to the Maharashtra Times, January 26, 1962, soon after Goa’s liberation, A.K. Priolkar)
- A.K. Priolar, Op.Cit.
- Rudolfo D’Mello, Goa: A New Deal, Chetana Publications, Mumbai, 1962, p9.
- Ibid, p. 13.
- Caroline Ifeka: ‘The Image of Goa’ in Indo-Portuguese History: Old Issues, New Questions. p. 184.
- Arun Sinha, Goa Indica: A critical portrait of post colonial Goa, Bibliophile, South Asia, 2002.
Nehru Stands Steadfast
IRRESPECTIVE OF WHETHER Jawaharlal Nehru was the ‘father’ of the Opinion Poll or not, it is on record that the first prime minister of the country was always committed to maintaining the distinct identity of Goa. The Congress and other political parties fighting for liberation from British colonialism assumed that, with the end of British colonialism, the other colonialists, primarily the French and the Portuguese, would also follow suit. Having achieved independence from British colonialism primarily through non-violent means, Nehru was averse to the idea of forcible eviction of either the French or the Portuguese from what he considered ‘Indian territories’. While the then government headed by Nehru was able to arrive at a negotiated settlement with the French, the Portuguese (under Dr. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar) proved to be intractable. Though he was under pressure from local nationalists to forcibly evict the Portuguese, Nehru was reluctant to do so. In fact, due to his commitment to the much acclaimed Panchsheela, in the face of great provocation from the Portuguese and some nudging from his then defence minister Krishna Menon, Nehru reluctantly gave his consent to the military action against the last foreign enclave in the country. But for the commitment of his daughter Indira Gandhi to uphold her father’s promises to the Goan people, the Opinion Poll may not have been held. Her predecessor, Lal Bahadur Shastri, almost succumbed to the pressure from the Maharashtra lobby to merge Goa with Maharashtra.
Long before liberation, addressing a Goan rally at Siddharthnagar in Mumbai on June 4, 1956, Jawaharlal Nehru, responding to questions relating to Goa, lamented that the Portuguese sort to justify their claim to Goa based on the history and geography of the 15th century and seemed to be oblivious to the fact that the wave of freedom and democracy had swept away colonial vestiges. When India fought the struggle for freedom against the British, the Indian government neither specifically raised the question of the French and Portuguese possessions nor of the Indian states in India because “We took it for granted that freedom of India meant the freedom of every part of India.”
Before India gained independence, the British hinted that when India became free, “Treaties between Indian states and the British government would lapse” and, therefore, the Indian states would be considered independent. But when the foreign colonial authority and power was removed, there were “legal and constitutional loopholes.” The French and Portuguese possessions remained in India almost as Indian states that are foreign colonial authorities under the protection of the British power. The French and Portuguese possessions could not continue without the friendship and goodwill of the British; “these were leftover relics of colonial power in India because they were no danger to the British… so they remained as outgrowths or consequences of the British power in India.” The Indian government did not trouble itself with them because “We felt that the moment British power in India was removed, automatically, inevitably these other parts and enclaves—whether under French or the Portuguese—would naturally revert to the motherland.” The Indian government, though not quite acquainted with the Portuguese government, was quite sure that the moment India became free from British rule, the French government would, in a friendly way, decide about the French establishments in the country.
Nehru was clear that the Portuguese had no place in Goa. But was equally determined that even after the Portuguese vacated Goa, the identity of Goa would be protected. With reference to Goa, Nehru clarified that “all of us want every part of this country to be free in the normal sense of the term.” But the question that was bound to arise was: “Are you going to forcibly extend the authority of the Indian union to Goa against the wishes of the people of Goa? This answer would be naïve because if the people of Goa… minus the Portuguese government, deliberately wished to retain their separate identity, I am not going to bring them by force of compulsion or coercion into the Indian union. I want them to come and I am quite certain they want to come too, but that is not the point…. Our national interest involves the removal of the Portuguese from Goa, not in coercion being used in bringing about the union of Goa with India. Though I wish and desire it and it is the only solution, it is a matter ultimately for the people of Goa to decide.”
A small territory like Goa with thousands of intimate contacts with the main land cannot flourish as a small isolated entity. Nehru made it clear that he had “no desire to coerce Goa to join India against the wishes of the people of Goa.” He clearly stated that when Goa and the other Portuguese territories in India join the Indian union, their identity and individuality would be maintained. Those of Pondicherry and Karaikal were retained and they were not absorbed into the state of Madras. The Indian government gave them the freedom to continue, as they wanted to, as per the article in the Treaty that was agreed to with the government of France that “we should not make a change there except with the approval and consent of the people.”
Referring to a speech that was made by Dr. Salazar referring to Goa as “an outpost and extension of western civilisation,” Nehru condemned the colonial character of Portugal in Goa and accused the Western powers, including England, France, Germany, Italy and USA, for tolerating the authoritarianism of Portugal, especially since Portugal was included in the NATO Council. Arguing against the alleged change on the neutrality of India, Nehru categorically stated, “We are not neutralist.” He condemned colonialism in Goa as “the worst kind of colonialism” as Portugal had established some kind of right to remain in Goa. He observed, “There is an utter and absolute lack of civil liberties and the people of Goa cannot have anything without permission.”
He also noted that, despite the oppressive diktats of the Portuguese government, Goans in Goa “have, at no time, given up the struggle.” Goans from Bombay occupied the highest position in Goa’s struggle for freedom, including Catholic missionaries and priests who have sympathised with and helped the Goan Liberation Movement. But some priests “work for the Portuguese and I am afraid that the patriarch of Goa spreads its tentacles outside Goa too… and tries to do a good bit of Portuguese propaganda outside Goa too, which is highly improper.” The first prime minister of the country felt the arguments of Dr. Salazar were particularly dangerous because the Church did not under the shadow of darkness of religion, but under the shadow of colonial authority.
On the basic approach of the Congress when Goa would become a part of the Indian Union, Nehru specified that the freedom and rights granted in the Constitution – which specifically refer to the freedom of conscience, worship and practice of religion – would be extended in full measure. “The special circumstances of cultural, social and linguistic relations and the sense of territorial group which history has created will be respected1”. As a corollary, on June 3, 1956, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) passed a resolution urging the government to resolve the long pending issue of the liberation of Goa expeditiously. It is in this context that the first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, after great deliberations and having made up his mind to evict the Portuguese by force, told the cheering Lok Sabha on December 8, 1961, “I would like to make it clear that there can be no solution of the Goa problem except for the Portuguese walking out of Goa”2.
As the obduracy of Lisbon left India with “a painful choice of an armed action”, the opposition members of the Bombay Legislative Assembly congratulated Nehru on “his bold decision; a great decision”3. He simultaneously reiterated in the Rajya Sabha, “When Goa comes into the Indian union, we are not going to merge Goa into some district. Goa will remain an independent entity, presumably under the government of India.” It was for the people of Goa to decide what to do4.
The National Convention for the Integration of Goa, Daman and Diu with India had passed a resolution expressing infinite pleasure to Nehru for declaring that Goa, Daman and Diu would form separate states5. Nehru bluntly stated “Some people are misled, either by false propaganda or by over enthusiastic people in India who say that Goa would be joined on to Maharashtra or some district or to Karnataka province… but, the point is that we feel that Goa’s individuality should remain and that whenever the time comes for any changes, internal or other, it will be for the people of Goa acting freely to decide upon them.” This was consistent with the stand and the agreement that India had entered into with France on the withdrawal of the French from Pondicherry (now Puducherry), Karikal and Mahe. Nehru had given a written assurance to the French that the socio-cultural identity of the former French colonies would be retained and even went to the extent of assuring that French would be the official language for as long as the people of the region wanted.
As far as Goa was concerned, Nehru remained steadfast on his commitment to retain the distinct identity of Goa, even after liberation. Talking to newsmen in Delhi after the liberation of Goa, Nehru asserted “As we have always said, we want to maintain the individuality and personality of Goa so that they (Goans) can live their lives according to their ways”.
RESPONSE TO LIBERATION
The decision by the Indian government to forcibly evict the Portuguese from Goa attracted wide spread criticism from the international community. In fact, a joint statement condemning the use of force was made by the then United States John Foster Dulles along with its NATO ally the Portuguese foreign minister, Paulo Cunha. Defending the use of force to liberate the last foreign occupied territory in the meeting of the UN Security Council on December 18, 1961, the permanent representative of India at the UN, C.S. Shah, stated, “One hundred thousand Goans are in Mumbai; they are in touch with their own people. They are treated as Indians in all respects. We have never drawn any distinction between a Goan in Goa and an Indian in India.”6
Ironically, this was not palatable to either the Portuguese colonial regime, which had been physically pushed out of Goa by the Indian Army or the Maharashtra government and Maharashtrian colleagues of the then prime minister who had started a campaign for merger of Goa with Maharashtra even before India became independent. The Portuguese reaction to the conquest of Goa by India was to set up a provisional government of the Portuguese state of India in Lisbon as long as the territory remained occupied by India. On December 18, 1961, a representative of Portugal even wrote to the president of the United Nations Security Council that “The problem of Goa is simply a question of colonialism by India.” The Portuguese representative in the Security Council questioned India’s claim that the Indian union was synonymous with the Indian sub continent. The Portuguese representative pointed out that when the Portuguese conquered Goa and other territories in India, there were no less than 13 independent kingdoms in India, at least eleven of them being under Muslim rule. The Portuguese representative insisted that the Indian sub continent was never politically won at any point before independence. The Portugal representative further pointed out that Goans had lived as part of Portugal for 450 years and that the Indian prime minister had himself admitted that Goa had a different culture.
Initially, the official stand of the Indian government was that Goa, Daman and Diu were parts of the Indian Union and that no further legislation was required to bring them within the Indian Union as a union territory under the First Schedule of the Constitution from December 19, the day on which Goa was liberated7. Though there was a proposal that the former Portuguese enclaves should be administered under the Foreign Jurisdiction Act till they were brought into the Indian union by a Constitutional amendment, this view was abandoned due to the legal and political complications that may ensue. Addressing the morning session of the Subjects Committee of the AICC after the draft resolution of Goa and International Affairs had been approved, Nehru cautioned that if the status quo was maintained, there was a possibility of attempts to set up military bases in Goa with the risk of being dragged into international conflicts.8
At a news conference in Delhi on December 28, 1961, Nehru announced that the government of India would first get the social and administrative set up functioning in the civilian regime and then place a bill before Parliament for the incorporation of Goa in the Indian union as a separate entity under the central government within a month or two. Promptly after Goa was liberated, the Indian army handed over power to the civilian government and the real process of integration with India began with the Goa, Daman and Diu called the Goa, Daman and Diu (Administration) Ordinance, 1962, promulgated by then president Dr. Rajendra Prasad, which specified that all the pre-existing laws would continue to be reinforced till they were sought to be changed by a democratically elected government. The ordinance was subsequently replaced by the Twelfth Amendment Bill, which provided for setting up an elected legislature and giving representation to Goa in the national parliament.
In the 67th session of the Indian National Congress (INC) held on January 5-6, 1962, N. Sanjeeva Reddy, delivered his presidential address wherein he stated that the liberation of Goa had given “a deep sense of satisfaction to all sections of the people in India”9. A resolution welcoming “the declaration of policies and intentions with regard to the future of Goa by the prime minister that the individuality of Goa will be respected, that the people of Goa will share fully the freedom and fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution and that their cultural background will be protected” was adopted.
On the inaugural day of the session, prime minister Nehru also addressed the meet, saying, “As far as Goa is concerned, the foremost thing to consider is whether Goa is a part of India or Goa was a part of Portugal. One’s reaction to Goa depended on the answer to this question.”10 Nehru stated, “Before and after liberation, India had affirmed the distinct identity and cultural personality of Goa and assured Goans that the special circumstances of the cultural, social and linguistic relations and a sense of a territorial group which history has created would be respected.”11. Nehru categorically ruled out the merger of Goa with any of the neighbouring states of the Indian union.
UNION TERRITORY STATUS
On March 12, 1962, the Constitutional Amendment (12 Amendment) Bill was introduced in the Parliament. The bill to confer union territory status to Goa met with strong resistance, both from the pro-merger forces within Goa and senior leaders of Maharashtra, who were Nehru’s cabinet colleagues. The demand for merger of Goa with Maharashtra had already reached a crescendo in the national Parliament. Defending the bill in the Rajya Sabha, Nehru stated, “We have made it clear that we want Goa to maintain its separate identity, separate individuality, call it what you want because in the course of more than 400 years, Goa has had a separate identity and the course of history has imparted it some. We have no intention of suppressing that identity.” Subsequently, the two bills were unanimously passed in the Lok Sabha. In the interim period, Dr. Antonio Colaço and Dr. P.D. Gaitonde were nominated to represent Goa. During the next two years, various measures were taken to integrate Goa with the rest of the country and introduce democratic institutions of local self governance.
Following the passage of the Union Territories Bill in May 1962, which provided for setting up a Legislative Assembly for the union territory of Goa, Daman and Diu with 30 seats, the stage was set to hold the first general elections in the history of Goa. The elections were held against conflicting demands from the two regional parties, namely the MGP and the UGP over merger of Goa with Maharashtra. The Congress took a clear stand on the future of Goa, endorsing Nehru’s commitments that Goa would remain a union territory for ten years, after which the people of Goa would democratically decide their own future. When a group of politicians from Maharashtra sought a clarification from Nehru on how the wishes of the people of Goa would be determined, he categorically stated that “It will be done through a referendum”12.
After the first general elections to the Legislative Assembly and the formation of the government by the MGP and its allies, the demand for merger of Goa with Maharashtra was resurrected. Both the MGP government headed by Dayanand Bandodkar and senior cabinet colleagues of the Prime Minister from Maharashtra, such as Y.B. Chavan, the then defence minister, insisted that the electoral verdict should be considered a mandate for merger. On December 22, 1963, Nehru stated that the elected representatives in Goa would work under the present constitutional set up and “Later, when the situation gets economically or otherwise stabilised, they will be given an opportunity of deciding their future.” Interestingly, Nehru termed the results of the first elections as a tie between the pro-merger and anti-merger groups and pointed out, “The MGP secured only 14 seats, but not the majority vote”13.
When the clamour for merger reached a new pitch and there was mounting pressure on Nehru to accept the verdict of the first elections as a mandate for merger, the Prime Minister, answering supplementary questions in the Lok Sabha on March 16, 1963, reiterated “The Government of India feels that the present is not the time to do it. As an event, it requires some time to quieten down, for feelings should not be excited there. There is a very strong party (UGP) …may be it is not a majority, but just nearly half…which is very much opposed to merger. So raising the question now creates difficulties, creates trouble and diverts the attention from work of consolidation in Goa. It is better for a few years to elapse. The matter may be taken up later and let them decide as they choose. The Government of India does not see any need for any hurry in this matter. It is immaterial whether it is done after five years or ten years”14.
On a visit to Goa on May 22, 1963, addressing a public meeting at Panaji, Nehru stated, “We feel, and I have felt for a long time, that Goa has a distinctive personality and it is a pity to do anything to take away this distinctive personality… Therefore, we had decided, and we hold to that decision, that Goa should remain a separate entity in Union of India.” He added that Goa could develop as it liked within the framework of India and add to the richness of India because, from ancient times, there was a concept of India. He further pointed out that India had been politically divided several times, but there always remained a concept of the unity of India throughout the ages. “For nearly 3000 years, that concept of India has been described as the land from the Himalayas to the southern seas and the concept means unity in diversity.”
Nehru not only acknowledged the distinct identity of Goa, but also the fact that Konkani was the language of the people of Goa. At the same public meeting, Nehru spelt out his stand on the ongoing controversy of whether Konkani was a distinct language or a dialect of Marathi, as those propagating merger claimed. “Every language in India has the freedom to function.” Regarding broad linguistic areas, he felt that Marathi or any other language would function freely, but felt there was a certain “specialty” in Goa in the common use of Konkani. He averred that it was quite absurd to pitch Konkani against Marathi as “this kind of linguistic approach of suppressing a language is bad. Hence, while all the languages should flourish here, particular attention should be paid to Konkani, which is the common people’s language.”
He further reinforced his position on the status of Konkani at a public meeting organised by the South Goa District Congress in Margao on May 23, 1963: “We don’t wish to impose any language.” Referring to languages like Marathi and Kannada being widely prevalent in Goa, he said, “The language which is generally known, though it is not very literary, is Konkani. And I think it should be given every opportunity to develop itself because of the people of Goa… Goa should maintain it. Naturally that individuality will change from time to time, but it should have individuality….as most of our states have particular individualities.”
Reassuring the people of Goa, particularly those against merger, that the Centre would not force a decision on them, Nehru stated that Goa would grow by participation and develop a sense of oneness with India. “Goans will be free to solve their own problems… Delhi does not want to impose any decision on the people”15. Addressing a meeting of around 20,000 odd Goans at Bicholim on May 24, 1963, Nehru said, “Goa has come back to the Goans. Goans will now look after themselves. The future is in their own hands.”16
Nehru was unequivocal on the issue of Goa maintaining status quo for a considerable period of time. Asked whether Goa should remain a separate unit or become a full fledged state at a press conference in Panaji on May 25, 1963, Nehru replied, “I don’t think so. I definitely and positively think that Goa should remain a separate unit…. It will be affected by close links with the neighbouring areas, state, etc. It is natural and one does not know what, in the distant future, may happen. But, in the present, purely on merit, I think it should be kept separate. Apart from merit, a considerable number of people here are afraid of being submerged by another individuality. I think it is important that it should be given every chance to preserve itself.” This was in the context of suggestions that the government decision to maintain status quo for ten years should be reviewed and Goa should be immediately merged with Maharashtra.
Addressing the same press conference, Nehru was asked how Konkani, the “spoken language”, could be developed. Nehru specified that Konkani was popularly spoken and “has a particular merit from psychological and sentimental points of view. Whether it can develop or not in into something more than that, it is difficult to stay…” Nehru did not see any conflict between Marathi and Konkani as both stood at different levels. Nevertheless, Konkani had a popular sentiment “of mass popular use.” “Konkani is there and should be encouraged … the mass mind will come nearer to you if you develop it.” He noted that Konkani was far widespread and stronger than the tribal language and “It is a very useful environment for a language, rooted down to people’s consciousness; apart from, well, a fine, literary language. One should not lose something of value; one should encourage it.” “Konkani is peculiar to Goa and is common to nearly all the people there.”
A disturbed Purushottam Kakodkar, who was the president of the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC), wrote to the Prime Minister about statements by the Congress leaders from Maharashtra and his own colleagues in Goa demanding the merger of Goa with Maharashtra. Purushottam Kakodkar must have also reported the breakaway of the dissident Congressmen from the Congress to the Centre, for Nehru wrote to him that he should carry on as the president of the GPCC. In response, Nehru wrote to Kakodkar (in a letter dated September 9, 1963), “I see that some people are laying stress on the merger of Goa with Maharashtra. I think that this is very wrong of them. I have said that the future of Goa will be decided by the people of Goa. That does not mean that soon after liberation we shall consider the merger of Goa with Maharashtra or any other state. For the present, it is essential that Goa should remain a union territory and settle down. The new elections that are taking place are on the basis of that union territory. This will be not only advantageous to Goa in many ways, but will also prove to the Goan people that we are not rushing them into any decision at this early stage. It is clear that the Government of India is not going to agree, in the near future, to any merger.”
Against the highly charged and communally polarised atmosphere that resulted in the aftermath of the first general elections in Goa in September 1963, Nehru addressed Goans in December that year. He outlined the aim of the government of India with regard to Goa. Nehru opined that it was a wise move to constitute Goa as a union territory when it became a part of the Indian union as “it has nearly all the advantages of being a separate entity of state, plus some advantages.” He indicated that it was essential to “get rid of all the disadvantages that have flowed from long term colonial rule and to make the people of Goa and other Portuguese dependencies self reliant, strong and cohesive among themselves and with India.” Hence, he ascertained that Goa should remain a union territory of India and “no other question such as merger with Maharashtra or a separate state should be considered” in the present elections. “We have made it clear that these questions of merger can be considered and decided upon by the people of Goa. But, the present is not the time for it” as any argument about these questions would bring a sense of conflict within Goa and create considerable difficulties and divert the minds of the people from “the emotional and other integration within Goa and outside and economic growth.” “Ultimately, it will be for the people of Goa to decide about their future. That opportunity will be theirs, but let it be taken when the time comes for it. Any attempt to take it before time will, I think, be harmful to Goa.”17
The first general elections to the Goa Legislative Assembly had virtually become a referendum on the future political status of Goa, in the light of the MGP insisting that merger with Maharashtra was its only electoral plank. Nehru and the Congress party were quite disturbed over the rout the party suffered, not being able to win even a single seat. Conscious that the volume of the demand for merger would escalate to an even higher pitch, Nehru declared on December 14, 1963, that the merger of Goa with any neighbouring state was not desirable. “It does not matter which party won the majority and formed the government, but the original pledge given to the people that the territory will enjoy a separate status shall be honoured.”18
Addressing a meeting of local Congress workers, Nehru stated that he “was surprised and pained at the election outcomes in Goa” as they were primarily fought on communal lines as the Konkani Catholics, forming 40% of the population, voted on one side and the Hindus on the other. Nehru emphasised, “Goa should continue to remain a separate entity and we should wait for some more period to finally decide the issue.” He added that the goal behind declaring Goa a union territory was for it to enjoy freedom in its own affairs and have a legislature of its own and, at the same time, get special grants from the Centre, as other union territories 19.
At a press conference held in Panaji on December 25, 1963, Nehru was asked whether he felt Goan people were different from those of other parts of India. To this, Nehru responded, “There are innumerable personalities in India… Goa has a very distinct personality, though it is not different from India because it is very much a part of India… but unlike the other parts of India, to some extent, more so because of the historical fact of 400 years or more of existence under Portuguese domination… there are common features which are obvious and other distinctive features are equally obvious.” Questioned about the “distinctive features” in Goan society, Nehru stated that there were certain features that distinguished every part of India. Besides, in Goa, there were features that “have come because of the long association with the Portuguese here… everything is affected.”
It was, thus, clear that Jawaharlal Nehru (before and after Goa’s liberation) was steadfast in his commitment to maintaining the distinct identity of Goa. As long as Nehru lived, he firmly resisted attempts by the pro-merger group to change the political status of Goa or even shorten the period of ten years, which he had stipulated should be the period for which Goa should remain a union territory. It was only after the demise of Nehru on May 29, 1966 that the Maharashtrawadi lobby in Maharashtra and the Centre almost persuaded Lal Bahadur Shastri to merge Goa with Maharashtra. To his last breath, Nehru protected Goa from the expansionist ambitions of Maharashtra and Karnataka.
- Jawaharlal Nehru made this statement in the Lok Sabha on August 25, 1954.
- Free Press, December 8, 1961.
- Free Press, December 20, 1961.
- Times of India, May 4, 1961.
- May 14, 1961.
- Excerpts, United Nations document, p 98.
- Free Press, January 13, 1962.
- Free Press, January 6, 1962.
- Excerpts from the text of N. Sanjeeva Reddy’s address during the 67th session of the Indian National Congress on January 5-6, 1962.
- The Hindu, January 6, 1962.
- Jawaharlal Nehru’s speeches, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, Vol. III, p 372.
- Congress manifesto 1963.
- Free Press, December 23, 1963.
- Free Press, March 17, 1963.
- Free Press, May 24, 1963.
- Free Press, December 9, 1963.
- Nehru Solemn, Ravindra Kelekar.
- Press Trust of India, December 14, 1963.
Union Territory Status
TWO YEARS AFTER Goa was liberated from the Portuguese, the Indian Parliament moved the Government of Union Territories Bill on February 21, 1963. Essentially, the bill was moved to provide for legislative assemblies and councils of ministers for certain union territories so that the local administration could be granted autonomy. The Minister of State in the Home Ministry, R.M. Hajarnavis, moved a motion to refer the bill providing for legislative assemblies and councils of ministers for certain territories to a joint committee of the houses consisting of 45 members from the Rajya Sabha and 15 members of the Lok Sabha. The chief feature of the bill was the creation of legislative assemblies and councils of ministers for the five union territories of Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Pondicherry, Goa, Daman and Diu.
At the outset, it was made clear that, as per the Constitution, all the laws made by local legislatures would not be repugnant to any law made by Parliament. Before any law was passed, the assent of the president would be mandatory. Financial proposals submitted to the legislatures would also have to be approved by the president. The other salient features of the bill included a provision for delimitation of constituencies; elections to fill Lok Sabha seats; constitution of provisional legislatures in Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura and Pondicherry; abolition of territorial councils; a proposal to give representation to Pondicherry in the Southern Zonal Council and to Dadra, Nagar Haveli, Goa, Daman and Diu in the Western Zonal Council. According to the bill, the members of the assemblies would be determined through direct elections. Himachal Pradesh was to have 40 members, while the rest would have 30. Provision was also made for reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes in Himachal Pradesh and Pondicherry where they then formed 27% and 15.4% of the population, respectively. No reservations were to be made in the other territories as their population was perceived to be insignificant.
The union territory legislatures would be subject to the same limitations as the state legislatures: they were to be limited by the provisions of Articles 285 to 288 of the Constitution, which related to prohibition against taxation of Union property, the imposition of sales tax on the goods of special importance in inter-state trade and tax on electricity consumed by the Union government. As far as the subject of local language was concerned, the administration was to be carried out in the official languages of the Union. However, since Hindi and English may not have been known at the district level, Clause 34 (a) of the bill gave the legislatures permission to adopt Hindi or the local language as the official language.
During the clause-by-clause discussion of the bill, MP D.C. Sharma pointed out that all the territories had distinct personalities. “All these territories are not to be looked upon only as territories meant for administrative convenience or territories meant for any other experiment, but territories which have come to acquire some kind of an ethnic personality. I do not think it should be disturbed right now…” However, in the same breath, he said, “Himachal Pradesh can take a lesson from Punjab. So far as Manipur and Tripura are concerned, they can take lessons from Assam. So far as Goa, Daman and Diu are concerned, they can go to Bombay.”
The Government of Union Territories Bill was then discussed in the Rajya Sabha over several sessions after changes and amendments were made to the Bill. At the beginning of one such session on March 20, 1963, then Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri broached the subject of merger while addressing the House. Shastri said it had to be looked into “in consultation” with the territories and “need not” be imposed. “Why do we keep these areas separate? There may be historical reasons… Besides these historical reasons, these areas are backward and they have to be economically developed, developed agriculturally, developed industrially…” Shastri stated that those who came from the union territories welcomed this measure and added that certain provisions of the bill would be implemented before Independence Day that year (1963).
While Shastri assured the House that discussion on merger would be participatory, it would be pertinent to note that many considered the formulation of the Union Territories Bill itself opaque. Especially those from Tripura. All opposition territorial council members in Tripura, save one, were in jail. As a result, they could not debate the subject and a member who was elected to the Joint Select Committee (Dasaratha Deb, from the tribal community) to discuss the Bill was also detained and was not released to attend the committee meetings.
When the bill was put up for clause-by-clause discussion, among the other finer aspects of the bill, an interesting amendment was proposed by Bhupesh Gupta, a Communist Party MP. Gupta proposed that deputy speakers of the proposed Legislative Assemblies should not belong to the ruling party in the respective union territories. This was essential, according to him, to avoid partisanship. The motion was, not surprisingly, denied.
Another provision that was debated on was the role of the administrator. Though it was earlier provided that the administrator of a union territory would merely give the opening address and not partake in the Assembly proceedings, this provision was apparently changed. Bhupesh Gupta pointed out that an administrator participating in Assembly proceedings was against a democratic set up. He also protested against a provision making it mandatory for Legislative Assemblies to get the consent of the Centre before enacting laws: “Why? Please do not make them glorified municipalities or glorified bodies like the London County Council.” The government was urged to give them powers under the Constitution, on par with state assemblies. Gupta also objected to the concept of nomination and reservation of seats and felt these were against the ideals of a democracy.
Additionally, the Bill also stipulated that no bill or amendment altering the powers of judicial authorities could be introduced or moved in the Legislative Assemblies of union territories without the previous sanction of the administrator. Clause 23 of the Bill further prohibited the Assemblies from introducing amendments on alterations to tax, financial obligations, appropriation of moneys out of the consolidated fund of the union territory; as well as on declaring expenditure to be charged on the consolidated fund of the union territory or the increasing of the amount of any such expenditure. The Left, through Bhupesh Gupta, argued that it was vital for the council of ministers in union territories to be given powers on par with those enjoyed by ministers in states and felt that the role of administrator should be done away with and all permissions sought from the president.
Vijay Singh of Rajasthan sought to point out the financial burden that the taxpayer would have to bear for this “democratic experiment”, but first highlighted the “trend of events” in the country. He quoted an observance of the States Reorganisation Committee: “Another important feature of the states of the Indian union is that none of them represent a pre-existing sovereign unit.” Singh felt that most of the communal riots in the country were because the provincial governments at that time did not behave under the directions of the Central government. He felt that all other trends were following a unitary system, this was to the contrary. While engineering service and educational service were thought of on an all-India basis, Singh felt that this legislation was going in the opposite direction. He argued that, though the wishes of the people must be respected, it must not cross a limit. He cited an instance during the Jaipur session of the Congress where a committee comprising of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya observed, “A democratic form of government must submit to the wishes of the people, but only when it does not clash with a rival feeling, and that is the unity and freedom of the state.”
MP A.D. Mani brought up the subject of official language. He pointed out that the official language of Pondicherry would be French, as per the terms agreed between the central government and the Republic of France while signing a treaty to hand over the territory. It was set to be the official language until the legislature of the territory displaced it through a resolution. Similarly, Mani felt that Portuguese should be used in the Goa Legislative Assembly for a limited period of 5-10 years as a transitional measure. Mani also spoke of the representation of the territories in Parliament. While Pondicherry was represented, Goa was omitted from the Rajya Sabha. He wanted to know why. He alleged that this was done because Goa had got two seats in the Lok Sabha and, therefore, could not get a seat in the Rajya Sabha. Mani felt that if this was the basis of barter, a large number of states would prefer to get seats in the Lok Sabha than in the Rajya Sabha. He also pointed out, “The Rajya Sabha is the Council of States and no legislation with regard to the services of the states can be taken up without initiative action on the part of the Rajya Sabha. Such action has already been taken in respect of the creation of the all-India services. Why should the government discriminate against the people of Goa in respect of their representation in the Rajya Sabha?”
Speaking on the suggestions to merge territories with their neighbouring states, P.N. Sapru said that it would be a grievous blunder to attach Pondicherry to Madras as the government had undertaken to respect the culture of the territory. Similarly, he said it would also be a great blunder to attach Goa to Maharashtra or Mysore. “These states have acquired, during the course of their separation, a distinctive culture of their own and it should be our effort to respect the distinctive cultures that are the pride of this country… I have given some thought to the question of national integration… I believe in regional co-operation. I look upon our country as one having a plural society and there should, therefore, be room in our country for the development of all the cultures that are represented in it.”
Discourse on the subject was then postponed till further amendments were made. On May 3, 1963, Lal Bahadur Shastri announced that important changes were made to the bill by the Joint Committee appointed to discuss it. He acknowledged that there was a strong opinion in the House that the union territories in question be merged into the neighbouring states. “It is felt that it would be economically useful, especially for the territories themselves. If they merge, the composite state will be in a better position to develop its trade and commerce and these units, which are not economically viable at present, will be economically viable and it will lead to a reducing of the circumstances. We have to remember that these territories were more or less autonomous, or in a sense free before 1947… It may not, therefore, be advisable to consider their merger immediately into the neighbouring states,” the then prime minister and minister of home affairs said, but did not rule it out as an ultimate objective.
Other than defining the role of the administrator (he was no longer empowered to participate in Assembly proceedings or cabinet meetings), the other important aspect of the bill was that of reservations for SCs and STs. While reservations were provided for in Himachal Pradesh and Pondicherry, this was not done for Goa, Manipur and Tripura. This was apparently because “the population in the former two was fairly sizable”. Perhaps this was done more so because it was difficult to delimit constituencies in the latter areas as the population did not reside in compact areas. After the Joint Committee discussion, reservations were extended to Manipur and Tripura, but not Goa. No census of the state had been undertaken and, from their estimates, the SC population was very low. If reservations had to be provided, general elections in Goa would have been delayed.
A week later, the Rajya Sabha MPs discussed one of the key clauses in the bill: the clause defining the role of the administrator. While, in the past, administrators could partake in assemblies and preside over meetings held by the executive council of ministers, future administrators were divested of these rights. However, if a conflict arose between the administrator, an individual officer and the council of ministers, the matter would be referred to the president. Pending the president’s decision, the administrator could pass any directions or orders, thereby giving the administrator the last word. This was considered an anomaly in the bill – a “bureaucratic” principle, not “democratic”. “First of all a facade has been created… after that, powers have been crippled in different clauses so that council of ministers always suffer from an inferiority complex, so that the administrator always has the advantage of at least a superior position in certain matters,” argued Bhupesh Gupta.
Political squabbling over power was an issue even back then and, thus, the immediate concern over the bill was the status of the existing territorial councils. Some Members of Parliament were apprehensive that elections would have to be held again, thereby dethroning the existing members who were elected. It was debated if the “creation” of Legislative Assemblies in these areas merely implied that members elected from a constituency would be deemed to have been nominated to the Assembly or if new elections had to be held. A few MPs objected to transferring powers from the council to the Legislative Assembly, stating that the responsibilities of MLAs would be far more challenging than those of territorial council members, warranting new elections.
More interestingly, initial discussions on the Bill also concentrated on the integration of territories with states they were geographically linked with. An argument propounded by Rajkumari Amrit Kaur of Punjab, in support of integrating union territories with states, specifically Himachal Pradesh with Punjab, was that expenditure could be eliminated. Kaur pointed out that expenses would be increased if governors and lieutenant governors were to be “created” in these areas. A more pertinent argument was that of emotional integration and linguistic similarities. For instance, it was observed that the residents in the hilly areas of Himachal spoke Punjabi rather than Hindi. However, what Kaur conveniently failed to mention was that the people of Himachal Pradesh did not want to be assimilated with Punjab because they were ideologically and culturally different. It is likely that the people of Himachal Pradesh—and, indeed, the other union territories as well—wanted to preserve their own unique identity.
Some MPs recognised the danger of giving territories the power to develop and form a government, only to later lose their identity by being merged into adjoining states. Anand Chand vehemently pointed out that the government could not “develop the genius of the people, we cannot develop a democratic way of life confined to the borders of those territories if the sword of Damocles in the name of merger of these territories is to hang over our heads.” Unfortunately, even if the people of territories protested against merger—and Lal Bahadur Shastri had assured the House that mergers would not be effected without popular consent—the Constitution awarded that states could be united against the wishes of the legislatures of the states. Article 3 of the Constitution merely stated that the President should “consult” legislatures. He was not bound by their advice.
As far as Goa was concerned, it was admitted that, even before Goa was liberated from the Portuguese, Mysore and Maharashtra had begun to fight over it. MP D.P. Karmakar noted, “Even before the child was born, they began to fight on how to name it, even before they knew whether it was a boy or girl.”
Perhaps apprehending that the government was inclined to follow Jawaharlal Nehru’s advice and preserve Goa’s unique cultural identity, B.D. Khobaragade (elected from Maharashtra) objected to the provision in the bill which stipulated that laws passed in Parliament would prevail over those passed by the legislatures. Further, even administrators would have the power to overrule decisions made by the legislature if it was warranted. Also, in the case of union territories, the government had the power to nominate three members to the Legislative Assembly. Khobaragade apprehended that the government would then have the power to decide who gained the majority, by virtue of its nominations, in the absence of a clear majority during the usual election process. Incidentally, Khobaragade also objected to the reservation of seats. Not surprisingly, the MP from Maharashtra felt that all union territories should be merged with their adjoining states because “small units cannot be economically viable.” Of course, he was of the opinion that Goa should be merged with Maharashtra. He went so far as to quote Dr P.D. Gaitonde, who was nominated by the government to represent Goa in the Lok Sabha. According to Khobaragade, Dr Gaitonde was demanding that Goa be merged with Maharashtra: “The MGP has already set the stage for arguments that Goa was ideologically and culturally similar to Maharashtra by setting up a larger number of Marathi medium schools in the region.” Khobaragade used this fact to further his argument that Goa should be merged with its northern neighbour, and not Mysore.
Still others felt that the reference to the union territories of Diu, Daman and Goa should be eliminated from the purview of the bill. Lalji Pendse pointed out the differences in the features of the three from the rest of the territories referred to in the bill. “The formation of this union territory of Diu, Daman and Goa flouts and ignores all that is achieved in our political thinking.” According to the States Reorganisation Act, certain conditions had to be recognised for an area to become an administrative unit (state or territory). Firstly, it had to be well knit and contiguous. Secondly, there must be emotional integration. Thirdly, there had to be linguistic affinity between the people as well as unity of political and economic aspirations. Pendse pointed out the geographical, linguistic and political differences between the three. He felt that Daman and Diu should be merged with Gujarat and Goa with Maharashtra.1
The Government of Union Territories Bill was subsequently passed and Goa was given the status of a union territory with a Legislative Assembly of 28 members, setting the stage for the first general elections to the Legislative Assembly of Goa. This was consistent with the promise of first prime minister Jawarharlal Nehru that military rule would end soon and that the freedoms enjoyed by the rest of the country would be extended to Goa.
- Union Territories Bill, Proceedings of the Lok Sabha.
Genie Of Merger
THE SEEDS OF MERGER of Goa with Maharashtra were sown during the Portuguese colonial regime. After the dust settled on the Inquisition and the Portuguese extended their control to the New Conquest areas, they realised that they could not carry on the administration without the collaboration of the locals. So much so, they compromised with the majority community and permitted them to worship their own gods. As Pratima Kamat points out in her book Farar Far, Hindu landlords rendered various services to the Portuguese regime and invested part of the proceeds to strengthening the infrastructure of the temples which had been moved to the New Conquest areas during the Inquisition. Since Konkani (the mother tongue of both Hindus and Catholics in Goa) did not have a script, the bhats, who were mainly migrants from Maharashtra, used Marathi for religious rituals.
Moreover, while like all colonial regimes, the Portuguese brutally suppressed the Konkani language and even manifestations of Konkani culture like the tiatr, they were much more tolerant and indulgent towards Marathi. This is dramatised by the fact that while Konkani medium primary school were not permitted, several Marathi medium schools were allowed to be set up, particularly during the Republican interlude in Portugal. It was due to this historical circumstance that, while Konkani remained the spoken language, Marathi became the language of culture and religion in Goa. This cultural and religious use of Marathi was cited by Maharashtrawadis as the reason behind insisting that Goa should be merged with Maharashtra. The situation was compounded by the ambivalent attitude of the Congress, which took a neutral stand on the merger of Goa with Maharashtra, both before and after liberation.
The region, which was claimed to be the land of the Marathi-speaking people, was not a homogenous whole despite some striking features of homogeneity like geology, rhythm of agriculture, linguistic and cultural unity and other intricate details. On the basis of the geological structure and relief, this unit was sub-divided into three macro-regional units, namely the Konkan coastal low lands, the uplands and highlands of Maharashtra and the Desh or Deccan. These macro-units were further divided into meso and micro units that, in turn, determined the geo-politics of the region1. Each of these geographical units had their own distinct identity and not all of them were in favour of a Samyukta Maharashtra, which literally translated means ‘Greater Maharashtra’.
The conspiracy to merge Goa with Maharashtra took precedence with the rise of the Samyukta Maharashtra Sabha (SMS) movement, a group which was originally formed in January 1940. The movement was more aggressively promoted by politicians of Maharashtra than Goa-based politicians, who took advantage of the fact that Marathi was perceived as the language of religion and culture by the majority Hindu community in Goa. They did not realise, till much later, that while the majority community in Goa may have had a soft corner for Marathi, it did not necessarily mean that they wanted to be part of Maharashtra. For the leaders of Maharashtra, liberation was a step or rather a method to merge Goa with Maharashtra and, with such an objective, they lent their support to Goa in the liberation movement (From 1946, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia and others had already initiated the freedom struggle in Goa with the support of locals).
SMS eventually grew into the Samyukta Maharashtra Parishad (SMP) in July 1946. It was only after the States Reorganisation Commission was appointed on December 22, 1953, that the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti was constituted to fight for a larger Maharashtra, which would include Marathi speaking people from the Central Provinces, including Madhya Pradesh, the present Karnataka (which was then Mysore Province), the present Andhra Pradesh and even parts of what eventually became Gujarat.
A study of the rise and growth of the Samyukta Maharashtra Sabha (SMS) movement reinforces the belief that the demand for Goa’s merger with Maharashtra was a by-product of factional fights within various groups in the SMS for enlargement of their individual spheres of influence. The SMS movement, in turn, has to be viewed in the broader context of the nationwide agitation for linguistic states in general and with specific reference to society and politics in Maharashtra. Forget about the opposition, even Congressmen from different regions of Maharashtra, and often even from the same region, responded in different ways to the demand for a Samyukta Maharashtra.
At the time of independence, there were no states in the present sense of the word. There were only presidencies: Bombay Presidency, Madras Presidency, Calcutta Presidency and the Central Provinces, which were the administrative units during the British colonial regime and the first few years after independence. The Bombay Presidency covered a vast area, ranging from parts of the Central Provinces, which now form part of Madhya Pradesh, except Vidarbha which became part of Maharashtra when the demand for Samyukta Maharashtra was conceded in 1960. The administrative jurisdiction of the Bombay Presidency also included Marathawada and Pune; Belgaum, Karwar and Nipani which now form part of Karnataka and the golden goose, the city of Mumbai itself. As in the case of the present national capital region comprising Old and New Delhi, there was a strong movement (particularly by the Gujarati and Parsi business community, which controlled the levers of power in the financial capital of the country) to make Mumbai an autonomous region and keep it out of the proposed Samyukta Maharashtra. A group of politicians in this movement first mooted the idea that the then Portuguese colony of Goa should become part of Samyukta Maharashtra.
The Marathi-speaking people (as pointed out by historian Y. D Phadke in his book Politics and Language) felt that they were given step-motherly treatment by the Gujarati-dominated government in Mumbai, particularly during the tenure of the late Moraji Desai as chief minister. Though there were a significant number of Marathi-speaking people in the administrative jurisdiction of Madhya Pradesh, Marathi speakers felt there was a tendency on the part of the government to spend disproportionate amounts of money on the Hindi-speaking areas, to the neglect of the Marathi-speaking areas. In Hyderabad, the Telugu people got preference over the Marathi-speaking people. It was the deep rooted frustration and dissatisfaction among the Marathi-speaking people that spread over various states such as Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and the Central Provinces that provoked the demand for Samyukta Maharashtra.
But it did not necessarily follow that Marathi leaders of the various Marathi-speaking areas wanted to be part of what is now called Maharashtra. Many of these leaders had their own pockets of influence and were afraid that they would be overwhelmed by the Marathas, who dominated the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement. For instance, Marathi leaders of the Central Provinces like R.A. Kanitkar and Ramrao Deshmukh sought to forge the United Front with B.S. Munje and later (with M.V. Abyankar and other prominent leaders of Nagpur) favoured a separate state of Vidarbha, which would be distinct from Maharashtra. In fact, even to this day, the Maharashtrian residents of Vidarbha feel neglected and some of them have been persisting with the demand for a separate state.
In November 1956, the States Reorganisation Committee (SRC) Act was passed by the Parliament. It provided for the formation of 14 states and six centrally administered territories. The Telengana area of the state of Hyderabad was transferred to Andhra Pradesh; Kerala was created by merging the Malabar district of the old Madras Presidency with Travancore-Cochin; certain Kannada-speaking areas of the states of Bombay, Madras, Hyderabad and Coorg were added to Mysore state and the state of Bombay was enlarged by merging the states of Kutch and Saurashtra with the Marathi-speaking areas of Hyderabad.
The strongest reaction against the SRC Report and Act came from Maharashtra and, under pressure, the government decided to divide the state of Bombay into two linguistic states of Maharashtra and Gujarat with the city of Mumbai forming a separate centrally administered state. This move was opposed by the broad-based Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti and Maha-Gujarat Janta Parishad. Finally, in May 1960, the government agreed to bifurcate the state of Bombay into Maharashtra and Gujarat with Mumbai being included in Maharashtra and Ahmedabad being made the capital of Gujarat2.
The credit for the conception of Maharashtra in its present form has been given to Vithal Vaman Tamhankar, who refers to the Marathi-speaking people of Mumbai, Central Provinces, the state of Hyderabad and the Portuguese colony of Goa3. The thread was picked up by Janardhan Vinayak Oke, who converted Tamhankar’s vision into a plan of action for a movement for the unification of all the Marathi-speaking people. He was in favour of the inclusion of the city of Mumbai and border areas like Bidar, Belgaum and the Portuguese territory of Goa (but, till 1946, there was no direct reference in documents covering the history of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement to merger of Goa with Maharashtra.
The demand to include the Portuguese colony with Maharashtra was first mooted at the Maharashtra Unification Congress that was held in Pune on May 24, 1940. The idea to merge Goa with Maharashtra was taken by Dattaraya Venkatesh Pai, who had propounded it at a meeting of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Parishad in Mumbai in July 19464. It was only in 1947 that a vigorous movement began for the unification of all Marathi-speaking people.
At the 30th session of the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan held at Belgaum, the claim was advanced that Goa comprised mainly of Marathi-speaking areas. The National Congress (Goa) also supported the merger of Goa with Maharashtra, absurdly enough on linguistic lines. Incidentally, it was nobody’s case that Marathi was the mother tongue of the people of Goa. On the contrary, a census conducted by the Portuguese in 1960 showed that 4,97,227 or 84.3% of the people of Goa acknowledged Konkani as their mother tongue. As against these, only 9142 then residents of Goa, forming 1.5% of the population, acknowledged Marathi as their mother tongue. Interestingly, more than 7000 then residents of Goa acknowledged Urdu as their mother tongue. Despite Portugal’s claim that Goa was the province of Portugal, only 1143 persons (comprising 1.3% of the population) listed Portuguese as their mother tongue. Then, as now, Marathi stalwarts literally refused to acknowledge the status of Konkani as a distinct language. Since Konkani did not have a distinct script of its own and its development had been deliberately suppressed by the colonial regime, the Marathi literary establishment spread the lie that Konkani was just a boli or a dialect of Marathi and, therefore, the Portuguese colony of Goa was a territory of Marathi-speaking people5.
It was the presumption that the entire Portuguese colony of Goa was a Marathi-speaking enclave that inspired or provoked the Samyukta Maharashtra Parishad, which met at the Congress House in Mumbai in December 18, 1947, to start a movement for the liberation of Goa from the Portuguese. The Congress High Command did not take kindly to the pressure tactics deployed by the then Karnataka Provincial Committee for a Samyukta Karnataka. Due to the fear that the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee might likewise incur the wrath of the Congress High Command, the leadership did not pursue the issue of the unification of Marathi-speaking people. So, by default, the leadership of the SMP shifted to the opposition which, led by Balasaheb Hirey, moved its head office to Pune and began mobilising public support for SMP vigorously. The movement did not take off because the mainline parties— the Congress, the socialists and communist parties, which had their own political compulsions—did not extend support to the SMP. It was left to individuals like P.L. Bapat to take the initiative to mobilise the movement for the liberation of Goa from Portuguese colonial rule so that it could become part of Samyukta Maharashtra6.
The decision of individuals such as Bapat to launch a Satyagraha campaign for the liberation of Goa was not accepted by several constituents of the Parishad. On the contrary, it became another bone of contention between the various factions of the SMP. It was to get over this, that hardliner constituents of the SMP formed the Goa Vimochan Sahayak Samiti (GVSS) in Pune in May 1955. Given the lack of enthusiasm of the main opposition parties and the reluctance of then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to get into any violent confrontation with the Portuguese, the GVSS was dominated by opposition parties, of which the PSP was the most prominent.
A total hartal was observed in Mumbai and violent demonstrations were held outside the Portuguese consulate in Bombay in August, 1955. This evoked sharp censure from Jawaharlal Nehru who, at that point of time, believed that the Portuguese could be persuaded to leave Goa through peaceful means and negotiations, just as the French had agreed to withdraw from their colonies like Pondicherry and Mahe. Hirey, who had by then become a senior office bearer of the Congress, protested to the prime minister. Apparently, Nehru conveyed his disapproval of hooliganism and directed the Congress not to associate itself with the Goa liberation movement. However, the GVSS ignored Nehru and decided to continue with the Satyagraha movement.
The Samyukta Maharashtra leaders, who organised the Satyagraha movement for the liberation of Goa, did not take the parallel movement organized by Goan Freedom fighters seriously. From 1949 till 1955, the only activity on the Goan political front as far as the then central government led by Jawaharlal Nehru was concerned, were attempts to settle the question of Goa’s liberation from Portuguese colonial rule through diplomatic channels, which did not yield any results. Consequently, the majority of Goan political leaders made Mumbai their headquarters and tried to continue the struggle for freedom from there. They were joined by the National Union of Goans7. The members of the National Union of Goans were far more politically conscious than their counterparts in Goa, who comparatively had only limited experience of political agitations. Several political groups sprang up outside Goa claiming to fight for liberation, including the Nationalist Congress, Goa People’s Party, United Front of Goans, Goa Liberation Council and others8.
The splinter groups of freedom fighters in Mumbai made no attempt, at any stage from 1954 till the end of 1961, to come together and present a united front. There was too much selfishness and an obsession to carry out personal agendas rather than uniting to fight for Goa’s liberation. They were accused of wishful thinking and adopting a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. All this led to the weakening of the whole movement because, when the world at large saw that there was no unity among Goans, it began to have doubts about their seriousness. It was obvious that Goa could not be freed from the Portuguese colonial regime merely by issuing press statements and holding public meetings outside Goa. It was obvious that, for the liberation movement to succeed, the public had to be mobilised against the Portuguese colonial regime within Goa9.
However, unlike the various groups of Goan freedom fighters who were more concerned with their individual agendas, the Samyukta Maharashtra Parishad (SMP) pursued the cause of liberation of Goa very vigorously by organising protests at the border of Goa. Praja Socialist Party (PSP) leaders such as Madhu Limaye, S.M. Joshi and Barrister Nath Pai were the dominant figures in the liberation movement after India became independent. It was only after the formation of the Maharashtra state in 1960 that senior Congress leaders, including Y.B. Chavan, got actively involved in the movement to merge Goa with Maharashtra after it was liberated.
While the idea of merger remained in the background till liberation, it became the main political platform of the National Congress (Goa) [NC(G)] till 1961. This was clear from a statement made by P.P. Shirodkar in July 1962, who continued to be its president till it wound up in 196310. The NC(G) was an organisation distinct from the Indian National Congress (INC), which comprised of people from a range of political and cultural beliefs who came together in the liberation struggle. In this statement, he made it clear that the party stood for the merger of Goa with Maharashtra because the PSP had always stood for a united state. He averred that the area and population of Goa were so small that the area and population of any district in Maharashtra would be more than Goa. He also observed that the administration of Goa was in the hands of a particular class of people for the first 250 years of Portuguese rule and, since then, it has been in the hands of another elite caste, who professed Hinduism but did not show any interest in the welfare in the masses of the people11.
After liberation, Maharashtra believed that Goa would naturally merge with it. The economic imperative for Maharashtra’s interest was that Goa had rich economic resources and, after liberation, India would acquire a fine deep natural harbour at Mormugao. The iron ore reserves of Goa were coveted by steel manufacturers who had units in Maharashtra. Even then, nearly six million tonnes of iron ore, valued at about Rs. 25 crore, was exported from Goa.
Goa had the additional advantage of a link to the hinterland and major ore-producing areas like Bellary in Karnataka through the Indian railway meter gauge system by a 52- mile link from Londa, which was the border of Portuguese Goa, to Mormugao over the Braganza Ghat. There were rich forests along the Western Ghats and small rivers running down to the sea that could be harnessed for generating hydro electric power. The airfield in Dabolim was an added attraction12.
Even at that time, petty squabbles were reported between Maharashtra and Mysore over Goa. The government of Mysore, for instance, protested against the unfair treatment meted out to officers from Mysore who were deployed in Goa for military duties. There were protests against the pro-Maharashtrian bias of the civilian and police officials in Goa, the majority of whom were deputed from Maharashtra13. The Executive Committee and the Mysore Pradesh Congress Committee raised strong objections to the attempts made by a section of Maharashtrians to force the inclusion of Goa into Maharashtra14. But, in a letter to S. Nijalingappa, Nehru made it clear, “I really don’t understand why there is so much excitement over Goa in Mysore and Maharashtra. I have made it perfectly clear that Goa is to remain separate and is not going to be joined to either of these two states. There are going to be very few officers there and they will be chosen for their competence.”15
BIRTH OF THE MGP
It was around this time that the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) was formed. There is some confusion and controversy over who the founders were. One of the party founders, P.P. Shirodkar, insists that the MGP was formally born on March 6, 1963 and was an amalgamation of three main groups: Maharashtrawadi Aghdi of Mapusa, which was led by R.S. Tople and S. Dhond, the Samyukta Maharashtrawadi Gomantak led by V. Velinkar and J.J. Shinkre of Ponda and a faction of the Nationalist Congress headed by P.P. Shirodkar. It was Shinkre who wrote to the then chief election commissioner on August 17, 1963, requesting the party be granted recognition. The letter claimed that the new party had the blessings of then defence minister Y.B. Chavan and stressed that the MGP had been formed with the exclusive agenda of merging Goa with Maharashtra. It also stated that the party would stand automatically dissolved after this object was achieved. Who were the founders of the MGP and when exactly it was born may be a contentious issue but, according to the historian Phadte, it was indisputable that political stalwarts of Maharashtra—notably, the then defence minister of India, Y.B. Chavan, socialist leaders S.M. Joshi and barrister Nath Pai (of Goa origin having his kuldevata in Goa) and Peter Alvares, a Goan from Guirim—were instrumental in the formation of the MGP.
The symbol of the lion, which the MGP chose to fight the first general elections, was the symbol of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Parishad. In fact, during the campaign for the first assembly elections in Goa, then Congress chief Purushottam Kakodkar charged Maharashtrian office bearers and Bombay Pradesh Congress Committee members of campaigning aggressively for the MGP, whose only agenda was merger with Maharashtra. Former MLA and freedom fighter, Gajanand Raikar, admits that the MGP was formed by senior leaders from Maharashtra to pursue their own agenda of merging Goa with Maharashtra.
The MGP, in the form in which it contested the first general elections to the Legislative Assembly of Goa, was constituted six months before the elections. Dayanand Bandodkar, who subsequently became the president of the party, is reported to have publically identified himself with the merger movement for the first time at the 11th Gomantak Marathi Sahitya Sammelan held on December 29-30, 1962. Bandodkar, who was invited to be the working president of the Sammelan, reportedly requested senior socialist leader S.M. Joshi, who had come to Goa to support Maharashtrian culture and literature in the region, to take over as president of the Sammelan. Bandodkar expressed hope that the aspirations of Goans to merge with Maharashtra would be strengthened by the presence of a senior leader like S.M. Joshi.
At the Sammelan, for the first time, a formal resolution—stating that Gomantak Pradesh should be merged with Maharashtra to develop the Marathi language and literature in Goa and for Marathi to achieve the same status in Goa that it enjoyed in Maharashtra—was passed. The Sammelan censured the post liberation administration of Goa of having undermined the Marathi education system that existed before liberation by handing it over to a department that was not sympathetic to Marathi education. The Sammelan demanded that the administration stop admission to Escola Normal and start training teachers in Marathi. It also stressed the need to recruit over a thousand Marathi teachers to strengthen the educational system.
Senior socialist leader N.G. Gore, who also attended the convention, acknowledged that Konkani was a sweet language, but insisted it was only a spoken dialect of Marathi. He insisted that nobody was opposed to Konkani and it should be preserved, but maintained that Marathi should continue as the main language of not only religion and culture, but that of the administration. Gore was in favour of persuading the Goan people of the desirability of merger and added that the views expressed at the literally Sammelan ought to be communicated to the central government, through the nominated Goan Members of Parliament, Dr Antonio Colaço and Dr Pundalik Gaitonde.
The Sammelan cited Professor Kanekar, who pointed out that the Marathi traditions of Goa preceded Sant Eknath, a prominent religious saint of Maharashtra. It was also pointed out that Goan poet Bakibab Borkar wrote a poem on Gandhi in Marathi because it was his granth bhasha. Mahadev Shashtri Joshi, another prominent writer, insisted that Maharashtra had always considered Goa its brother. Therefore, they concluded that Goa merging would Maharashtra would be in its own interest. Archarya Atre, then a leading social worker and journalist from Maharashtra, expressed his happiness over the enthusiasm displayed at the Sammelan over merger of Goa with Maharashtra and declared that the liberation of Goa would only be complete when Goa was merged with Maharashtra. While concluding the Sammelan, S.M. Joshi stated that the event had proved that Goa was an inseparable part of Maharashtra, that it was the responsibility of Maharashtrians to support Goan attempts to merge with Maharashtra. The MGP reiterated its commitment to working for merger and declared the party would be dissolved after this objective was achieved16.
As a reaction to the demands and pledges made at the Sammelan, the United Goans Party (UGP) was formed. The UGP accused the Sammelan speakers of making rude and objectionable remarks that disturbed “our harmony” and it was opined that the issue of merger should not be raised yet17. It was formed by merging Goencho Poksh, Partido Indiano, Goa National Union, United Front of Goans and others who shared the common goal of attaining statehood for Goa within the Indian union and was predominantly a Catholic organisation with a few Hindu supporters who were “naturally disappointed” with the stand taken by the Congress. Their stance was: “Why should we join Maharashtra, a state with the highest rate of taxation in India? We have no ties with them.” They intended to fight the elections with the chief objective of attaining statehood for Goa within India on democratic lines.
The founder president, Dr Alvaro de Loyola Furtado, invited Dr Jack Sequeira to join the UGP and subsequently asked him to lead the party, primarily because of his organisational skills. In addition to his flair for organisation, acquired through his business background and experience, Dr Jack de Sequeira had a dynamic personality with an ability to attract followers. He personally supervised the entire campaign and generally appeared to command a better following and respect among the urban, educated masses. He had a certain standing among the socio-political elite of Goa because of his educational and cultural background and his ability to attract crowds. He also benefitted from the dependence of his men and local resources in organising his campaign. This could be gauged from the general attitude of the people towards him and his party, the success of his election meetings and processions in the Old Conquest areas and the way his speeches were reported in the local press. His work in other talukas, however, was hardly noticed18.
In contrast, Dayanand Bandodkar was anything but a politician or one interested in public affairs. He was a trader who, in the later days of the Portuguese regime, had struck a fortune in mining and subsequently amassed considerable wealth. The economic clout he had acquired emboldened him and his rise coincided with the awakening of the masses in the New Conquest areas. With increasing employment prospects in mines and other industries, these masses had begun to look for opportunities to assert themselves, socially and politically. Bandodkar’s roots were among them. With a philanthropic bent of mind, he soon established a reputation as their benefactor and well-wisher. He rendered financial help to the needy and donated liberally to schools and temples. He was honest and admitted, on several occasions, that he was an intruder in politics and was only helping to bring about merger as soon as possible, after which he planned to revert to his private life as a citizen and businessman. Bandodkar often acknowledged, “I had to enter politics under compulsion. The MGP was founded by me only for the temporary issue of merger of Goa into Maharashtra. The party will be dissolved automatically after the issue is settled and I am personally anxious to return to my non- political and social work.” 19
The MGP claimed to represent the Hindu lower castes and sought to gain votes by attacking Hindu Brahmins and Catholics. The MGP played the communal card by insisting that Goan Catholics were anti-national and still owed allegiance to the Portuguese colonial regime. The MGP exploited the fact that, though all sections of the Goan population had suffered in varying degrees during the Portuguese colonial regime, the worst affected were low caste Hindus who lived in a semi-feudal condition. The MGP also exploited the long-standing grievances of non-Brahmin Goan Hindus against Brahmins, who they believed had exploited and deprived them of “their rights”. The MGP appealed to the least literate sections of the Goan population and gained considerable popularity amongst mundkars, who suffered the tyranny of bhatkars.
After liberation, socially backward and deprived classes were looking for an opportunity to assert themselves. The formation of the MGP offered them a political forum for ventilating their grievances and acquiring political power in their own right20.
Not surprisingly, the candidates put up by the MGP in the first general elections were all non-Brahmin Hindus. The only exception was in the case of Tony Fernandes, allegedly a low caste Catholic, who was apparently induced to join the MGP with promises of a berth in the cabinet so that it would not be accused of being a communal party.
- Times of India, December 12, 1963.
- Bipan Chandra, India after Independence, Penguin, 1999, p 100-102.
- V.V Tamhankar, Tibhaglela Maharashtra Lokshikshan, Vol. V No 8, 1917, pp 249-81.
- Dainik Maratha, November 17, 1963.
- Kiran Budkuley, Shenoi Goembab, Asmitai Pratishthan.
- Jai Maharashtra, March 19, 1950.
- World Today, Vol.10, December 12, 1954.
- Sarto Esteves, Politics and political leadership in Goa, Advent Books Division, 1987.
- Navashakti, June 26, 1962.
- Navshakti, June 26, 1962.
- Times of India, December 20, 1961.
- The Navhind Times, January 12, 1965.
- Times of India, January 7, 1963.
- Times of India, December 13, 1963.
- Proceedings of the 11th Gomantak Marathi Sahitya Sammelan.
- Press Trust of India, New Delhi.
- Sarto Esteves, Op.Cit.
- The Navhind Times, December 17, 1963.
- Sarto Esteves, Op.Cit.
Kakodkar Persistence Prevails
THE NATIONAL CONGRESS (Goa) [NC(G)], which played a very significant role in the liberation of Goa, was born out of the thrust to the liberation struggle provided by Dr Ram Manohar Lohia and Dr Juliao Menezes from Assolna, who launched the renewed struggle for Goa’s struggle for civil liberties on Revolution Day, June 18, 1946 – a before Indian independence. Since even the holding of political meetings, leave alone the formation of political parties, was banned in Goa, the NC(G) was born in the border town of Londa. The NC(G) included representatives of all communities and was a secular organisation, which worked closely with the Goa Vimochan Samiti and even with armed groups like Azad Gomantak Dal, The Rancor Patriotico, Goa Liberation Army and Quit Goa Movement among others. It brought together freedom fighters committed to the liberation of Goa. It must, however, be clearly understood that, at this point of time, the NC(G) was a distinct entity which did not have any links with the Indian National Congress (INC), which played a major role in the liberation of India from British colonialism.
When Goa was liberated, many of the leaders of the NC(G) believed that the role of the party or group—since its members never considered themselves a formal political party—was accomplished and it should be dissolved. Many of the leaders of the NC(G) decided it would be in their best interest and that of Goa to merge the NC(G) with the INC. So much so, many of leaders of the NC(G), belonging to both the majority and the minority community of Goa, enrolled themselves as members of the INC in April 1962. The high command of the INC constituted an ad hoc committee and Purushottam Kakodkar was appointed convenor of the newly formed Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC). The central leadership of the Congress Party also nominated Dr Pundalik Gaitonde and Dr Antonio Colaço to the Lok Sabha to represent the interest of Goa till formal elections were held in the state1.
Elections to select the office bearers of the GPCC were held in May 1962 and Purushottam Kakodkar was formally elected president. While both the newly formed MGP and the UGP were clear on their stand with reference to merger and the status of Konkani as official language, the Congress was bitterly divided on the issue. While one group, led by Purushottam Kakodkar, was in favour of maintaining status quo, a rival group of members led by Dr. Rama Hegde was in favour of merger with Maharashtra2.
A large section of the top leadership of the NC(G) who joined the INC consisted of Hindu Brahmins and upper caste Catholics. The lower castes, as a natural consequence, were attracted to the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), which was projected as a Bahujan Samaj or a non-Brahmin Hindu party. The problems of the Congress were compounded by the fact that many of the upper caste Brahmins who had participated in the liberation struggle cornered most of the key positions in the organisation and, subsequently, the majority of the seats when the first election to the Legislative Assembly of Goa was held.
According to Sarto Esteves, there was no discipline in the Indian National Congress unit in Goa. Every one claiming to have been a member of the erstwhile NC(G) was welcomed into the organisation without checking their credentials. No attempts were made to build a grassroots level organisation or to formulate appropriate policies for the newly liberated territory of Goa. What was needed was a strong leader but, unfortunately, Purushottam Kakodkar did not fulfil this requirement. However, he did enjoy the confidence of senior Congress leaders, particularly Nehru, which enabled him to play a crucial role in neutralising the Maharashtrian conspiracy to merge Goa with it.
As we will see later, consistent with the assurances made by Jawaharlal Nehru before and immediately after liberation, the Congress manifesto for the first general elections echoed the sentiment that Goa should remain a union territory for at least ten years. The original manifesto released by the party was silent on the conflicting demands for merger with Maharashtra and the demand that Goa be granted full statehood. So much so, when the election manifesto was formally announced, a four-member pro merger team went to Delhi to seek clarification on the subject3.
The Central Congress Parliamentary Board decided that it would not discuss the future political status of Goa for the next ten years, in keeping with then prime minister Nehru’s assurances. Following this, the Government of India also made it clear that there could be no question of merging Goa either with Maharashtra or Karnataka as the Union Territory Act had mandated that Goa would function as a unit of the federal structure4. Then GPCC President Kakodkar reinforced this at a press conference on August 30, 1963 and made it clear that the GPCC was not in favour of either statehood or merger with Maharashtra. After the High Command made its stance clear, M.S. Prabhu and Tony Fernandes left the Congress and joined the MGP in protest.
The list of Congress candidates for the first general election to the Legislative Assembly of Goa was revised thrice. Every time a new list was announced, there were threats of resignation from the party. The last change in the list of candidates was done just one month before the elections. When the approved list of candidates was announced, as many as sixteen congressmen (including Dr Rama Hegde and Anthony D’Souza) resigned in protest5. There was also a great deal of dissatisfaction over the nomination of Dr Pundalik Gaitonde and Laura D’Souza for the two parliamentary seats. Some Congressmen who resigned were promptly given MGP tickets.
According to noted Konkani stalwart, Uday Bhembre, the Congress High Command’s decision to allot the bulk of the tickets for the various assembly constituencies in the first general election to upper caste Hindus and Catholics led to rout of the Congress. Bhembre opines that the MGP may have been “stillborn” or crippled in the Congress had not made the grave mistake of refusing a party ticket to Dayanand Bandodkar, who was allegedly among those keen on joining the Congress immediately after it was formed in the state. When the Congress lost the first general election and the MGP came to power, a section within the Congress in Goa blamed Purushottam Kakodkar. They held Purushottam Kakodkar responsible for wrongfully selecting candidates that cost them dearly at the hustings.
Kakodkar faced a no-confidence motion when he returned from Delhi on December 17, 1963 as the general secretary, Shankar Sardessai, had received a letter signed by a dozen members of the GPCC and eight member executives who accused Kakodkar of not taking the executive council and the GPCC into confidence while taking decisions on important matters pertaining to the elections, including his post election trip to Delhi. However, the High Command retained its faith in Kakodkar.
Revelling in their election victory, the MGP and its allies then formed the government with Dayanand Bandodkar at the helm as chief minister. No sooner had the MGP formed the government, then Maharashtra chief minister, Vasantrao Naik, stepped up pressure on the Centre to merge Goa with Maharashtra. The move was stalled, however, by Purushottam Kakodkar who rushed to Delhi to meet Jawaharlal Nehru, with whom he had a close relationship, and convinced him that the verdict of the elections was not a mandate for merger of Goa with Maharashtra. Kakodkar pointed out to Nehru that the United Goans Party (UGP), the Congress and independents had together secured more votes than the MGP. On the insistence of Nehru, the central party leadership decided to postpone taking a decision on the matter. In fact, then railway minister, S.K. Patil, visited Goa and declared that the Congress High Command endorsed the stand of the GPCC that status quo be maintained.
But the faction of the GPCC that was determined to maintain status quo were dealt a great blow when Jawaharlal Nehru passed away in May 1964. The group that supported merger and the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress were determined to achieve their objective. They managed to persuade Lal Bahadur Shastri, who had succeeded Nehru as prime minister, that a fresh mid-term election would decide, once and for all, the question of merger. Apparently, Lal Bahadur Shastri, under pressure from senior Maharashtra leaders, agreed to the demand. Again, Purushottam Kakodkar is reported to have rushed to Delhi to persuade Shastri that the assurance given by Nehru should be honoured. Though he discussed the issue with the Shashtri for three continuous days, he was unable to convince the then prime minister. On the contrary, Kakodkar apparently got the impression that Shastri had decided to concede to the demand for merger. It was due to his frustration over not being able to convince Shastri that Kakodkar decided to retreat to an ashram in Rishikesh in the Himalayas.6
However, though he had retreated to Rishikesh, Kakodkar had not given up the battle to maintain the identity of Goa. Soon after Shastri’s sudden and unfortunate death, Kakodkar pursued the matter of maintaining status quo and overturning the decision to hold fresh elections with the new prime minister, Indira Gandhi. It was because of the efforts of Purushottam Kakodkar and new president of the GPCC, Ligorio Cotta Carvalho, that the Congress Parliamentary Board – on the insistence of Indira Gandhi – decided that an opinion poll would be held to give the people of Goa an opportunity to decide their political future, as assured by the first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. It was on the insistence of Purushottam Kakodkar that Indira Gandhi apparently told Dayanand Bandodkar to resign, in the interest of holding a free and fair opinion poll. Realising that Indira Gandhi, unlike Shastri, could not be bullied into holding an election to decide the issue of merger, both the MGP and the Maharashtra leaders who were in favour of merger accepted the decision of the Congress Parliamentary Board, which was endorsed by the central government, to hold the historical opinion poll.
The most important contribution of Purushottam Kakodkar towards preserving the unique and distinct identity of Goa was to consistently defeat the conspiracy, both by factions of the Congress in Goa and the powerful Maharashtra lobby, to merge Goa with Maharashtra and to persuade Indira Gandhi to agree to hold an opinion poll so that party politics and personalities would not influence the conduct or the outcome of the poll. Purushottam Kakodkar was subsequently nominated to head the state unit of the Congress party in 1970 when the Indira Congress was formed.
There is a curious footnote to the conspiracy of the Congress faction in Goa and the leaders of Maharashtra to merge Goa with Maharashtra. When a senior High Command observer was sent to Goa to mediate the infighting, apparently a meeting was organised between senior Congress leader Uma Shankar Dixit and Dayanand Bandokdar. It was proposed that Bandodkar would be willing to the join the Congress if the Centre agreed to merge Goa with Maharashtra. Apparently, the then editor of the Gomantak, Madhav Gadkari – as a by-pass solution – tried to persuade local Congress leaders to endorse the demand for merger of Goa with Maharashtra. Unfortunately for Bandodkar, an alert Kakodkar found out and informed Indira Gandhi, who instructed Dixit not to entertain the proposal.
- Praful Priolkar, ‘Goemcho Mukti Chavalechi donn pava ani Bhau Kokodkar’, in Pandurang Mulgaonkar (ed), Purushottam Kakodkar Gaurav Granth , Purushottam Kakodkar Amrit Mahotsav Samiti, Panaji, Goa, 1988, p 57-60.
- A Vida, October 19, 1963.
- The Navhind Times, August 31, 1963.
- The Navhind Times, November 6, 1963.
- Sadanand Kanekar, ‘Bhau Kakodkar: Ek Adarsh ani Sevabhavik Jinn’ in Pandurang Mulgaonkar (ed), Purushottam Kakodkar Gaurav Granth, Purushottam Kakodkar Amrit Mahotsav Samiti, Panaji, Goa, 1988, pp. 36-37.
Politics of Polarisation
THE FIRST GENERAL ELECTIONS to elect 30 members to the Goa, Daman & Diu Legislative Assembly, and two members to the Lok Sabha, were held on December 9, 1963. As many as 207 nominations were filed for the Assembly elections, of which 58 were withdrawn, leaving 149 candidates in the fray for the 28 seats in Goa and the two seats in Daman and Diu. There were nine candidates for the two Lok Sabha seats. The total electorate comprised of 3,50,039 voters, of which 3,28,271 were in Goa. On an average, there were 12,000 voters for each Assembly constituency and 1,75,000 for each of the two Parliamentary constituencies1. These were the first elections in Goa that were to be held along political party lines.
Though democratic elections based on universal franchise were new to Goa, as there were no real elections during the days of the Portuguese colonial regime, Goans showed a very high degree of political consciousness and showed keen interest in both the electoral process and the issues raised by the three principal parties contesting the election: the Congress, the MGP and its allies and the UGP. A total of 2,60,372 out of 3,50,039 Goans exercised their franchise in the first elections: a polling percentage of 73.4%. Presumably, due to the inexperience of the voters with the new democratic process, as many as 10,912 votes were declared invalid2.
Between them, the UGP and the MGP occupied the political space left vacant by the Congress and, with their sharply conflicting agendas, polarised Goans along communal lines. In its election campaign, the MGP persistently stressed on issues like the atrocities committed against the Hindu community by the Portuguese colonial regime. The MGP described merger as the reunification of Shantadurga with Bhavani, the kuldevata of Shivaji. Senior leaders from Maharashtra compounded the situation by contemptuously referring to the Catholic population of Goa as ’black Portuguese’.
The UGP, on the other hand, made the demand for statehood the key issue in its manifesto. Presumably to counter the MGP’s demand to make Marathi the official language of Goa, the party called for the setting up of a Goa university, with English as the medium of instruction. The party also assured Goans that if it was elected to power, it would very strongly oppose any attempt to introduce prohibition in Goa! This was a very sensitive issue as, unlike Goa which enjoyed large reserves of alcohol all through the Portuguese colonial regime, prohibition was one of the fundamental principles of the Indian Constitution which had been sought to be enforced strictly in Maharashtra. The importance of the prohibition issue can be gauged from the fact that chief minister of Maharashtra at the time, V.P. Naik (who was sworn in as the Chief Minister on the eve of the general elections of Goa), hastened to convey to the people of Goa that his government would make major changes in the law relating to prohibition to protect the interests of Goa in the event of merger with Maharashtra.
The Congress, in its campaign, stressed on the socialistic pattern of society, but gave out conflicting signals on the merger issue. The MGP dwelled exclusively on the issue of the merger of Goa with Maharashtra. Indeed, the leader of the MGP, Dayanand Bandodkar, declared that he was not interested in politics and had accepted the leadership of the MGP solely for the limited purpose of securing merger with Maharashtra. The UGP, on its part, exploited the fear of the Goan Catholic population that it would be marginalised if Goa merged with Maharashtra.
The anti-merger group felt that if the demand for merger persisted, it would result in the territorial dismemberment of Goa. They opined that the predominantly Hindu area in the north (north of the River Mandovi that is) would have to be merged with Maharashtra and the rest may be preserved as a union territory. Such a partition of Goa was supported by the Official Draft Plan of Maharashtra (1963-66) that stated “…culturally, socially and even linguistically, the western part of Goa has been and is different from the rest of the country. The eastern part of Goa, however, which is larger but more sparsely populated, had a limited association with Portuguese and Latin culture and is consequently more like the neighbouring areas outside Goa.
PERKS FOR STATUS QUO
As for claims that Goa could fight for statehood, Lal Bahadur Shastri (as home minister at the time), issued a statement in 1963 declaring that the slogan of a full state for Goa was a false cry and that union territory status should satisfy the urge of Goans for self-government. In the statement, Shastri reiterated, “I do not think there is any suggestion from any quarter for a separate state outside the Indian Union but, if such thoughts are harboured, they would indeed be wholly wrong and pernicious.” During a press conference at Hotel Mandovi, he declared that union territory status would be best for Goa, for the time being3. This “best political status” was also stressed upon by Morarji Dessai at Vasco da Gama4. K.K.Shah, the then general secretary of the AICC, argued that Goa would be able to get more money from the Centre if it remained a union territory S.K. Patil further reinforced this pointing out that Rs. 100 crore would be spent on the development of Goa for the following ten years, provided Goans neither pressed for a separate state nor merger5. At a meeting at Mandrem, he stated that any talk of merger was not in “keeping with the ideals of self government and self determination”. Originally from Kudal Patil was noted for his sympathetic stand towards Goa6.
Union defence minister at the time, Y.B. Chavan, was most vociferous and equated the demand for separate statehood with sedition. He is believed to have said, “The feeling of separatism and the wish to maintain it denotes a dangerous trend. Such an atmosphere breeds fifth columnist tendencies”7. He assured Maharashtrawadis that they would get what they wanted but said they would have to be patient8. In a much discussed speech in Panaji, Chavan expressed thrill at the slogan of his pro-merger friends and said “I don’t wish to conceal from anyone that my sentiment is the same as theirs…But, I want to tell these friends that they must be patient, accommodative and persuading.”9
In his statements at Margao, Panaji and Bicholim, Chavan referred to Catholics as “black Portuguese”. Dr. Jack Sequeira was furious at Chavan’s insinuations and retorted by stating, “Chavan would do well to remember that it was he who started the Samyukta Maharashtra, the same status… the UGP demands for Goa today.”10 The Congress did not rule out merger, but took a stand that the time was not ripe for raising the demand for merger. During his visit to Goa a few weeks before the elections, V.P. Naik stayed with Bandodkar and this itself created an impression in the popular mind that the Congress was pro merger.11
The Congress Party was the only national party that contested all 30 Assembly seats as well as the two Lok Sabha seats. The MGP contested 27 seats while the UGP contested 24 seats. The symbol of the MGP was the lion, which was borrowed from an organisation fighting for merger, Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti. The symbol of the UGP was, ironically, the hand which is now the symbol of the Congress Party! In fact, there was a major controversy over the symbol allotted to the UGP because of an allegation made by the MGP that the UGP had deliberately chosen the symbol of the hand to imply that the party had the blessing of St. Francis Xavier. Dr. Jack Sequeira, the leader of the UGP, denied this vehemently, claiming that the party had actually asked for the symbol of a palm tree, but had been allotted the symbol of a hand by the Election Commissioner.12
The Congress Party had, by far, the best campaign infrastructure. The Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) and the Bombay Pradesh Congress Committee (BPCC) were entrusted with the task of forming a Pradesh Election Committee (PEC) in Goa and Mohan Dharia guided the election work. On June 13, 1963, the GPCC elected a PEC of eight members to select candidates to contest the election on the Congress ticket. According to K.K. Shah, the candidates were selected on the basis of their commitment to serve Goa and their contribution to the freedom struggle13. The campaign of the party was conducted from its spacious office at Panaji. The Congress had formed several committees, including a reception committee, propaganda committee and mobilisation committees in each constituency. The party clearly had no problems with electoral funds. It also had the experience of conducting elections in the rest of the country. All the national leaders of the Congress, with the exception of Jawaharlal Nehru, campaigned for the Congress party. All the newspapers (The Navhind Times, Rashtramat and People’s Own Weekly) supported the Congress. Gomantak, of course, supported the MGP.
The 17-point Congress manifesto specified that their endeavour was to bring about social change and establish a technologically mature society in the framework of a socialist economy “that will ensure every citizen dignity, economic security and equality of opportunity”. On the merger issue, the manifesto clarified that the government of India had made it clear that the future of Goa would be decided “according to the wishes of the people of Goa.” The Congress’ symbol for the election was a pair of bullocks with a yoke.
It must also be mentioned that a radical left party called Frente Populare also contested the first assembly elections. The Frente Populare (Janta Aghadi) was a left wing party with limited objectives of promoting agrarian reforms like the introduction of tenancy legislations, distribution of uncultivated land to the landless, elimination of non-tiller middlemen; as well as industrial reforms like the full implementation of labour laws in Goa and industrial development14. Their symbol (elephant) had no popular appeal. The party was committed to the working class but, on the issue of the Goa’s identity, was in favour of merger. This was primarily because the then principle communist party in the country was headed by S.R. Dange, a Maharashtrian. The ultra Left party contested only eight seats, but could not win any as the party secured only 1.73% of the total votes.
The MGP contested 27 seats and also had well organised campaign infrastructure, courtesy their sponsors and patrons from Maharashtra. The MGP had the support of the Praja Socialist Party (PSP), with whom it had a seat-sharing agreement. The campaign of the MGP was conducted by experienced political workers and leaders like Barrister Nath Pai, who was then considered one of the brightest stars of the Indian parliament as he was an eloquent speaker. He was assisted by other veteran socialist leaders like S.M. Joshi and N.G. Goray. The MGP had the backing of the Jan Sangh (the former avatar of the Bharatiya Janata Party), the then political wing of the RSS. It also had the support of the Communist Party of India (CPI), whose cadres took active part in the campaign. Many experienced political workers from other parts of the country, primarily from Maharashtra, were asked to camp in Goa to help the MGP in its door-to-door campaigns. The party also made use of tamashas, kalapathaks, powadas, local fairs, cinema and composed special folk songs for the elections. In addition, the MGP had the support of two dailies published from Panaji namely: Pradeep and Gomantak. It also had the support of every publication published in Maharashtra, except for the Current Weekly and the Goa Tribune. The main disadvantage of the party was that the majority of its candidates were neither highly educated nor had much experience of even public service, leave alone politics.
The MGP ally, PSP, wooed Goans with the promise of socialistic measures to raise the standard of living by eradicating poverty, raising the employment potential, ensuring tenants’ security through tenancy laws and reducing the rent paid by tenants as well as encouraging small and cottage industries, extending prohibition to Goa and abolishing the contract system in docks and mines, etc15. Peter Alvares assured Goans that the PSP would exert maximum pressure on the Indian government in regard to merger, even with the co-operation of those who had quit the Congress in Goa.
Compared to the Congress and the MGP, the UGP did not have elaborate campaigning infrastructure. The election machinery of the members of the UGP consisted entirely of its own members and supporters who were equally inexperienced about how to campaign in an election. It was the only party which did not receive any help from outside, except perhaps for some financial contributions from non-resident Goans belonging to the Catholic community. But the advantage of the UGP was that most of the candidates selected by it were well educated and prominent figures in society. The president of the party, Dr. Jack Sequeira, was a charismatic personality. Besides, the UGP candidates included the wife of prominent industrialist Marcelino de Lima Leitao – Urminda, the eminent Dr. Alvaro de Loyola Furtado and well known social workers like Leo Velho and Maurelio Furtado. The UGP started a newspaper called the Gomantak Kiran in Konkani in the Roman script just before the election, to help in the campaign. It also enjoyed the support of the two Portuguese papers – O Heraldo and A Vida. The 28-point Statement of Policy of the UGP included the demand for statehood, “a pledge to push forward to our fullest our right and claim for a full fledged state within the Indian Union”, recognition of Konkani as the language that is known to all in Goa and “Marathi as the cultural and educational language of a large section of people”, land reforms and promotion of rapid, but rational industrialisation.
On the day the results were declared, the Congress got a severe jolt. The national party did not win a single seat in Goa and had to be content with the one seat it won in Daman. Of the 30 Congress candidates, as many as 18 of them, including the Purushottam Kakodkar, lost their deposits. The Congress Party also lost the two parliamentary seats. As The Navhind Times commented in its editorial, the day after the results were announced: “Never in the annals of the Indian National Congress, since its inception in Goa, did it suffer such humiliation.” The party managed to secure only 43,100 votes out of the total votes polled of 2,71,284 (16.55%). Of the two Congress candidates who contested the Panaji and Margao Lok Sabha seats, they managed to secure only 15.52% and 17.80% of the votes polled. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru lamented that the talk of merger had caused great concern among Catholics, which facilitated the rise of the UGP. Kakodkar opined that the verdict of the first elections did not prove that the majority of Goans were in favour of merger with Maharashtra as the total votes polled by the MGP were 109,000 while those who voted for others was 140,000.
The MGP contested 27 Assembly seats and won 14—its allies won two—to emerge as the single largest party. All the elected candidates of the MGP were from the New Conquests and the surrounding areas where the MGP had concentrated its entire campaign. It was not a coincidence that a large section of the people in these areas was illiterate and backward. The MGP also secured victories in constituencies where the lower castes suffered the tyranny of bhatkars – both Hindu and Catholic. In fact, many of them probably voted for the MGP because, besides the merger issue, the party also promised to bring about land reforms which would ensure that land would go to the actual tiller of the property. The MGP also promised to protect mundkars from summary eviction by bhatkars. It may be noted that the process of evicting tenants and mundkars had started immediately after the MGP announced its intention of introducing land reforms to secure the interests of the tenants and mundkars. However, it must be noted that though the MGP emerged as the single largest group in the Legislative Assembly, it secured only 38.78% of the total votes polled. Over 50% of the Party’s votes came from the News Conquest areas.
The UGP won 12 of the 24 seats it contested and got 28 percent of the votes polled. Anxious to project itself as a secular party, the UGP—in the 24 seats it contested—allotted nine tickets to Hindus, one to a Muslim while the remaining 14 were given to Catholics. The fact that the appeal of the UGP was restricted to the Catholic population in the Old Conquest areas was dramatised by the fact that all the candidates elected on the UGP ticket (save one, V.N. Sarmalkar) were Catholics and that 43.33% of its total votes were won in this region. None of the Hindu candidates or the lone Muslim candidate won. The UGP won 50% or 12 of the Assembly seats it contested. It secured 74,081 votes, constituting 28.45% of the total votes polled. The party did manage to win the important seats of Panaji and Margao, however, it could not secure victories in either of the Parliamentary seats as well, with the candidate for the Panaji seat securing 27.88% of the total votes polled while the South Goa candidate secured 35.40% of the votes polled. As many as five UGP candidates lost their deposits.16
The extent of the involvement of Maharashtra in the Goa elections was dramatised by the Bombay Municipal Corporation act suspending the business of the House for 15 minutes to celebrate the victory of the MGP. Y.B. Chavan boasted that he knew the minds of Goans and congratulated the MGP for leading them to victory. Commenting on the results of the general elections, PSP leader N.G. Goray stated that the results were a lesson to the Congress High Command not to encourage factional elements like the UGP in Goa. A two-day meeting of prominent PSP party workers in the Vidarbha division of Maharashtra also adopted a resolution demanding the immediate merger of Goa with Maharashtra.
But, contrary to its claims, the MGP did not get a mandate to even form the government, let alone merge Goa with Maharashtra, the main electoral platform of the MGP. As mentioned earlier, before and during the election, the leaders of the MGP kept insisting that the MGP was only a temporary organisation, formed exclusively for the purpose of merging Goa with Maharashtra and that it would be dissolved once the objective of merger was achieved. In fact, on November 20, 1963, Bandodkar stated that it was not proper to postpone merger because of emergency, especially since two high power committees were set up by the Centre “to corner the Punjabi Suba issue afresh… there was no justification for keeping the question of Goa’s future in abeyance”.17 Ruling out a referendum after the elections, Bandodkar opined that the people of Goa had given a clear verdict in favour of merger with Maharashtra in the elections and there was no need to ascertain their wishes again What Bandodkar conveniently didn’t admit was that the MGP was only able to form the government because it secured the support of two independents, who were really members of the PSP but had to contest as independents because they were not allotted a common symbol by the Election Commissioner. The three independents who won secured 27,534 votes, constituting 10.62% of the total electorate. Even if the percentage of votes won by the MGP (38.78%) was added to those secured by the independents who supported it (10.62%), it was obvious that the newly formed government did not find favour with 50% of the total electorate.
The results indicated that Goans were quite happy with the union territory status and had no interest in merging with Maharashtra. However, the outcome of the election also dramatised the extent to which the first election was fought, not on the merger issue, but on religious and communal lines18. The merger issue was no longer linguistic, but almost entirely communal as 13 of the 14 successful candidates of the MGP were Hindu and 11 out of the 12 victorious UGP candidates were Catholic.
On December 12, the lieutenant governor, M. R. Sachdev, sent for Bandodkar to consult him on the formation of the first elected government of the union territory.19 On December 13, the MGP unanimously elected the 52-year-old Bandodkar as the leader of the newly elected Legislative Assembly despite the fact that he was not a member of the Legislative Assembly at the time. 20 He later got himself elected from Madkai. On December 18, 1963 Bandokar submitted a list of members of the new cabinet to the Lieutenant Governor. The question of nominating three members to the Goa Assembly was not taken up as the MGP had a working majority.21
The first popular Assembly that elected on the basis of adult franchise was sworn in on December 20, 1963 at the Raj Bhavan. The event was presided over by vice president Dr Zakir Hussain and M.R. Sachdev administered the oath of office to a three-member cabinet headed by Bandodkar, who kept the portfolios of finance, home, general administration, planning and development. The other cabinet members were 34-year-old Tony Fernandes, placed in charge of law, industries, labour and employment; and 31-year-old Vithal Karmali, who was allotted education, health, public works, information and tourism. The two colleagues were graduates with few years experience working as clerks in local mining firms. Their only claim to leadership was their association with the freedom movement.
On assuming office, the MGP government issued a policy statement outlining its programme and plan for the development of the union territory. The statement promised land reforms, development of farming and industry, minimum wages for labour, modernisation of the fishing industry and a pledge to work for merger. 22
On the other hand, among the issues on which the Opposition took a firm stand was the deputation of officials from Maharashtra and other neighbouring states to oversee the elections. The UGP felt that since the neighbouring states had designs on Goa, the officers were probably biased. The Centre claimed that its intention was to depute a few officers from neighbouring states who would train Goans to integrate the administration with the rest of the country. However, the ground reality was that the government, led by Dayanand Bandodkar, flooded Goa with thousands of officers deputed from Maharashtra, particularly Marathi school teachers, many of whom were untrained. According to former Development Commissioner, J.C. Almeida, the excuse for bringing in the majority of these officers from Maharashtra was that Goans were familiar with Marathi.
In the meanwhile, pressure to push for merger stepped up. Then speaker of the Goa, Daman and Diu Legislative Assembly, P.P. Shirodkar, publicly declared that he would be the happiest man if “Goa is merged with Maharashtra”23. Bandodkar clearly stated that his government had been formed by a party that had received a ‘clear mandate’ from the people for immediate merger. In a statement, he categorically stated that it would be the endeavour of the Ministry to remove the fears of those who were opposed to merger and to persuade the union government and the Parliament to favour merger. He opined that the first act of the elected representatives of Goa would be to pursue the verdict of the people on the issue and pass a resolution for the immediate merger of Goa with Maharashtra24.
- A Vida, December 9, 1963 and The Navhind Times, December 9, 1963.
- The Navhind Times, December 12, 1963.
- Times of India, April 7, 1963.
- Free Press, April 7, 1963.
- Free Press, March 30, 1963.
- Maharashtra Times, December 2, 1966.
- Prabhat, December 1, 1966.
- Goa Today, February 1967.
- Free Press, December 9, 1966.
- The Navhind Times, October 23, 1963.
- Prabhat, January, 1967.
- Party Manifesto, The Navhind Times, November 28, 1963.
- Times of India, November 7, 1963.
- Statesman, December 13, 1963.
- Times of India, November 21, 1963
- The Navhind Times, 1963.
- Free Press, December 13, 1963.
- Free Press, December 14, 1963.
- Times of India, December 18, 1963.
- The Navhind Times, January 7, 1964.
- The Navhind Times, January 12, 1965.
- Times of India, December 13, 1963.
WITH MGP FORMING THE government with the help of two PSP-sponsored independents, its leaders began to step up the pressure to merge Goa with Maharashtra. The MGP leaders and their patrons in Maharashtra argued that the elections were fought by the MGP and its allies on the platform of merger and since it has secured the majority, it was a mandate for merger. At one point of time, the elected members of the MGP and PSP even threatened to resign on the claim that there was no need for a government for the union territory of Goa, since they expected the Centre to accept the verdict of the voters, which they insisted was in favour of merger1. The MGP changed its mind when the Lieutenant Governor of the union territory, told them that if they did not accept the invitation as the largest single party to form the government, he would be compelled to invite the UGP to take over the reins of governance.
The Congress rout in the first general election also raised fresh doubts about the future of the political status of Goa. The spokesman of the MGP and PSP declared that their first act in the new Assembly would be to ask for immediate merger. They threatened to move a resolution demanding that the central government should immediately initiate measures for merger. The PSP Member of Parliament, Barrister Nath Pai, rushed to Delhi and had separate meetings with then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and home minister Guzarilal Nanda, demanding merger, claiming that the verdict indicated that the people were in favour of it.2
Speaking from Ambala on December 19, 1963, then chairman of the PSP, S.M. Joshi, suggested that parliament should take immediate steps for the merger of Goa with Maharashtra. “This will help to nip in the bud the harmful disintegrating tendency that has raised its head during the election in Goa.”3 The senior leaders from Maharashtra, who had actively participated in the first general elections in support of the MGP, like then defence minister Y.B. Chavan, also lobbied with Nehru to consider the verdict of the first general elections in Goa as a mandate for merger. Indeed, Chavan and other senior leaders of the Congress party from Maharashtra, warned that the Congress in Maharashtra would meet with the same fate as the Congress in Goa if the demand for merger was not implemented immediately.4
The principal opposition party in the first Legislative Assembly of Goa, the UGP, responded to the demands of merger by pointing out that the Dayanand Bandodkar ministry had no right to comment on the subject. Indeed, in the very first session of the Assembly, the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Jack Sequeira, pointed out that since Lieutenant Governor N. Damle had not referred to the merger in his address, it was clear that the central government was in favour of continuing Goa’s status as an independent administrative unit, notwithstanding the MGP claim that its victory in the elections was a mandate for merger. During the debate on the Governor’s address, Urminda Lima Leitao, the only woman member of the Legislative Assembly, insisted that it was unconstitutional for the MGP to talk about merger.
The UGP members also strongly objected to then speaker, P.P. Shirodkar, refusing to permit the newly elected members to speak in Konkani. Shirodkar kept insisting that, under the Constitution, the members could speak only in English or Hindi or their mother tongue – if they didn’t know the former two. When UGP members insisted that Konkani was their mother tongue, the speaker and even other members of the MGP, including chief minister Bandodkar, claimed that Opposition members would not have any problem about understanding speeches made in Marathi because Konkani is a dialect of Marathi!
Indeed, the first session of the Legislative Assembly of the union territory of Goa, witnessed constant slanging matches between the MGP and the UGP on the relative status of Konkani vis-à-vis Marathi. The UGP was even more enraged when the Bandodkar government recruited several thousands of teachers from Maharashtra to start Marathi medium schools in the state, but refused to extend any support to Konkani. It was obvious that the MGP was trying to strengthen its case for merger by advancing the claim that Marathi was the language of the people of Goa and, since states were formed along linguistic lines, Goa should be merged with Maharashtra. The UGP pointed out that an overwhelming majority of the people of Goa had declared Konkani as their mother tongue in a census held by the Portuguese government in 1960, just before liberation.
The UGP did not accept the legitimacy of the MGP-dominated government because it kept insisting that it was an interim government and the Assembly would be dissolved the moment the MGP achieved its end goal of merger. Several no confidence motions were moved against the Bandodkar ministry on its discriminatory attitude towards Konkani, which extended to banning Konkani tiatrs. In fact, as many as three no confidence motions were moved against the Bandodkar government. Among these was, ironically, one moved by Dattaram Desai, who was a member of the ruling MGP and two by UGP leader Dr Jack Sequeira.
On September 4, 1964, three ruling members of the ruling MGP—Dattaram Deo Dessai, Shambu Palienkar and Dattaram Chopdenkar—decided to withdraw their support to the ministry headed by Bandodkar. In a letter addressed to the Lieutenant Governor of Goa, they attributed their decision to the faulty policies adopted by the government, which they felt were detrimental to the interests and well being of the people of Goa, Daman and Diu. The motion was endorsed by speaker P.P. Shirodkar, V.N. Lawande and three members of the executive committee of the MGP: Vithal Bablo Naik, Narayan Naik and Zotico D’Souza.5
On November 8, 1964, the Goa Assembly granted leave to the three members of the MGP to move a no confidence motion against the government headed by Bandodkar. The House also granted leave to Dr Jack Sequeira to move a no confidence motion6. The Speaker gave the members four days to discuss the motion. During the debate, the members of the MGP charged Bandodkar, among other things, with not taking the party MLAs into confidence and of being strongly opposed to the co-operative movement and panchayats. Bandodkar was also accused of unwarranted interference in the portfolios of other ministers7. The dissidents also accused him of taking leave from the house on ‘very flimsy, if not deliberately false grounds’8. In its motion, the UGP charged the ministry with failure on the food front and for using the administration as a tool to intimidate political opponents.
The UGP charged the government with rampant corruption, nepotism and favouritism as well as “a total failure in the rice procurement policy, ‘Maharashtrianising’ the services, keeping back local talent, dispensing political patronage and intimidating political opponents.” Dr. Sequeira proclaimed that the Opposition would not tolerate being ruled by a ministry which was “undemocratic and despotic”. Bandodkar denied the charges as none had been proved and were “merely a superficial criticism”.9
On November 10, 1964, it was reported that the Bandodkar ministry would continue to be in power though a no confidence motion had been moved by dissident members because the ruling party and the rebels had reached an agreement10. The Press Trust of India reported, “After a day-long frank and cordial discussion between the rebels and party hierarchy, it was unanimously agreed that the dissident MLAs who tabled the no confidence motion against the Bandodkar ministry would not move it. Consequently, the UGP hopes that the Bandodkar ministry would be dismissed did not materialise.” Not only did Bandodkar win the rebels’ no-confidence motion, he was also able to prove his majority when the UGP’s motion was moved on November 11, 1964.
While Dayanand Bandodkar was pre-occupied with matters of governance and proving his majority, demands for merger were echoed in Parliament. Peter Alvares, the socialist Member of Parliament, moved a resolution in the Lok Sabha stating that the elections in Goa to the Legislative Assembly and Parliament were a clear mandate of the electorate in favour of merging the territory of Goa with Maharashtra and “therefore, urges upon the government to formulate a scheme immediately”. The government did not respond favourably to the resolution proposed by Peter Alvares and was rejected by Parliament.
Undeterred by the rejection of the resolution, then defence minister Y.B. Chavan raised the issue with then union home minister Gulzarilal Nanda. Nanda is reported to have told the Lok Sabha on November 26, 1963, that the government had not changed its policy on the issue and it was committed to the stand taken by Jawaharlal Nehru. But, under pressure from the Maharashtra lobby, the executive committee of the Central Congress Parliamentary Board (CCPB) decided that Chavan and Nanda should jointly study all aspects of the demand for merger and report back to the board.11
On December 14, 1963 Nehru reiterated the government’s stand. He declared that the election results in Goa had not changed the government’s position: “I am of the opinion that Goa should continue to remain a separate entity for some time till we finally decide the issue.”12 Nehru clarified that the question of merger should be decided by Goans themselves. He averred that the region had been under Portuguese colonial rule for 450 years and things had not settled down. Nehru lamented the talk of merger and expressed his agony over the fact that it had caused a great deal of concern among Catholics and repeatedly underlined the fact that the government’s decision to maintain status quo had not been affected by the election results.
Unaffected by Nehru’s comments, Karnataka leaders decided to put in their ‘bid’ for Goa. Then president of the Mysore Congress Pradesh Committee, Mohammed Ali, at a press conference in Bangalore on December 15, 1963, observed that the claim of the Maharashtra Congress was not justified and did not merit any consideration13. He specified that the people of Karnataka had advocated unification of Goa with Karnataka, apparent from the resolutions passed by the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee since 1953 and those of the Mysore Pradesh Congress after the liberation of Goa. He maintained that – historically, geographically and economically – the bonds between Mysore and Goa extended over a thousand years and that there was no affinity between Goa and Maharashtra. He declared that Konkani was not a dialect of Marathi and the bulk of Konkani-speaking people in the country, outside Goa, lived in Mysore.
Fearing that the Maharashtra and Karnataka governments’ stance would sway the Centre, the GPCC (on January 3, 1964) told the Congress High Command that immediate changes to Goa’s status would be met with grave consequences. In a memorandum submitted to the Congress High Command, the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee reminded central Congress leaders of the resolution passed at the meeting of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in Jaipur in 1958 that the administrative, cultural, educational and judicial systems that had developed in Goa under the Portuguese colonial rule were very different from the rest of the country.
The memorandum pointed out that, till the passage of the Union Territory Act in May, 1963, integrating the territory of Goa with the Indian Union, and even much later, there was not the slightest murmur of dissent in Goa. It was only on the eve of elections that linguistic chauvinism, fostered by elements from neighbouring states, raised its ugly head, resulting in communal polarisation. The GPCC also rejected the argument that the election results had shown a pro-merger verdict and appealed to the High Command to not yield to any pressure by interested parties.
A mention must be made of a compromise that was being envisaged while the regional Congress parties were at loggerheads. The leaders of the ruling MGP and the opposition UGP had decided to discuss the future of the territory. The two groups were reportedly eager to avoid mid-term elections, which they believed would widen the gulf between the parties and embitter relations between Hindus and Catholics in Goa. Bandodkar is believed to have expressed his willingness to step down from office and pave the way for a coalition government. He is also stated to have agreed to have a UGP nominee as the chief minister. This move apparently had the blessings of Lal Bahadur Shashtri, the K. Kamaraj and Catholic leaders in Mumbai. The Goan leaders in Mumbai had done much spadework in bringing the two parties together and, according to information, the leader of the UGP, Dr Jack Sequeira, had discussed the matter and evolved a formula.14
According to the plan, if the coalition move succeeded, a resolution to merge the territory with Maharashtra was expected to have been introduced in the Goa Assembly and the leaders hoped to get it passed without much opposition. It was also decided to give the UGP sufficient time to pacify the radical elements opposed to merger before the resolution was moved.15 The leaders believed that the provision of certain guarantees would satisfy all sections in Goa: an assurance to maintain individuality even after merger and a guarantee to pursue a policy aimed at the economic development of the territory. The Catholic Church in Mumbai was also in favour of the move and had taken certain steps in that direction16. However, since the conditions stipulated by Jack Sequeira, who had apparently demanded the chief minister’s post, were not accepted, the compromise formula failed.
In the light of the failure of the compromise formula, Bandodkar reaffirmed that his government was determined to go ahead with a resolution in the state Assembly calling for merger and announced that a popular agitation would be launched if due heed was not given to the “will of the people”.
On November 7, 1964, the Congress General Secretary, G. Rajagopalan, announced that the Congress Parliamentary Board (CPB) had passed a resolution calling for the continuation of union territory status for ten years. Asked whether the CPB had thought of a plebiscite to decide the future of Goa, Rajagopalan responded that the resolution made the Board’s position clear and that the Goan people would be given an opportunity to make their preference known through a poll in the future. The resolution obviously infuriated the merger lobby. Y.B. Chavan announced that he would write a letter to the Congress president asking for a discussion on the Goa.18
The announcement also sparked off strong reactions from Mysore. S. Nijalingappa insisted that he was opposed to the idea of a plebiscite to ascertain the wishes of the people of Goa as it would create other border problems. He justified the claims of Mysore over Goa on grounds that 75% of Goa was surrounded by Mysore and any precipitate decision on its merger would raise the problem of Mysore borders with Maharashtra in North Kanara and Belgaum He had pointed out that, while 6,50,000 Konkani-speaking people resided in Goa, Mysore had 5,50,000 Konkani-speaking people and there were about 1,50,000 and 50,000 in Mumbai and Kerala respectively. Another prominent Congress leader had also highlighted the fact that, historically, Kannada kings ruled over Goa before the advent of foreign domination19.
Back in Goa, the ruling MGP decided to go ahead with the merger resolution in the January session of the Assembly20. Though Mysore had no direct stake in the poll unlike Maharashtra, the Goa decision was bound to have repercussions on the Mysore-Maharashtra border dispute that was then pending before the Mahajan Commission. The claim of Maharashtra on Goa stemmed from the ulterior motive of establishing a territorial contiguity with the disputed areas of Karwar and Belgaum districts as Goa had three-fourths of its borders with Mysore. V. P. Naik addressed a morcha sponsored by the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti that consisted of 2000-odd delegates from Nipani, Belgaum and Karwar – the Marathi-speaking areas adjoining Mysore that were demanding a solution to the eight-year-old ‘prestige issue’ of the merger of the ‘border villages’ into Maharashtra. Maharashtra’s grander design was not only to annex Goa but also to reclaim the Marathi-speaking areas of Karnataka, which had gone to the erstwhile Mysore state during the reorganisation.
On November 28, 1965, Congress MPs from Maharashtra appealed to Lal Bahadur Shashtri and Congress party president Kamaraj to take steps to merge Goa with Maharashtra before 1967. Subsequently, on December 1, 1965, Goa’s Dayanand Bandodkar, disclosed in Bombay that his government was determined to move a resolution in the Legislative Assembly of Goa calling for merger of Goa with Maharashtra. Bandodkar also threatened to launch a popular agitation on the issue if the will of the people was not heeded by the central government. In a reference to Congress leaders S.K. Patil’s statement that the merger issue would not be raised till 1977, Bandodkar retorted that views of individuals did not matter: what mattered was the will of the people22.
Addressing a press conference at Raj Bhavan, Shastri appealed to the people of Maharashtra not to be perturbed over the merger issue as it was a matter on which there was an “acute difference of opinion”. After meeting Bandodkar, Shastri opined that the latter was “naturally disturbed” over the issue. A majority of the members of the union cabinet, including senior Congressmen, had mentally decided that Goa should be merged with Maharashtra; the only questions that remained were how and when.
Shastri held informal discussions with Kamaraj and Chavan, who were silently but strongly convincing their colleagues in the party and cabinet of the need to take an early decision on merger. Kamaraj had virtually made up his mind to abrogate the ten-year period and suggested that the Maharashtra Assembly pass a unanimous resolution in favour of merger. Shastri was reportedly reeling under pressure because it is alleged that he had assured MPs from Maharashtra that the issue of merger would be taken up in the near future. It is believed that, following an emergency meeting of the CPB, the union cabinet accepted the Maharashtra lobby’s compromise solution of holding a mid-term election to determine the issue of Goa’s merger with Maharashtra.
Reacting to the decision reportedly taken by the CPB at its meeting in Bangalore to hold special elections in Goa to decide its future, Dr Jack Sequeira issued a press note describing the prime minister’s statement as cryptic and liable to misinterpretation. He said that his party had insisted that the CPB’s resolution of April 7, 1964 to retain the status of Goa for ten years should be honoured. However, he did add that—at a joint meeting of the UGP and the GPCC with prime minister on July 23—he had told the prime minister that fresh elections could be held, subject to the immediate resignation of the MGP government and return of all Maharashtrian personnel who were on deputation in the Goa administration. He also demanded that the 2,00,000 Goans living outside Goa be allowed to participate in any such special election.23
The reversal of the Congress High Command’s stance invited reactions from both pro-merger and anti-merger groups. Dr Jack Sequeira stated that his party was prepared to face a referendum on the future of Goa within six months. While addressing a meeting organised to oppose merger, Sequeira insisted that he was confident that 90% of the votes would be against merger24. On the other hand, the president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee, Vinayak Rao Patil, insisted that the verdict of the people of Goa in the first election, “which was to merge Goa with Maharashtra”, should be respected by the Centre.
On January 22, 1965 – the day the merger resolution was moved in the Legislative Assembly, the Congress organised a peaceful morcha in Panjim, led by Purushottam Kakodkar, Dr Vinayak N. Mayenkar, Appa Karmalkar, Ligorio Cotta Carvalho and Ravindra Kelekar. A bigger procession led by Dr Jack Sequeira, Urminda Lima Leitao, V.N. Sarmalkar, Dr Alvaro de Loyola Furtado and Enio Pimenta was organised by the UGP on the same day. A vast crowd of men, women and children from all parts of Goa, carrying black flags and shouting the slogan ‘Amchem Goem Amkam Zai’ (Goa is ours, we want what is ours), participated in the march.
Referring to the decision of the ruling MGP to move a resolution calling for merger in the Goa Assembly, then general secretary of the AICC, S.K. Patil, said “Our decision cannot prevent him (Bandodkar) from moving the resolution. If he is a wise man, he will not do it!” Patil stated that the government of India would keep an open mind and declared that it would not campaign for any side. He said, “It will be a straight vote of the Goan people which they will exercise uninfluenced and on their own free will”.25
- Free Press Journal, December 18, 1963.
- Times of India, December 18, 1963.
- Statesman, December 19, 1963.
- Maharashtra Times, December 15, 1963.
- Times of India, September 5, 1964.
- Free Press, November 9, 1964.
- Times of India, November 8, 1964
- Times of India, November 11, 1964.
- Free Press, November 27, 1963.
- Times of India, December 15, 1963.
- Times of India, December 16, 1963.
- Times of India, August 4, 1963.
- Times of India, August 14, 1963.
- Times of India, November 6, 1964.
- Times of India, November 7, 1964.
- Deccan Herald, January 19, 1967.
- Free Press Journal, November 17, 1965.
- A Vida, August 4, 1965.
- Times of India, December 18, 1965.
Goa Assembly Hari-Kiri
THE DAY THE RESOLUTION to merge Goa with Maharashtra was moved in the Goa Legislative Assembly, unprecedented measures were taken. In fact, a day before the resolution was scheduled to be moved, the Speaker had ordered the cancellation of passes to the visitor’s gallery for the following day in anticipation of protests. This was done apparently because the Legislative Assembly did not have any security staff at that the time.
The session on January 22, 1965, began with controversy. As soon as the Speaker called Private Member’s Business Resolution No. 15 by P.S. Naik, the opposition objected. They argued that, according to the rules, a private resolution could be called only if 12 days notice was given to the government and the resolution would be demanded through ballot. Dr Sequeira the move saying he did not have faith in the ballot as the House was not informed of it and, therefore, the ballot would not be held in a proper manner. Rather than postponing the resolution for 12 days, the Speaker said procedures would be followed in the future. The Opposition expressed no confidence in the Speaker, who gave his ruling and outlined the procedure to discuss the resolution.
Dr. Sequeira protested saying the resolution was ‘ultra virus’ the Union Territories Act. He pointed out that the resolution proposed “something which is to kill the House” and added that the resolution went against the very oath they had taken when they became members of the Legislative Assembly, which was: “I… having been elected a member of the Legislative Assembly of … solemnly affirm that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India and that I will faithfully discharge the duty upon which I am about to enter.”
The Speaker had responded that the resolution would have been unconstitutional only if it had asked for secession of the territory from the Indian nation, rather it recommended integration with another state and was, therefore, intra virus of the Act.
The resolution by P.S. Naik, MLA from Shiroda, was then moved. It stated:
“Whereas, the Constitution of India is based on the principle of democratic system of government, based on adult franchise without any distinction of class, religion, creed or sex and had unequivocally accepted and adopted the party system of government as the best means of subserving the common good;
Whereas, with full realisation of the territory of Goa, Daman and Diu, the former Portuguese settlements in India, constitute an integral part of India and that the people of the said territory were eagerly looking forward to their liberation from the colonial regime and to unite with mother country, the said territory was liberated with a view to enable its people to unite themselves with the rest of India;
Whereas, as a purely transitional measure to deal with problems, the newly liberated territories were constituted as a union territory under direct administration of the central government which, with commendable speed, made arrangements for holding elections in the territory in accordance with the Constitution of India;
Whereas, in the said elections the various political parties contested the seats on definite issues and the party which ultimately won the majority of seats and was called upon to form the popular government, fought the elections on the definite and specific issue that the best interests of the people of this territory lay in its merger of Goa with the adjoining state of Maharashtra and Daman and Diu with Gujarat;
Whereas the party which stood for a separate state for Goa, failed to get the majority while the party which stood for retaining the status of union territory got no seat at all except one in Daman;
Whereas this House considers that having regard to all the respected principles of the democracy and the elections, the success of a party in the election son a proclaimed policy invariably means that the said policy is the one accepted by the people and must be given effect to;
Whereas the House considers that the retention of this territory as a union territory involves very huge and unnecessary expenditure on the paraphernalia of a top heavy administration which is a totally wasteful expenditure to no purpose;
Whereas the principle of formation of sates on a linguistic basis has been accepted and put into practice whereas this area is predominantly populated by the people with their mother tongue as Marathi or its dialect Konkani;
Whereas, geographically, culturally and historically this territory has been intimately connected with territories forming part of the Maharashtra state;
Whereas the non-fulfilment of the promise held out of the people of this territory at the time of the elections by the party which has returned with a mandate has given rise to discontentment among the people;
Whereas the delay in bringing about the said merger of Goa with Maharashtra and Daman and Diu with Gujarat is frittering away the energies of the people thereby precluding them from concentrating on the developmental activities and that by postponing the merger for a longer period, the developmental activities will be seriously jeopardised;
And whereas, such merger is not only in the best interests of the union territory of Goa, Daman & Diu, but also of the nation as a whole, and that such merger will promote feelings of national solidarity and integrity;
Now, therefore, the House of elected representatives of Goa, Daman and Diu is of the considered opinion that the territory of Goa should without any further delay be merged with the adjoining state of Maharashtra and the territories of Daman and Diu, should be merged with Gujarat. This House, accordingly, recommends to the Government of India to take appropriate steps in this regard by sponsoring the necessary legislation in the Parliament immediately.”
Immediately responding to the resolution, Margao MLA, V.N. Sarmalkar asked by what authority the House felt it had the privilege of discussing a matter which interfered with other states. The Speaker retorted that it was a voluntary suggestion. Orlando Sequeira Lobo asked if the resolution was moved because the government found itself inefficient to rule the territory and, if that were so, it must resign. Still trying to point out the ‘illegality’ of moving the resolution, Dr. Sequeira pointed out to Rule No. 3 regarding the conditions of admissibility of resolutions. The rule stated that resolutions should not contain arguments, inferences, ironical expressions, imputations or defamatory statements. He pointed out that the statement claiming the area “is predominantly populated by the people with their mother tongue as Marathi or its dialect Konkani” was defamatory. The Speaker, not surprisingly, ruled that it was not defamatory, but merely an opinion.
Dr Aureliano Loyola Furtado asked if the formation of a union territory could be termed a ‘transitory measure’. He also pointed out that resolutions were to be moved in public interest. Since the MGP had only managed to secure 1,00,119 votes in the elections, he averred that merger was a matter of interest only for a certain group. Enio Pimenta pointed out to Clause 5 of the Union Territories Act which stated that the Legislative Assembly, unless dissolved, could continue for five years. It was for the administrator to decide on dissolution. He pointed out that the move for merger implied dissolving the Assembly.
Dr Furtado suggested a substitute resolution by way of amendment. He suggested that the amendment should include a statement saying that there was no reason to believe that the status of the territory was transitional in nature; that the union government and the late PM Nehru promised the people of the area that their distinct individuality would be maintained by keeping the territory a separate entity; that the government of Union Territories Act only provided a truncated form of democracy, which was a stepping stone for full fledged statehood; that the general elections were fought for the purpose of electing representatives; that the verdict of the elections could not be held inconclusive and their hairline majority lacked the mandate to decide the future political status of the territory; that the only democratic method of ascertaining the wishes of the people was through free and fair means of plebiscite; that the expansionist imperialism of an interested state, backed by a minority of anti-national and anti-Goan elements, sought to drive a wedge between the states of the union, besides fostering divisiveness among the people. Orlando Sequeira moved an amendment to delete the words “unequivocally accepted”, “best” and substitute “subserving the common good” with “conducting administration”.
Speaking in favour of the merger, P.S. Naik reiterated the MGP objective and the people’s mandate. He also said that Goans appreciated Maharashtrian culture and values, which is why they wanted merger. He said that, during the Portuguese regime, few people were their favour and added that the UGP wanted to continue the policy of slavery. He claimed that the UGP was anti-merger because its leaders wanted to retain Portuguese culture. He felt it was time people taught the “so-called intellectuals” basic values and also said he did not understand what ‘Goan’ culture the UGP constantly referred to. Questioning the nationalism of the UGP, he said that those who claimed that Pandit Nehru wanted Goa to remain a territory for the following ten years, had forgotten that Mahatma Gandhi wanted the states to be divided according to language. He claimed that 57,000 children in the state were educated in Marathi, while only 5000 were studying in Konkani medium schools, proving that maximum were in favour of Maharashtra and the state should be merged as per ‘Gandhiji’s’ wishes.
A minister in the MGP government, Tony Fernandes, argued that the poor, oppressed people of Goa would not be protected unless the union territory merged with Maharashtra. Fernandes also pointed out that communal sentiment was on the rise, because of which the minorities were bound to suffer. He stressed that separation would lead to migration of labour and Goa becoming a labour pocket. Fernandes added that if Goa did not merge, it would appear to the Centre that its actions to liberate Goa were not welcome by the local people.
While referring to the claim of Goans as being individual, he said he was sorry Goans were proud of a ‘foreign’ culture that was imposed on them. Even if his culture was to be maintained, it could not be done by keeping the state separate. Fernandes said that there was migration of population and “migrated people may come and rule over us”. He did not understand how the members of the House were satisfied with “C-class citizenship”.
Enio Pimenta retorted that the Constitution of India did not permit separate citizenship and, since all Goans were citizens of India, they could not be called lower class citizens.
Making a case to prove that merger was the only viable option, D.K. Chopdekar said, after liberation, Goa had three options: merger with Maharashtra, Goa as a separate state or merger with Mysore. Chopdekar pointed out that Lal Bahadur Shastri ruled out the possibility of Goa being granted statehood. As a result, Goans had to choose if they’d rather be a part of Maharashtra or Mysore. Chopdekar argued that merger with Maharashtra would make more sense because the state language was Marathi and the spoken language was Konkani! He added that whatever culture that was prevalent in Goa was that of Maharashtra. He also felt another factor that had to be considered was economic viability.
Pointing out the flaws in the MGP leaders’ logic, V.N. Sarmalkar said the Portuguese had also claimed that Goa was a part of Portugal. By this corollary, he said, “Tomorrow even Pakistan will claim its right over Kashmir”. He challenged the claim that Goa was, historically, a part of Maharashtra. He opined that no mention was made of this in textbooks: “All the great leaders of Goa are not mentioned in the history books of Marathi, then how can one say that Goa is historically a part of Maharashtra?” Sarmalkar also informed the house that, out of the 60% Hindus in the state, only 10–15 % of them knew to read and write in Marathi.
After a debate on the time allotted to speak on the resolution, the Opposition staged a walkout. The resolution was put to vote. Thus, the lone member in the house to vote against the resolution was M.R. Jiwani, the MLA from Daman and Diu.
The legislature adopted, by 15 votes to one, the unofficial resolution, urging the government of India to take appropriate steps for merger. As the UGP members walked out hurling charges of partiality and undemocratic, autocratic behaviour, thumping the floor and hurling name plates, steel-helmeted police guarded the streets of Panaji and visitors were not allowed. The debate on the resolution continued till 9 pm: three hours more beyond the scheduled time1.
- Proceedings of the Goa Legislative Assembly, 1965.
- Free Press, January 23, 1963.
Countdown to The Poll
THE MAHARASHTRAWADIS WERE not content with the merger resolution. They were active in Maharashtra too and, in less than two months, succeeded in getting the Government of Maharashtra to pass a similar resolution. On March 10, 1965, a joint session of both the Houses of the Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly met and a resolution was moved by V.P. Naik for the immediate merger of Goa with Maharashtra. The then chief minister said, “Now, therefore, the House assures every section of people of Goa, irrespective of their caste and creed, that Goa will have a special claim on the state of Maharashtra, that the economic betterment of the people of Goa will be the special concern of this state and that the religious, social, educational and cultural heritage and aspirations of every section of the people of Goa will be fully safeguarded and respected by this state in the best of its traditions; and further than in order to preserve, promote and cherish these objectives, the state of Maharashtra will take all such steps as are necessary for their fulfilment.”1
To ‘consolidate the unity of India’, the House urged upon the Parliament and government of India to take all the measures, including an amendment of the Constitution if necessary, to make Goa an integral part of India2. It was reported that K. Kamaraj and Y.B. Chavan had given prior consent to sponsor the merger resolution in the Assembly. Bandodkar immediately sent a telegram to him that the day would not be far off when Goa would merge with Maharashtra, realising the aspirations of the people of Goa for merger and bring about national integration3.
Forty-eight hours after the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly passed the resolution, the Mysore Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council also passed a resolution unanimously demanding that the assurances of the late Jawaharlal Nehru to Goans be honoured and, if at all it was to be merged with any state in future, it was to be merged with Mysore. The resolutions were passed on March 12 and 15 respectively. During the Assembly session, the members also condemned the demand of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly: “This House notes with deep concern the resolution adopted by the two Houses of the Maharashtra state Legislature at a special sitting… it amounts to the negation of the policy laid down by… Nehru that the people of Goa will have the right to self determination as in future every consideration bearing on its history, culture, language, geography and economy of Goa would support its merger with Karnataka rather than Maharashtra… This house is, therefore, clearly and emphatically of the opinion that the people of Goa should have the right to determine their own future and that Goa should have self government for a period of ten years from the date of liberation of Goa. If however, there is to be any change in the policy in favour of early merger of Goa it must be only with Mysore”.4 Thus, Mysore showed some respect for democratic principles by demanding that the assurances of national leaders be honoured and that Goans themselves should decide their future, after the lapse of a period of ten years.
It was the Mysore legislature’s stance that, in a sense, focused the attention of the country on a fundamental principle of democracy: that the people of any other state in India were hardly likely to know what is good for Goans. Goans had to decide that question and their wishes had to be respected. Goans belonging to all shades of political opinion and others without any party affiliations, except the MGP, were demanding just this: that the political future of Goa should not be decided by non-Goans. The general dissatisfaction with the style and substance of governance of the MGP manifested itself in the formation of the Council of Action which, though a part of the anti-merger movement, more specifically targeted the failure or lack of governance. Though led by the then young freedom fighter and Congress man Ravindra Kelekar, it comprised of people from all parties. Consistent with Gandhian principles, the group organised a non-violent Satyagraha against the government.
The Satyagraha movement was sought to be repressed with a heavy hand with the number of people arrested exceeding 200 on the third day. Among the heroines of the movement against the large influx of officers deputed from other states was Victoria Fernandes, who reportedly mobilised a battalion of 5000-odd women volunteers and stormed the Secretariat. The Council of Action also accused the Bandokar ministry of being anti-Catholic and held it guilty of provoking communal and ‘casteist’ tensions. MGP leaders accused the protestors of staging the movement with the sole objective of destabilising the Bandodkar ministry under the pretence of fighting for good governance and the import of officers from other parts of the country.
The Council of Action, which organised the ‘Oust Bandodkar Satyagraha’ had said in one of its charges against the government, “Your government has come to power by inflaming communal passions and caste hatred, by abusing the sanctity of places of worship as well as the religious sentiments of the people.” Commenting on this, one newspaper added, “Perhaps now they (critics) will appreciate how well the Council of Action had assessed the real state of affairs when they charged the Bandodkar government with having antagonised the entire community of Goan Catholics by forgetting that this community had fought shoulder to shoulder with others in equal measure in Goa’s struggle for freedom.” Though the Council of Action comprised leaders of all communities and was led by Ravindra Kelekar, it was accused to have been instigated, if not supported, by the Church.
Then Apostolic Administrator of Goa, Francisco da Piedade Rebello, denied Dayanand Bandodkar’s accusations that the Church in Mumbai had helped launch the Satyagraha campaign by the Council of Action to oust him and the MGP from power. He declared: “If Catholics are associated with the agitations, they are doing so in their capacity as citizens of this country. They are free to agitate for their rights, like citizens from other part of our country” and that religion had nothing to do with the controversy. Though the Church had made it plain to priests not to seek political ends, “The Church cannot impose a ban on a priest if he wants to voice his political views outside the Church in his capacity as a citizen”. The charges will also strongly denied by UGP leader Dr. Jack Sequeira. He pointed out that the passive resistance had, in fact, begun in Goa by a few Hindus and Muslims who, along with Catholics and the pro Catholic Goan Party publicly protested against the Bandodkar government.
There were cases of friction between Dayanand Bandodkar and the Church authorities in Goa, for instance, over religious rites administered to the sick. There were accusations against the MGP-ruled government of banning Catholic priests from administering the last sacraments in hospitals. The government denied the charge and said there were no objections to patients themselves offering prayers according to the own religious beliefs5. Bandodkar did not seem to have anything personally against the Catholics; in fact, he claimed he was their best friend! He promptly nominated two Catholic representatives, Albert Da Cunha and Peter Vaz, to the executive of the MGP, who had to be restrained in their attacks against the Church by their Hindu colleagues, who were embarrassed by their open and scandalous contempt for their own religion6! The move was interpreted as aimed at assuaging Catholics’ feelings over the recent allegations made by the Bandodkar that the Church had instigated a campaign to oust his government from power.7
The Chief Minister and his colleagues were all Goans who had spent most of their life in Goa with the rest of the people in the territory. They, therefore, could not have been entirely unaware of Goa’s history, its people, their sentiments and their attitude towards fellow-Goans and non-Goans. One could hardly believe that the same Goans would go to such lengths to achieve their objectives by accusing Catholics, or anybody for that matter, of communalism, of being caste conscious and lack of patriotism. It would have been far more prudent for the MGP to build their merger case on sound and convincing arguments. They seemed to have been either misled or were working under the impression that, because their party was in power, they could do anything, accuse anyone of what they liked and get away with it. Such methods generally do not work in a democracy, especially in a place where a very large number of people are sufficiently literate, cultured and politically conscious.8
This was one of the major mistakes that the MGP committed in its campaign for merger. The tactics they used may have worked elsewhere but they hardly stood a chance of success in Goa. This is where the leadership of the MGP failed. It failed to conceive a plan which would take the existing facts and conditions of Goan life into account and frame a course of action which would succeed or at least hold out sufficient prospects of success. The false charges that the MGP leaders levelled against Catholics failed to cut ice with Goans in general, in view of their personal experience in the matter. This strengthened the hands of the Opposition and proved a major factor in the failure of the MGP to achieve their objective of merging Goa with Maharashtra.
The debate over the future status of Goa became intense and passions and emotions ran high on both sides. The UGP demanded that the merger-minded ministry step down as “no poll worth its name could be held six months before the resignation and dismissal of the ministry. Presidential rule for six months is sine qua non for the Poll”9. The Centre’s view, that was advisable for the government of Goa to resign before the poll, was conveyed to Bandodkar. It was suggested that since the Assembly had already expressed its views on the issue of merger and as its members were publicly committed to the same, it was proper for the Assembly to be dissolved10. Shortly after the Bill for the conduct of the Opinion Poll was passed by the Parliament, Bandodkar himself, to avoid dismissal, assured the prime minister that he would tender his resignation.11
On November 28, 1966, Bandodkar submitted his resignation to the Lieutenant Governor with a request to forward it to then president S. Radhakrishnan. Submitting his resignation, Bandodkar wrote a letter stating that there should be no delay in holding the Opinion Poll and also opined that the Opposition’s demand to include Goans living outside Goa should not be entertained12. The next day, Y.B. Chavan informed the Executive Committee of the Congress Parliamentary Board that the resignation of the Goa ministry would be accepted when the official bill to provide for the conduct of the poll was taken up by the Lok Sabha for consideration. After a 75-minute discussion, the Executive Committee of the Congress turned down the suggestion of two Mysore representatives to postpone the bill and asked the Centre to place it before the Lok Sabha for consideration before it was adjourned sine die. All the Congress members were called upon to support this13.
- Proceedings in the Maharashtra Assembly. The claims on the cultural and linguistic affinities of Goans with Marathi-speaking people were based on a book by Fr. Thomas Stephens and the verdict of the first elections; reported in the Times of India, December 30, 1966.
- Free Press, December 9, 1966.
- Christian Examiner, September 3, 1966.
- Proceedings of the Mysore State Legislative Assembly.
- Examiner, September 3, 1966.
- Examiner, November 12, 1966.
- Examiner, October 8, 1966.
- Statement recorded in an interview with Lambert Mascarenhas.
- In a pamphlet issued by Dr Alvaro de Loyola Furtado.
- Times of India, November 17, 1966.
- Times of India, November 29, 1966.
Goa Opinion Poll Bill
THE GOA, DAMAN & DIU (Opinion Poll) Bill, 1966, was moved by the Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Vidya Charan Shukla, on November 30, 1966. Shukla moved the bill on behalf of Y.B. Chavan, then Minister of Home Affairs. Shukla described the Opinion Poll Bill as the bill that was intended to make a provision to poll the opinion of the people of Goa, Daman and Diu, to ascertain their wishes about the future status of the union territory: whether the locals wanted Goa to merge with Maharashtra or maintain status quo.
Shukla drew the attention of the House to certain clauses in the bill that were essential in conducting the Opinion Poll: Settling the issues to be dealt with in the poll, delimitation of electors in Assembly constituencies, etc. The poll was to be conducted under the direction and superintendence of the Chief Election Commissioner, who, in turn, would designate the Opinion Poll and Assistant Poll Commissioners. Polling stations would be chosen according to Clause 10; Clause 11 would provide for the appointment of the presiding officers and polling officers, the hours of poll would be prescribed by the Chief Election Commission under Clause 16 and the voting would be carried out by ballot under Clause 19, in accordance with rules framed by the Government of India, in consultation with the Chief Election Commissioner. Clause 20 made a provision for postal ballot and under Clause 27, the provisions of Indian Penal Code dealing with offences relating to elections were made applicable to the Opinion Poll. The procedure to be followed was similar to that during elections to State legislatures and Parliament.
Hari Vishnu Kamath raised a point of order that if Goa voted for status quo, there would be no difficulty. However, if Goa, Daman and Diu voted for merger, Articles 1 to 3 of the Constitution would come into operation as these territories could not be merged without a Constitutional amendment, so as to merge these territories with Maharashtra and Gujarat, respectively; in time for the general elections that were scheduled to be held in the territories. Kamath argued that the Constitution would have to be amended because at the time India was a union of states and the term “states; included the Union territories as laid down in the First Schedule, which included Goa, Daman and Diu as a constituent unit of the Indian Union.”
On the other hand, Barrister Nath Pai argued that, according to Article 248, they were entitled to proceed as “the Parliament has exclusive power to make any law with respect to any matter not enumerated in the Concurrent List or State List.” N. C. Chatterjee supported him by quoting Articles 245 for the Parliament and 246 for the State Legislatures. But, he drew the attention of the Parliament to the residuary legatee of Article 248 that dealt with the “Residuary powers of Legislation” by which the “Parliament has exclusive power to make any law with respect to any matter not enumerated in the Concurrent List or State List.” Further, the power was derived from Chapter I of Part XI that specified that laws could be made by the Parliament and state legislatures. Under Article 3, the Parliament could form a new state, increase or diminish the area of any state or alter the boundaries or the name of any state.
- Dandeker of Gonda supported this citing a few salient features of Schedule 7, but raised doubts if the Chief Election Commissioner could be entrusted with duties with which he was not statutorily concerned as he was only one of the members of the Commission. H. N. Mukerjee of Calcutta Central supported Kamath and sought assurances from the government lest the proceedings became fructuous. He argued that the Election Commission was an important body and the House was seeking to pass a bill that would call upon it to undertake jobs for which it had no Constitutional obligation.
Peter Alvares, MP elected from Panaji, was asked to speak first. He stated that though the bill was small, it was important as it sought to resume an interrupted process of history when the people of Goa and Maharashtra were together, but for the intervention of the Portuguese. Alvares stated that the elections to the Goa Assembly and to the Parliament by himself and M.P. Shinkre were fought on the specific issue of merger of Goa with Maharashtra. Alvares felt that the 1963 December elections had answered any doubts about the will of the people. As suggested by the then prime minister, they had agreed that mid-term elections would answer any questions once and for all. However, the mid-term elections were never conducted and, instead, the Central government proposed an opinion poll. Alvares claimed the “tactics” of the government were neither fair to those who advocated the merger nor to the (local) government that stood for merger with Maharashtra.
Alvares claimed the demand to merge Goa with Maharashtra was a logical consequence of the political history in India, particularly on the basis of the recommendations of the States Reorganisation Commission that all states should follow the basis of linguistic affinity if they were geographically contiguous to a particular linguistic area. According to Alvares, when Goa was liberated, a Language Commission was appointed under the chairmanship of Amar Nath Jha to determine Goans’ mother tongue for the purpose of education. He claimed that it was found that 72,000 children studied Marathi voluntarily, while only 20 studied in Kanarese (Kannada) and 2,000 in Marathi. This, he felt, made the demand for merger reasonable. He also felt that, as a separate territory, Goa was isolated from the mainstream cultural development in India. Stating that he was part of Goa’s liberation movement for many years, Alvares opined that the movement was spearheaded by a section of people whose leadership was with the national Congress—this despite the fact that the Congress in Goa was opposed to the merger. Alvares felt it was a necessity to conduct the Opinion Poll. Citing the need for merger, he quoted Morarji Dessai as saying, “This cannot remain a union territory. I cannot find funds for it. Some day or the other it must merge with a bigger state. Let it decide with which state it will merge.” Apparently, Dessai had made the statement when he visited Goa as finance minister of the country. Alvares claimed that Lal Bahadur Shastri had said the same.
Hanumanthaiya, representative of Bangalore city, stated that the leaders of Maharashtra, more than the people of Goa, were covertly or overtly behind the pro-merger agitation and demanded that a commission be set up to investigate into who sponsored the agitation. He claimed that Dayanand Bandodkar was acting at the behest of the chief minister of Maharashtra. He also said that Nehru was against holding the Opinion Poll in an awkward situation. He cited a letter that was written by Nehru to Purushottam Kakodkar: “I see that some people are laying great stress on the merger of Goa with Maharashtra. I think this is very wrong and foolish of them. I have said that the future of Goa will be decided by the people of Goa. That does not mean that so soon after liberation, we should consider the merger of Goa with Maharashtra or any such other thing. For the present, it is essential that Goa should remain a union territory and settle down.” Hanumanthaiya pointed out that ever since Goa was liberated, the leaders of Maharashtra did not give Goans a chance to settle down.
Hanumanthaiya also alleged that the Bandodkar ministry manipulated the voters’ list to include many voters in the list. On the basis of his inquiries, he submitted that the Bandodkar ministry tried to manipulate a decision on the merger of Goa with Maharashtra by opening only Marathi medium schools. On the basis of the “partisan views” that were taken by the first two speakers, N. Dandekar from Gonda concluded that the bill was “dishonourable” and “fraudulent” because it began with a suppresio veri that, “There has been a demand from certain sections of the people of this territory for merger of Goa with the adjoining state of Maharashtra. There are other sections of people demanding its continuance as a separate entity.” According to Dandekar, the real genesis of the bill was the innumerable assurances and promises that were given to the people of Goa at the highest political and governmental levels after liberation, after the 1963 elections, after the agitation for merger and even later that it would be “for the people of Goa to decide, after a certain period of time, what shall be the status of their territory: Whether it shall continue as a separate union territory, or be merged with one state or with another.” He reminisced that, at a meeting at Bicholim, Goa on December 4, 1963, Y. B Chavan made a statement, “It is true that it is not a question (of merger) to be decided in the present election; because this is not a referendum on the question and that is what my mergerist friends have failed to see,” and also reminded the parliament that, on the eve of the 1963 election, Nehru had said, “Ultimately, it will be for the people of Goa to decide about their future. That opportunity will be theirs; but let that be taken when the time comes for it. Any attempt to take it before that time will be harmful to Goans.” On the basis of these statements, Dandekar supported Hanumanthaiya and stated that there had been considerable pressurisation of a most undesirable kind in favour of a merger. Moreover, the promise that Goans would be given a chance to decide their own future within ten years after liberation was never kept.
Dandekar argued that a clear-cut definition of ‘True Goans’ after liberation meant those who were notified under the Citizenship Act as persons who would automatically become Indian citizens unless they chose to opt differently. He further read from an order called the Goa, Daman and Diu (Citizenship) Order, 1962, that stated that “Every person who or either of whose parents or any of whose grandparents was born before the twentieth day of December, 1961, in the territories now comprised in the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu shall be deemed to have become a citizen of India on that day.” Taking this fact into consideration, Dandekar submitted that the bill excluded a large number of genuine Goans and included a large number of non-Goans from voting in the Opinion Poll.
According to him, the bill excluded, by the definition of “elector”, those Goans who resided and continue to reside outside Goa and who were always treated as foreigners in the country under the Citizenship Act of 1955 and who became citizens of India only on December 20, 1961 by the Goa, Daman and Diu (Citizenship) Order, 1962. On the other hand, it included a number of people—not Goans by any stretch of imagination—who, particularly after the 1963 elections, moved into Goa to earn a decent living. Dandekar drew the attention of the House to the assurances given by then Prime Minister, Nehru in the Lok Sabha in August, 1964, regarding “some aspects of our basic approach in respect of Goa, when it becomes a part of the Indian Union.” Nehru had clearly specified: “The special circumstances of culture, social and lingual relations and the sense of a territorial group which history has created will be respected… laws and customs, which are part of the social pattern of these areas and which are consistent with fundamental human rights and freedom, will be respected and modifications will be sought only by negotiations and consent.”
Dandekar also quoted president Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who said in March, 1962, “We have, however, repeatedly assured the people of Goa and the world that the personality that this area has acquired… shall be preserved.” Dandekar felt that the assurances made to Goans must be honoured as they were a part of the fabric of the honour of the country.
Shinkre of Marmagoa felt it was essential to briefly refer to the background of Goa that consisted of 11 talukas, out of which only four were under foreign domination for 450 years, while the remaining seven which were ceded out or transferred to the Portuguese through treatises with the Raja of Savantwadi and the Raja of Sundhe, were under foreign domination for hardly 150 odd years. Shinkre pointed out that the urge to retain the separate entity of a union territory came from the inhabitants of the four talukas who were the “by-product of foreign domination”, whereas the people in the remaining seven talukas were pro-merger. Shinkre believed that there were only two voices in Goa; one for merger with Maharashtra and the other for a full-fledged state.
Regarding the alleged intolerance of Maharashtra, Shinkre estimated that there were more than 50,000 Goans in Mumbai alone who were agitating against the merger of Goa with Maharashtra and the government of Maharashtra had not attempted to suppress them. Shinkre conceded that Goa was connected to Mysore on three sides, but, irrespective of the political set up, Goans would choose for themselves.
- N. Mukerjee, a representative of Calcutta Central, welcomed the provisions envisaged in the bill and hoped to see the return of Goa to Maharashtra and of Daman and Diu to Gujarat. Mukherjee did not support the claims of Goans in Mumbai, who were supposedly influenced by the spirit of “Maharashtrian chauvinism”, and felt that it was a good thing that the Bandhodkar ministry had offered to quit office before the poll. Mukherjee argued that the Congressman Kakodkar who, according to Hanumanthaiya, had performed the “vanishing trick” and the factions that had proliferated inside the Congress had resulted in the interest of the state being mitigated by the interests of the Centre and by the “faults and foibles of the Congress Party.” But he supported the bill as he believed that it should not be the argument for denying the people of Goa the right to express their opinion freely and frankly in regard to the proposed merger.
Mysore MP Basappa clarified the position of Mysore and threatened to withdraw his amendment if the historical reasons and records, geographical contiguity, administrative convenience, etc, that were suggested for a merger of Goa with Maharashtra, went against Mysore. Basappa claimed that the rulers of Shimoga had signed treaties with Goa. Further, from 119 AD to 1312 AD, Goa was under the Kadambas. In 1632, the ruler of Hikeri signed a treaty with the Portuguese. In 1763, Raja Sondha, the ruler of Karnataka, ceded some of his territories to the Portuguese. Even Vijaynagar exercised an economic influence over Goa. Basappa implicitly pointed out that Maharashtrians were never rulers of Goa. Basappa remarked that three-fourths of the hinterland belonged to Mysore and only around 20% came under Maharashtra. On the question of geographical contiguity, he pointed out that only 20 % lay along Maharashtra and 80% of the land was contiguous to Mysore. Basappa further drew a comparison between the Malnad area of Mysore and Goa where physical features were the same. Also, he pointed out that Goa procured food material like vegetables from Mysore. Hence, Bassapa emphasised on economic reasons, administrative convenience, geographical contiguity and historical connections to prove that Mysore “has something to do with Goa.”
Basappa pointed out that while a two-third majority was needed to amend any article in the Constitution, here an attempt was being made to transfer a part of land to another by one single voting. The legal question was whether Goans should be taken as voters or not and the legislative aspect was that the Opinion Poll was a special kind of poll that was being introduced for the first time. He personally felt that there was a suspicion in the mind of the people that the interest of Goa was going to be sacrificed “at the altar of opportunism and balance of power at the Centre” and opined that it should be stopped. Since Goa was strategically important, he felt it should remain a union territory for some time as there was neither an administration nor a functional judiciary in Goa and, under these circumstances, there would be external interference influencing the poll. Basappa suggested that, besides the resignation of the ministry in Goa, political officers from Maharashtra (who were controlling the elections) should also be removed.
- C. Chatterjee of the Bundwan constituency clarified that he was not actuated by any animus or any antipathy against Maharashtra, but pointed out certain solemn pledges that the nation had made to the people of Goa. At the Jaipur session, for instance, the Congress had pledged that “the cultural heritage of Goa should be maintained.” Chatterjee also read out excerpts from a letter that Jawaharlal Nehru had written to S. Nijalingappa, chief minister of Mysore in 1962: “We have decided and we hold to that decision that Goa should remain a separate entity in the union of India. Why should there be this hankering for Goa to be merged into this state or that state? I do not understand it. Goa can develop as it likes within the framework of India and add to the richness of India.”
Chatterjee welcomed the constitutional device of a referendum and specified that if people of Goa wanted to remain a separate state in the Indian Union, within the framework of the Constitution, “Let them decide like that. The only thing we want is, let there be an honest effort; let there be a proper and full observance of the pledges”. He argued that the 85,000 Goans who were living in Mumbai played a magnificent part in the liberation struggle of Goa. Chatterjee argued that Alvares was wrong when he pointed out to the Representation of the People Act which says “that an elector can only be a person normally resident in that territory” for the Opinion Poll was not an election for five years of a member to the Assembly or Parliament; it would determine the future of Goa not for generations, but for centuries. Therefore, he opined that all Goans (including 20,000 seamen) should have their say. Chatterjee tabled a motion similar to Dandeker’s that “you should exclude from the poll those who are really not Goans” and cited a letter of the government that said that “Goans are not eligible for enrolment as voters in the electoral rolls for Parliament and Assembly.” But, Chatterjee contended that they “are as much Goans as anybody else. They are sons and grandsons of those who were in Goa” and hence, they should be given a chance of having their say in what shall be the permanent future and reshaping of the destiny of Goa.
Humayun Kabir stated that he was happy when the Secretary of the Congress Parliamentary Party informed the House that the Government would consider the case of those Goans who lived outside Goa, but who were not enfranchised anywhere else. They could not vote in the 1963 elections because, when the integration of Goa took place, it was too late to include their names in the voter’s list of the Parliamentary or Assembly elections. Kabir felt the results of the election in Goa were inconclusive as no party had a clear majority. Of the approximately three lakhs who voted, 1,09,000 supported the MGP and there was no clear evidence in favour of an immediate merger. He felt it was necessary to decide the issue in a dispassionate and objective manner in the best interests of Goans within the context of the Indian union.
Joaquim Alva condemned Portuguese imperialism, colonialism and fanaticism and stated that the people of Goa should “give their verdict and let them have this opinion poll”. But, he argued that it could not be done by a simple majority. “…Let every genuine Goan, wherever he may be, if he is not found as a voter in any part of India, vote in this poll. Let us not allow outsiders to flock into Goa.” To elucidate his point he used statistics: In Goa, Daman and Diu, there were five-and-a-half lakh people. “Of the 13.5 lakh population with Konkani as mother tongue, about 2.5 lakh considered Kannada their subsidiary language and only 45,000 people knew Marathi as a subsidiary language. Even the Marathi-speaking people, out of about three crore, about a lakh-and-a-half listed Kannada as their subsidiary language1.
Vidya Charan Shukla said the bill was non controversial. He denied that the local government had rigged the electoral roll as it was prepared under the supervision of the Election Commission. He claimed that there were over 10,000 officers in Goa, of which only 280 were Maharashtrians. He made clarifications on the rolls and how Goans who were not included could apply to get their names added. The motion was then adopted and the bill was taken up clause by clause.
Chatterjee moved the first clause, “Provided that all persons who are not Goans as defined in the Goa, Daman and Diu Citizenship Order of 1962 shall not be eligible to participate in the Opinion Poll notwithstanding the inclusion of their names in the electoral rolls;” and “Provided that all Goans at present non-resident in Goa as well as Goan seamen on the high seas, who are Goans as defined in the Goa, Daman and Diu Citizenship Order of 1962 shall be eligible to participate in the Opinion Poll”.
- Dandeker moved “Provided that the said electoral rolls shall be amended as follows, firstly, the names of all persons who are not Goans shall be excluded; and secondly, the names of all those persons who are Goans but whose names are not included in the said electoral rolls by reason only of their not being ordinarily resident in Goa, Daman and Diu shall nevertheless be included in the said electoral rolls notwithstanding that they are ordinarily resident in any other part of the territory of India. ‘Goan’ means a person born in Goa, Daman or Diu who become a citizen of India on the 20th day of December, 1961 by virtue of the provision of the Goa, Daman and Diu (Citizenship) Order, 1952.”
- C. Chatterjee demanded that the amendment moved by him and Dandekar be considered or the Parliament would be guilty of breach of faith. Alvares objected to the amendments that ‘Goan’ was not defined by any statute or person. He said that people could not determine the future of Goa in absentia. Moreover, he said that the government of Maharashtra and the Election Commission had accepted that Goans were Indians (this argument was important because Goans in the rest of India were denied the right to vote in the Opinion Poll as they were said to be non-residents. If they were not recognised as Indians by others, they had the right to vote in the only place where they were recognised!) Dandekar put forth this argument by pointing out that, in the general elections of 1952, 1957 and 1962, Goans were excluded from the Indian electoral rolls on the grounds that they were not Indian.
Shinkre argued that nothing stopped Goans who were residing in Mumbai or at other places from enrolling themselves in the electoral rolls of Goa after liberation, provided they could prove to the electoral authorities that they were ordinarily residing in Goa.
The amendments by both Chatterjee and Dandekar were put to vote and denied. Vidya Charan Shukla, followed by the chairman, moved that the bill be passed. The motion “That the Bill, as amended, be passed” was passed.2
The Lok Sabha passed the Bill without accepting any suggestions, except the one asking that Goans residing in other parts of India be allowed to register their names in the voters’ list without a fee. The Lok Sabha extended the working period till late evening to pass the Bill and, in the absence of a quorum. Justifying his stand, Shukla stated “…this Bill has the capacity to create a positive environment for making these promises a reality.”3 The absence of major leaders from Maharashtra surprised many in the House. Dr Jack Sequeira, who was present in the public gallery, had apparently met a few major political leaders and instigated them to object to the bill.4
RAJYA SABHA DISCUSSION
The Goa, Daman and Diu Opinion Poll Bill, 1966 was tabled by the Deputy Chairman in the Rajya Sabha. The bill was moved by V .C. Shukla: “That the bill to provide for the taking of an opinion poll to ascertain the wishes of the electors of Goa, Daman and Diu with regard to the future status thereof and for matters connected therewith, as passed by the Lok Sabha, be taken into consideration.” Shukla clarified that the bill did not settle the future status of the territory, but was a means to ascertaining the wishes of the people.
The discussion began with a debate over the criteria for an ordinary resident of a particular state. V. C Shukla specified that the only criterion was that prospective voters had to “convince” the Voters’ Registration Authority. A special concession was also made in this case, wherein those whose names were not registered in the rolls for the purpose of the Poll, could apply to the Registration Authority without payment of fees. They could even post their applications.
Dadhyabhai Patel proposed an amendment that the Bill “be referred to a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha of eight Members with instructions to report by the first day of the next Session.” Patel wanted the Bill to be put before a select committee because he felt it was rushed through in the Lok Sabha. The Vice Chairman said it was the prerogative of the members of that House to bring it up if they felt an injustice was done.
Later in the session, the Deputy Minister introduced the bill. U.N. Trivedi of Mandasur opposed the introduction of the Bill. He felt that the people of Goa had already communicated their decision through the Goa Assembly. Shukla reiterated that this was the best method to ascertain Goans’ wishes. The Bill was thus introduced.
Patel proposed to move the first amendment that the bill be referred to a Select Committee because he felt it was unfair that MPS were only informed that the bill would be discussed the previous day. He felt it was all the more unprecedented since the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha even though amendments had been tabled. He also pointed out that the minister who had tabled the amendments, Dandekar, had left for the day, thinking that discussion on the Bill for the day was over!
Patel criticised the Opinion Poll as being a fraud and misleading to the people. He felt that “What really should be done is the vote of the people of Goa, not the present residents of Goa, but of the people who were residents of Goa before it was merged with the Indian union. It is quite possible that some of them have left Goa and settled down in Mumbai. That should not prevent them from exercising their vote because what is required, under the assurances that have been repeatedly given from the highest quarter to the people of Goa, is that their vote would be taken, not the vote of a large number of Maharashtrians who have now gone and settled down in Goa for business, for Government service and for other purposes. No effort has been made honestly to get their vote”.
Lalitha Rajagopalan of Madras briefed the chairman that the atmosphere for the poll was created by the resignation of the present ministry, by the introduction of president’s rule and by the leader of the United Goans Party that came to “the realisation that the future of the people of Goa should be decided once and for all”. The deputy chairman pointed out that the leader of the UGP had been opposing the merger for a very long time. On May 6, 1966 he had apparently met the prime minister and insisted that if there was to be a change in the earlier decision of having a status quo, the decision should be taken on the basis of a referendum. Hence, the Bill had been introduced “and there was no pressure as suggested by some people”.
He submitted the opinion poll was not the same as a general election, as envisaged in this Bill, because a general election was held every five years but an “opinion poll whether a territory should merge with a state or whether it should remain a separate entity is a vital matter in deciding the future of this territory itself”. He felt that Bill should not have been restricted only to the electors of Goa, who have residential qualifications, as there were more than 80,000 people in Mumbai who were deprived of this right. He also asked why, though the UGP leader had made a representation to the Prime Minister in May, the Bill was introduced in the House in December. He also asked if a simple majority could determine the future of a state. “Is it fair on our part to take that view? Why should only 50 percent of the electors decide whether to remain as a separate entity or to merge with Maharashtra?” He further supported the views that were expressed by chief minister of Mysore that the percentage should be 75% rather than 50%. He also hoped that all Goans who resided outside Goa should be entitled to vote in this opinion poll and “they should not be left out whether they have registered themselves within six months or not”.
- Sri Rama Reddy opined that Goa’s future should be determined by the people of Goa, whether they resided there or not. “It should be the primary concern of the people of Goa and not the people of Maharashtra or Mysore or any other part of this country”. Reddy referred to a statement that was made by the chief minister of Mysore in a memorandum that was submitted to the Government of India. He argued that Konkani was a different language by itself and that the people of Goa who spoke this language had their own characteristics and culture. Reddy questioned why a separate state, under the States Reorganisation Act on the basis of language, was not considered. “If the Konkanese-speaking people want a separate state for themselves, it is not proper for this Parliament or the government to deny that right to them”.
- S. Gurupada Swamy of Mysore vociferously opined that all major political decisions were taken on the basis of political assessments and judgments on the basis of the recommendations of several commissions and committees. He felt that though an “extraneous factor” like an opinion poll appeared very democratic and progressive, it was like “sowing a dangerous seed in the body politic… to settle various other parochial issues”. “There is nothing in the Constitution which says that opinion poll may be permissible to settle regional disputes, regional claims and counter-claims, and there is no place for an opinion poll at all in the Constitution.” Further, “there is a section of Goans which is not reconciled to an opinion poll at all.”
- M. Dharia felt that Goa should be merged in Maharashtra, not because “it is the claim of Maharashtra, but because it is the claim of the people of Goa itself.” Dharia drew the attention of the House to the results of the elections of 1964 where the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party secured 44% and the Congress got only 16% of the votes. In its manifesto, the Congress had made it absolutely clear that whether Goa should be merged into the adjoining state of Maharashtra or whether it should be a separate union territory, would be decided according “to the desires of the people of Goa.” He alleged that, at the time of the assembly elections in Goa, he observed that several prominent Congress workers were on the verge of leaving because they were of the view that “Goa should be immediately merged in Maharashtra” and even brought forward a motion of no confidence against Purushottam Kakodkar. He also said that some independents categorically stated in their manifesto to the electorate that they were pro-merger. “If we count those votes, we find that nearly 60% or more were then polled by the people for the merger of Goa in Maharashtra… When it has been made absolutely clear by the people of Goa, there was no need at all for having a sort of opinion poll bill”.
Lokanath Misra of Orissa pointed out that Dharia, being the general secretary of the Maharashtra Congress Committee, should have respected 56 percent of the opinion that was expressed in the country against the Congress instead of wanting the House to respect an opinion that was expressed during the last election “that suits his purpose”.
- P Chatterjee of West Bengal condemned Dharia on his statement that the question of merger was already settled. He further queried if the principal language that is spoken is Konkani, “Why there should not have been an opinion poll also on this question whether the people of Goa should choose the form of a separate state? Now, I do not understand why actually the other opinion also was not placed before them for the purpose of their own determination whether they are ready or willing to form a separate state within the Indian union”.
Shakuntalta Paranjpye wondered why, if the Portuguese official gazette was published in Marathi, the territory was not merged with Maharashtra earlier. She also questioned if the ruling government would have been asked to resign if it was a Congress ministry. She argued that Marathi was the language of Goans and also found it strange that Goans outside Goa wanted to vote when they didn’t want to even admit they were Indian.
Reddy again raised the attention of the House to the assurances that were given by Nehru who said, “We have made it clear that we want Goa to maintain its separate identity.” Reddy further pointed that Nehru had said, “A number of people know Marathi as well and also Kannada but Konkani is the principal language and we propose to give it full recognition.” Reddy wanted to know “…Are we giving full recognition to the Konkani language by merging it with Maharashtra?” Reddy pointed out that Dharia had stated that the 1963 elections were pro-merger but he quoted a report by the Government of India that “As for the rest, we find that although this was an issue fought in the recent elections, there is no majority opinion in favour of merger.”
M.N. Govindan Nair averred that, as far as the merger of Goa was concerned, one of the claimants was Maharashtra. He added that the people were afraid of Maharashtrians, especially of the Shiv Sena that “is a very parochial organisation; it wants to drive out other sections of the people from Bombay and Maharashtra”. Yet, he said it did not mean that a territory which was formerly a part of the state should not merge with it. Regarding the question of language, Nair pointed out that Konkani was spoken in Goa and in other places up to Mangalore as well as in Bombay; the Speaker added Cochin to the list. Nair debated that if Konkani was accepted as a dialect of Marathi, Goa should go to Maharashtra and if it was a dialect of Kannada, it should go to Mysore. He pointed out that Nijalingappa and Rama Reddy felt that Goa was a small state and, if it became a part of Mysore, the port could be developed and compete with Mumbai. He opined that if the majority of Goans wanted to merge with Mysore, they should be given the choice to.
M.C. Shah of Gujarat raised his own doubts about the Bill. He was apprehensive that asking people to decide on such important issues would lead to chaos. He felt the government was, instead, shirking its responsibility to make decisions by proposing to hold a poll. He also supported Nair’s suggestion that Goans should be given the choice to stand-alone or merge with either Maharashtra or Mysore.
B.K. Gaikwad opposed Chatterjee’s proposition to make Goa a state saying it was too small in population, area and income. V.C. Shukla interrupted and asked the MPs to restrict the debate to the creation of a machinery to ascertain the wishes of the people; the bill itself would not determine the future of the area. He justified having moved and passed the bill in the Lok Sabha saying there was a sufficient quorum present. He clarified that all those who were ordinarily residents of Goa would be allowed to vote. He said that, according to the House, anybody who lived and worked in Goa, regardless of his nativity, was a Goan and would be given a chance to vote. Regarding allegations that the government was trying to rush through the bill, he said that there was no attempt to hasten the process. Shukla argued that the decision to determine the future status of the union territory was “left to the discretion of the government”. Shukla claimed that, after the election in Goa, there was persistent pressure from Goans to make a final decision about their status. Shukla claimed that this was what prompted the government to propose the bill. He also clarified that the MGP government had opted to resign and was not forced to do so. Shukla did not want to be drawn into the debate on language and merely stated that he wanted the poll to give Goans an opportunity to let their feelings be known.
At this juncture, the Deputy Chairman put the amendments to vote. The first amendment was to refer the bill to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha. The motion was denied. He proceeded to the second motion, which was to take the Bill into consideration. The motion was adopted. The clause-by-clause consideration of the bill was then taken up. Patel moved that the following lines be inserted: “‘Goan’ means a person born in Goa, Daman and Diu who became a citizen of India on the 20th day of December 1961 by virtue of the provisions of the Goa, Daman and Diu (Citizenship) Order, 1962.” The amendment was also proposed by Loknath Mishra. The motion was denied. Thus, Clause 2 stood as part of the bill. With regard to Clause 3, A.P. Chatterjee moved “After the words ‘union territory’ the words ‘or should form a new state be inserted.” He also moved “That at page 3, line 7, after the words ‘union territory’ the words ‘or should form a separate state’ be inserted.” N. Sri Rama Reddy moved “That page 3, line 3, after the word ‘Maharashtra’ the words ‘or Mysore’ be inserted.” Chatterjee wanted Goans to choose if they wanted to form a separate state while Reddy wanted Goans to have a choice between Maharashtra and Mysore. Both motions were ‘negatived’ or denied.
While discussing Clause 4, relating to the persons entitle to vote, Patel proposed an amendment: “That at page 3, lines 9-10, the words ‘and no other person’ be deleted”; “That at page 3, after line 11, the following Proviso be inserted, namely “Provided that all those persons who are Goanese but whose names are not included in the electoral roll of an assembly constituency for the time being in force in Goa by reason only of their not being ordinarily resident in Goa, shall be entitled to vote’”; “That at page 3, line 13, the words ‘and no other person’ be deleted”. The amendment was negated.
Another amendment was moved: “That at page 4, line 2, for the words ‘an officer of Government’ the words ‘an officer of the Central Government, not being an officer on deputation with the Administration of Goa, Daman and Diu’ be substituted.” Patel explained that, since most of the people in the country were illiterate, the officers in charge of the polls played an important role. For the sake of fair and free elections, he demanded that the officers should be neither from Maharashtra nor from any of the neighbouring states. Shukla refused to accept the amendment stating that only 280 of the 10,000 officers posted in Goa were Maharashtrian. The motion was negated.
Finally Shukla moved that the bill be passed. Niren Ghosh asked why the Congress government did not apply the same principle to the rest of India. He asked why similar polls were not proposed to be held in Bihar, Assam, Pondicherry and Kashmir. Shukla replied that the Opinion Poll in Goa was a question of internal adjustment that the government was trying to achieve and had nothing to do with Kashmir. The bill was then taken up for vote and passed.5
In this manner, the Bill was thrust upon Goans and non Goans by the central government. There were many flaws in the legislations that were enacted to assess the opinion of the people. It was a hurried enactment that was rushed through Parliament with undue haste; a simple majority was to decide the issue6. By conceding to the request of Chavan and Naik, at the cost of dismissing the appeals of the Anti-Merger Front and the territorial Congress, both the CPB and government of India showed that they preferred to appease the former rather than pay any heed to the ‘voice of justice’7. In fact, after its formation, the Front had sent a message to Indira Gandhi protesting against the non acceptance of the demands of the anti merger forces and warned her that “the political atmosphere in the territory would be vitiated if the demands were not granted”.8
The notification for the Goa, Daman and Diu Opinion poll Act (No. 38 of 1966) received the assent of the president on December 11, 1966. The Chief Election Commissioner informed the press that the poll was proposed to be held around about the “middle of January next year, so that there was enough time between the poll and the general elections”.
On December 12, the following orders were published by the Chief Election Commissioner of India for general information: “Under section 7 of the Goa, Daman and Diu (opinion poll) Act 1966, I hereby nominate (I) Shri DK Das, Collector of Goa, to be the Opinion Poll Commissioner in relation to the Opinion Poll in Goa, and (II) Shri HK Khan, Collector of Daman and Diu, Collector of Goa, to be the Opinion Poll Commissioner in relation to the Opinion Poll in Daman and Diu.” The order was signed by the CEC, K.V.K. Sundaram.9
Another order was issued on December 12, 1966 by the CEC, under section 8 of the Act. R.K. Gupta, deputy secretary of the Planning and Development Department, Goa was appointed to assist the Opinion Poll Commissioner, Goa while M.S. Bijlani, Civil Administrator, Diu was appointed to assist the OPC of Daman and Diu.10
The UGP welcomed the Goa Daman & Diu (Opinion Poll) Act to hold a referendum to decide on the contentious issue of whether Goa should retain its distinct identity or merge with Maharashtra. But the top leadership of the UGP, particularly its founder Dr Alvaro de Loyola Furtado, was very disappointed with the options offered to the people of Goa. When the UGP was formed, the principle objective was to secure full-fledged statehood for Goa. Soon after the notification of the Goa Daman & Diu Opinion Poll Act on December 11, 1966, the Executive Committee of the UGP held a meeting at which it was decided to make a representation to the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi, that the options under the Opinion Poll should be either merger with Maharashtra or full-fledged statehood for Goa.
The party decided to depute Jack Sequeira to convey its very strong views on the subject to the top leaders of the Congress party at a meeting of the All India Congress Committee that was to be held in Bangalore. At the meeting, however, Jack Sequeira was apparently persuaded by the top leadership of the Congress party that it was premature to consider full fledged statehood. It was also reportedly pointed out to Jack Sequeira, by the then General Secretary of the AICC, S.K. Patil, that given the strong opposition from the Maharashtra lobby, it would be politically unwise for the UGP to persist with the demand for statehood as an alternative to the status quo of union territory. Documents in the position of Dr Max Furtado, son of Dr Alvaro de Loyola Furtado, revealed that Jack Sequeira succumbed to the pressure from senior Congress leaders and, without taking his party colleagues into confidence, dropped the demand for statehood as an alternative to merger with Maharashtra.
It was this unilateral decision by Jack Sequeira that led to a vertical split in the UGP into the Furtado faction and Sequeira faction. Though both factions worked very hard to defeat the designs of Maharashtrian leaders to merge Goa with Maharashtra and the split did not affect the UGP’s campaign against merger, it had long term consequences. But for the split in the UGP, the party which had secured 12 seats in the first elections to the Legislative Assembly of the union territory of Goa could have prevented the MGP from returning to power in the post Opinion Poll Election. Indeed if both the UGP factions had come together and accepted the offer of the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee to fight the post Opinion Poll Election jointly, the united UGP may even have succeeded in forming the government. The split cost the party dearly as, in the post Opinion Poll election, both the factions together could secure only eight seats as against the 12 seats the united UGP had won in the first elections.
Dr Alvaro de Loyola Furtado strongly believed that maintaining status quo would favour the pro merger forces. The merger lobby would be encouraged to reopen the issue of merger as status quo would be a transitional and ambivalent situation. Angered over the decision of the Congress High command not to accept his demand for statehood as an alternative to merger, Dr Furtado challenged the Opinion Poll Act in the Supreme Court on the grounds that it contravened Article 3 of the Constitution. He contended that the Act was a malafide legislation “that was unconstitutional, illegal and void and of no affect in law as the passing of such an Act was outside the competence of parliament. Dr Furtado argued that there was no provision in the constitution to give the people power to decide the future of the union territory.11 The counsel for the petitioners contended that by giving the alternatives of merger and union territory, the rights of Goans who wanted a separate state was infringed upon.
A linked petition was filed under Articles 14 and 32 of the Constitution by five Goans who resided outside Goa, including Pio Fernandes, a freedom fighter, stating that “there was no condition in the Constitution of India that permits the conduct of an opinion poll anywhere in the country and hence, the Parliament cannot pass such an Act”.12
The Judicial Commissioner, V.S. Jaitley, admitted the petition and issued telephonic summons to the Union of India, the CEC and the Opinion Poll Commissioner. Admitting the writ petition, Justice Subba Rao issued notices to the Union of India, Election Commission and the Poll Commissioner to show cause why the Act should not be declared as null and void and a writ of mandamus declaring that the respondents cannot go ahead with the conduct of the Poll. Jaitley dismissed the writ petition on grounds that the appellant had not produced their views according to Section 14 of the Constitution and the Act was formulated on the basis of Section 246(A) of Article 979 of the Constitution13. Further, the Parliament was competent to legislate the bill as per Entry 97 of the Union List read with Article 248 and in a union territory as per Article 3 of the Constitution.
In January, the Supreme Court granted special leave to Dr Loyola Furtado to appeal against the Order at the Delhi High Court dismissing the writ petition that challenged the Opinion Poll Act and posted the appeal for hearing on February 14. The High Court dismissed both the writ petition and leave to appeal. The acting Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court stated that the Goa Opinion Poll Act had not violated Sections 3 and 4 of the Constitution and the petitioner had not cited practical reasons to object to the Act15. But, S.K.V Ayyangar, the Counsel for Dr Furtado, sought a special leave petition before the Supreme Court.16
The demand of Goans in Mumbai, Kolkata and other parts of India to be permitted to participate in the polls was a very legitimate plea as emigrant Goans, particularly in Mumbai, had spearheaded the liberation movement and Nehru had accepted their voice as the voice of the people of Goa who were unable to express themselves, for obvious reasons. Goans in India were not treated as Indians but Portuguese subjects and hence their names (except for a few) did not figure on the electoral rolls of the general elections. The Opinion Poll was a means through which the government of India wanted to know whether Goans wanted merger with Maharashtra or not.
In the meanwhile, the president had accepted the Bandodkar-led ministry’s resignation on December 3, 1966 and ordered presidential rule for a period of six months and asserted “I have come to this decision only after studying the reports made by the administrators of the union territory.17” Bandodkar announced, in Delhi, that he resigned as he was fully convinced that merger was in the best interest of the people of Goa18. It was opined that there was no pressure from the Centre as Bandodkar had voluntarily resigned. Earlier, at many public meetings, Bandodkar had confessed that he was a stranger to politics and that he was only a stopgap chief minister waiting to hand over the affairs of the new born territory to Maharashtra. The other ministers of the MGP gave the impression that they wanted to present Goa with its vast untapped potential to Maharashtra on a platter. 19
Speaking to reporters, a confident Bandodkar stated “in this historic Opinion Poll, majority of the people of Goa will vote for the merger.” He further stated the best option was “to get merged with Maharashtra. I had promised the late Lal Bahadur Sashtri, the then prime minister, that I will resign from the post before the Opinion Poll. Now I am happy that I have fulfilled this promise. Basically, I am of the opinion that whatever differences are there in Goa, are not between the pro-merger and anti-merger differences. We are fighting against the anti-India, anti-secular and anti-social elements that prevail in certain section of Goa … some people raised the demand of separate Goa and say Goa is of the Goans and not for the non Goans. But if we apply the same logic to Bombay, where here are a large number of Goans living, can the opposition dare to think about the ill consequences of their policy? In the last three years, I observed and studied this issue. Because of the union territory (status), Goa has suffered a lot. For every small development project, we are forced to beg. The central government has just been playing the game of politics. It has nothing to do about the development of Goa. The idea of merger was originated from the dream of getting remerged with India after 450 dreadful years.”20
Speaking on the matter, Loknath Mishra of Swantantra Party said, “We welcome the decision taken by Bandodkar to resign and pave the way for the free and fair opinion poll. Now the Governor of Goa, who hails from the state of Maharashtra, should be transferred”. Replying to the issue raised by Mishra, T.S. Naskar stated “We will give a second thought to the suggestion given by Mishra. But, as this opinion poll will be conducted by the Election Commission of India, whoever the governor is at the time will have no direct role and will, in no way, play the role of any type of pressure centre”. Naskar specified that “there was no pressure from the Centre. Mr. Bandodkar himself offered his resignation in an effort to create a conducive environment to conduct free and fair Opinion Poll.”21
The MGP cadres and their Maharashtrian patrons were unhappy over what they perceived as “the forced resignation” of the chief minister. On the day the Chief Election Commissioner, K.V.K Sundaram, visited Goa to review the preparations for the Opinion Poll and Lok Sabha Polls22, there was strong condemnation of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi and home minister Y.B. Chavan “for making Bandodkar a scapegoat”23 in the run up to the Opinion Poll.
On January 8, 1967, the CEC Sundaram declared the schedule of the Opinion Poll at a press conference. It was scheduled for January 15, 1967. Counting would commence on January and extend to the next day, if needed. The number of total voters was declared as 3,28,113 and there would be 242 booths.
On February 3, the question of Goa’s merger with Maharashtra was discussed by V.P. Naik, D.S. Dessai and G. Nanda in Mumbai. The chief minister of Maharashtra, confident of the victory of the pro-merger forces, stated, “We will have an opportunity to welcome Goa into Maharashtra very soon.” On the next day, Bandodkar stated that the day when Goa was merged in Maharashtra would be considered “a day of celebration”. At a reception and mammoth public meeting of different political parties at Shivaji Park, under the auspices of the Goa Vinikaran Sahayak Samiti (GVSS), Bandodkar was given a lavan diya as a symbol of Maharashtra. In his five minute speech, Bandodkar welcomed the efforts of all the parties and persons involved in the merger. The speakers praised him for resigning from office. Bandodkar’s services to the cause of liberation and merger were eulogised by Nath Pai, Anant Kanekar, S.G. Sardessai (Com), Prabhakar Patvardhan (JS), B.N. Rajhans (SSP), S.S. Kavlekar, G.N.P. Pendse (Samiti), Balarao Savarkar (HMS), S.S. Sawant (Samiti PWP), Vinayak Bhave, Senapati Bapat, B.P. Divgi, D.S. Dessai, P.K. Atre, T.S. Tilak, V.R. Pandit, U.N. Naik and Leon D’Souza. Atre announced the formation of the GVSS to bring about the speedy merger of Goa with Maharashtra and warned the union government: “if Goa was not merged in Maharashtra by May 10, the responsibility for future events and repercussions would be its own.24”
As part of the pro-merger campaign, the Maharashtra government headed by V.P. Naik made several promises to allay the Goans’ fears about merger. Apart from appropriate changes in prohibition policies, the economic policy package in respect to Goa included the acceleration of the development of Goa and the full implementation of the approved 4th Plan of Goa, for which a provision of above Rs. 40 crore had been made. The government also promised: to encourage Konkani and give it equal treatment as Marathi; to protect the pay scales and service conditions of employees and efforts would be made to avoid any hardship that might result from their absorption into the various services to the state of Maharashtra. The Maharashtra government also claimed that the policies formulated by the MGP government with respect to grant-in-aid salaries of teachers, etc to private education would be continued undisturbed.
Announcing a nine-point policy at a reception hosted by the GVSS in honour of Bandodkar, Goans were assured that the government would pay special attention to agriculture, including irrigation, power supply, horticulture, fisheries and provision of water supply to various areas, adequate facilities for technical education and vocational training and adequate employment facilities in state services. Apart from this, minority educational institutions would be allowed to function freely without discrimination as per the Constitution. All education till college and post graduation of students would be subsidised; universities would be established in Goa; all private and religious trusts and their institutions would be permitted to function freely as in Maharashtra; the backward classes were to be notified and given concessions by the government of Maharashtra. The Maharashtra government also assured Goans that a Panaji bench of the Bombay High Court would be introduced as several records in the Judicial Commissioner Court were in Portuguese and this would help expedite the disposal of cases was assured. 25
At Santa Cruz airport, Banodkar confidently assured the press that “More than 60% of the votes would be in favour of merger of Goa with Maharashtra and the efforts being made to exploit the religious sentiments of the minorities to oppose the merger will fail.”26
- 1961 Census, Vol. I – Part II C-V, pg 73.
- Proceedings of the Lok Sabha.
- Maharashtra Times, December 2, 1966.
- Prabhat, December 1, 1966.
- Proceedings of the Rajya Sabha.
- Goa Today, February 1967.
- Free Press, December 9, 1966.
- Times of India, January 5, 1967.
- Prabhat, January 5, 1967.
- Press Trust of India, December 9, 1966.
- Free Press, January 13, 1967.
- Prabhat, January 5, 1967.
- Times of India, January 4, 1967.
- Prabhat, December 4, 1966.
- Times of India, December 30, 1966.
- Free Press, January 20, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, December 4, 1966.
- Prabhat, November 24, 1966.
- Times of India, February 4, 1967.
- Times of India, February 5, 1967.
- Times of India, December 30, 1966.
Heat and Dust
THE OUTCOME OF THE POLL was expected to be a closely fought affair. Reports that reached Panaji from the interiors indicated that the campaign was in full swing by both the merger and anti merger groups; projections indicated that the percentage of voting would be higher than that of the first general elections. Poster wars, public cycle and car processions as well as public meetings were the order of the day. Apart from a few minor clashes, the general atmosphere was peaceful. In Panaji, the anti merger campaign was in full throttle and a large car-cycle procession at dusk was led by Dr Jack Sequeira, who travelled as many as 40 miles a day while the MGP concentrated on villages1. Dayanand Bandodkar visited most of the villages in the territory, covering over a 100 miles a day and assured Goans of overall development, which would be possible “only after merger”.2
Rashtramat, The Navhind Times, Goa Today, O Heraldo and A Vida advocated the cause of maintaining status quo. In the columns of these publications, the anti-merger leaders attacked ‘Maharashtrianism’ and lamented that there was no difference between Portugal imperialism and ‘Maharashtrianism’. While the Portuguese alleged Aqui é Portugal é sempre Portugal (This is Portugal and only Portugal), Maharashtra brainwashed Goans with Aqui é Maharashtra3. The anti merger forces accused the MGP of preaching to the masses that Catholics and Brahmins were the exploiters and that merging with Maharashtra was the alternative to Christian aggression and Brahmin domination4. The Gomantak, the first Marathi newspaper published by the House of Chowgules, advocated the cause of merger. In fact, most Marathi newspapers read by Hindus published Opinion Poll supplements to impress on Goans the benefits of merger. The exception was Rashtramat, the Marathi paper which supported the cause of maintaining the distinct identity of Goa.
Socio-cultural and religious organisations, both in and outside Maharashtra, were involved in this contest for identity. The Konkani Bhasha Mandal fought relentlessly to expose the misconception that Konkani was a dialect of Marathi and demanded the inclusion of Konkani in the VIII Schedule of the Constitution. Those against merger used tiatrs and songs to expose the disadvantages of merger. The tiatr Almas do Outro Mundo (Souls of the other world) warned Goans that, after merger, Goa would be swamped by Maharashtrians. Konkani tiartrists, through songs and plays urged people to oppose the merger as it would be the death of their mother tongue, Konkani.
Among the tiartists who campaigned most actively were the ‘trio’ from Vasco, Conception-Nelson-Anthony and also Rom, Rem and Rod. Their lyrics highlighted the damage that would be caused to Goa if they voted for the flower, which was the symbol of merger. Ulhas Buyao sang his heart out and, indeed, every public meeting began and ended with his songs in praise of Goan identity. Buyao, led by an army of young artists, started the Jai Gomantak Kala Pathak with Konkani powadas composed by Dr Manoharrai Sardesai, Shankar Bhandar and advocate Uday Bhembre. The response to these programmes was so overwhelming that pro-merger groups began disrupting his Jai Gomantak Kala Pathak in their stronghold areas. During this time, Ulhas Buyao performed at 75 public gatherings and meetings in 15 days with his golden voice and popular melodies: ‘Goenchea Mhojea Goenkaramno’ (Dear Goans of Goa) and ‘Channeache Rati’ (Moonlit night) that earned him the title Goem Shair (Goa’s Poet). Themes on the merger and Opinion Poll found a place in political plays like Dr Bossa, Paizanna and Sasay. Buyao used the collective noun of Goan people in Goem amchem mull pith. In his cataclysmic verses like Ghattar sav aila jogi , Bakibab Borkar recited:
Ghevan bhagavi ghuddi
Gharak chudd lavn sodta
Voddunk apli viddi.
With a saffron flagstaff in hand,
Someone’s trying to set your house on fire,
To light his beedi.
Manoharrai Sardesai was as dispirited as Bakibab and deplored the wretchedness through Jayat Jage (Wake Up), Hi Lokshay (This is democracy) and Ailo re Poll (The Poll has arrived).5 His poems Sobit amchem Goem, Khoro Goemkar, etc became very popular. Sardesai was sorely disappointed with the state of affairs prevailing, especially since he had eloquently expressed such joy after Goa was liberated in a poem:
Aiz amchem raj ailem.
Sogle ami ek zaum.
Amcho fuddar ghoddonv ami
Hoch haves aiz.
Kallkhi raat sompli az,
Mhojem, tujem ailem raj.
Bhav-bhav ek zale
Manddvichea sobit tirar.
Our day of freedom has dawned.
Hindu and Christian brothers,
Let us march forward in unity as one.
The goal today is to carve
A future of our own.
The darkness of the night is dispelled,
Your freedom and mine is born.
Brother and brother are twinned in one,
Along the beautiful banks of the Mandovi.
The Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) supported the Workers Union of India in favour of merging 1400 sq miles of land in Goa with Maharashtra. The President of INTUC-Mumbai, S.W. Dhabe, promised to request the people of Goa to vote for merger6. There is a reference to Dr Leon D’Souza, who resigned from the Congress as he felt that if Goa remained a separate union territory, it would isolate itself from social and cultural fields. Some Goans in Mumbai, who were long term settlers, had developed a special bond with Maharashtra and supported merger. As the president of the Education Committee of the Bombay Municipal Council, Leon D’Souza tried to persuade Christians of the benefits of merger. Augustus Alvares, a technical director in Mumbai, supported merger on grounds of the strong cultural, social, economic, linguistic and traditional bonds between Goa and Maharashtra. The apprehensions that Goa would lose its identity after merger were baseless and would die a natural death before the Poll, opined a senior officer, J.P. Fernandes7. The pro-merger group that met at Blavatsky Lodge under the auspices of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Mandal and the Goan Socio-cultural Association demanded immediate merger with Maharashtra8.
Dr Simon Fernandes, a former mayor of Mumbai, and others stayed out as the convenors forced every entrant to sign a pledge stating that they believed that Marathi was the language of Goa and that Goa should be merged with Maharashtra. The meeting passed a resolution that it was unjust on the part of the Congress High Command to postpone the decision on merger, against the wishes of Goans. According to them, “Goa’s merger was a challenge to democratic parties and forces in the country as political instability was not conducive to progress – economic or otherwise. Similar statements were voiced by Baburao Patel and Sevigne Athaide, who were popular in Maharashtra, but generally unknown to Goa10. In another meeting in Mumbai, V.P. Naik lamented that it pained him to see that some Catholic Goans who were elected to positions of honour by people of Mumbai were “trying to create doubts among the Catholic brethren in Goa” and hoped that they would convince their co-religionists to vote for merger with Maharashtra.11 The pro-merger Goans in Mumbai submitted a six-point memorandum to the Maharashtra government, through the president of the Goa Maharashtra Merger Front, Melicio Fernandes. The memorandum demanded the fulfilment of promises made by Naik and the state home minister, D.S. Dessai, if Goa merged with Maharashtra12. On December 29, 1966, the Goa Maharashtra Merger Committee demanded that Maharashtra should clarify its stand on Goa and its merger designs. The panel met the chief minister and the home minister, requesting them to clarify the government’s policy and asked that the Liquor Ban Act not be imposed in Goa13. The Merger Committee President, Dattaram Dessai, V.N. Lawande and Narayan Desai met the chief minister and submitted a letter with their demands: protect the interests of government employees with regard to pay scales and promotions; give Goa a special place in the five-year Development Plan and give Goa due representation in the state cabinet.
Not all Maharashtrians supported the demand for merger. In fact, the leader of the Navidharbha movement, Bapuji Anne, wrote a letter to Chandrakant Keni underlying his support to retaining Goa’s separate identity14. An eminent educationist, Armando Menezes – addressing delegates at the Goa, Daman and Diu Anti Merger Convention at Nehru Nagar in Bangalore – reiterated, “Goans are to be conquered once more in the name of liberation.15” Protesting against merger and the planned obliteration of the mother tongue Konkani, the argument that Goa was a part of Maharashtra was condemned as a wanton assassination of elementary history. The debate that Konkani was a dialect was frivolous as “dialect was a language in the process of formation.”16
The vehemence with which the ‘War of Propaganda’ was waged on communal lines made it difficult for political experts to predict the outcome of the Poll17. Ironically, hand in hand with freedom came the tyranny of words and slogans which reduced freedom to a near farce. Since liberation, words of discord have destroyed ancient harmony in the body with the virus of communalism, ‘linguism’ and blind antagonism. ‘Konkaniwadi’, ‘Marathiwadi’, ‘Goa for Goans’, ‘Zalach pahije’, ‘merger’, ‘non merger’, ‘anti merger’: it was a free for all with these words18. A rebel Congress leader estimated that if the pro merger group’s entire following voted, they would win by 10,000-20,000 votes. Others indicated that, in view of the alleged failure of the Bandodkar ministry to keep promises to the electorate, it was difficult to predict the outcome19. Party leaders speculated that whoever secured 1.5 lakh votes would tilt the balance and win the poll as they anticipated an 80% turnout. The size of the Hindu vote was 2.6 lakhs and the combined strength of the Christian and Muslim votes was around 1.7 lakhs20.
The Secretary of the MGP, M.S. Prabhu, estimated that the verdict would be 65% of the votes in favour of integration with Maharashtra while Dr Sequeira projected a smashing victory in favour of maintaining status quo at 70-75% votes. Congressman A. Karmarkar put the anti-merger vote at a modest 55-60%21. Bandodkar, who was confident of victory, estimated 65% votes in favour of merger22. Since the women outnumbered the men and constituted 65% of the electorate, they were expected to influence the results to a great extent. Nath Pai was confident that the Maharashtrawadis would win and that Goa would be a part of Maharashtra as they had aggressively addressed every concern and question raised by the Opposition over the merger23. Though both the parties publicly claimed that they would poll 60% of the votes, nobody was confident of getting at least a 40% share as leaders from the MGP had unofficially stated: “There is a chunk of 15% voters which may go anywhere.”24
The anti merger group expected that the large number of 15,000 Brahmins would vote against merger whereas government officials and their wives (10,000 of them) were expected to vote for merger. The biggest question mark lay over the votes of the estimated 30,000 Goudis and landless labourers who benefited from the tenancy legislations, fishermen and toddy tappers (of which a substantial number were Christians) who were traditionally treated as virtual untouchables by high class Christians. The Times of India argued that if the electorate voted on communal lines, considering that Hindus constituted about 60% of the total population and pro merger group would win the poll. To win the poll, the anti-merger groups had to gain substantial Hindu votes in addition to Christian ones. Considering the fact that 28,000 fresh voters were added to the electoral roll, it was difficult to predict the outcome as their likely political leanings “are not known”.25
As far as national policy towards the poll was concerned, the Congress had already made its stand clear on May 15, 1966 in Margao when it resolved: “…WHEREAS the status of union territory does not fully meet the just and legitimate aspirations of the people of this territory…WHEREAS in the census held in this territory in 1960, 97% of the people have declared that KONKANI was their mother tongue; WHEREAS the mineral and industrial potentialities, the agricultural, fishery and forest resources, the major port of Marmagao make the territory a unit that is economically viable; WHEREAS the full development of the personality of the people of this territory can take place in no other set up than in a full-fledged state; NOW therefore, the people of this territory…demand that the Government of India take such steps as are necessary to make this territory a full-fledged state of the Union”.26
A similar resolution was passed by the All Goa Women’s Political Conference that was held on the previous day. Among the other demands, the resolution banked on the “sacred and solemn pre and post liberation pledges and assurances of the union government that the erstwhile possessions of Portugal would be maintained as a separate unit or entity are firm and irrevocable. But, as four years have already lapsed and no permanent solution has yet emerged and by far the greater number of its population firmly desire that a full-fledged state be created— which fact can only be ascertained by means of a plebiscite or referendum and definitely not by elections—since only in such an administrative unit and in no other can there be a full development of their personality”.27
Despite the ban on official participation in the campaign, imposed by the Congress president, the Goa Territorial Congress did all it could to campaign against merger28. K. Kamaraj and Sadique Ali declared that the Congress had to remain neutral in the Poll, but Mohan Dharia was adamant that Congress leaders from Goa had to take a clear stand lest the public get wrong signals, particularly since 21 of the 28 members of the Goa Congress Working Committee gave the merger their nod29. In a letter to Kamaraj and Sadique Ali, Kakodkar complained about the objectionable interference of the leaders of the Maharashtra Congress as it would promote indiscipline and send wrong signals to Congress workers30.
The anti-merger group complained of interference from the state of Maharashtra; it alleged that its members offered inducements to people to vote for merger and that money for the merger campaign had been pouring in from Maharashtra. The pro merger group hit back with accusations of the alleged involvement of the church, calling it the best organised institution on the side of the anti-merger faction31. Nath Pai complained against the Church for freely distributing American wheat flour in certain areas in Sattari against cards before the Polls and, having verified facts, he found that the cards were issued only to those who would vote for ‘two leaves’ or ‘don pannam’, the symbol for maintaining status quo32. It was alleged that pro-Portuguese forces like the comprados, landlords and the Roman Catholic Church was behind the anti-merger movement and the pro merger leaders argued that it was a movement for a separate Catholic nation33. In his speeches at Kholapur, Pune, Sangli and Mumbai, Bandodkar unconsciously created an animus against Maharashtra by his statements against Catholics. V.N. Lawande and P.P. Shirodkar felt that his statements nailed the coffin of merger. If his speeches antagonised Catholics, his governance of three years dug the grave of his own pretensions.
People in the New Conquest areas were beguiled into believing that a vote for the MGP would place them in possession of the fields they sowed and the property on which their houses stood34. The propaganda that Goa would lose its individuality and identity appealed to Goans and the catchy slogans ‘Amchem Goem Amkam Zai’ (We want our Goa), ‘Goemchem separate Raj’ (Separate rule for Goa), ‘Goem Konachem…Goemkarachem’ (Goa belongs to whom… Goans), ‘Amkam naka Maharashtrachi Shrikandpuri’ (We don’t want Maharashtra’s shrikhand-puri); ‘Amkam zai Geoemchi xit-coddi’ (We want Goa’s rice-curry), ‘Goa for Goans’, ‘Merger never…Goa forever’ were very effective.
Despite their differences, all the anti-merger members, cutting across party lines and community and caste barriers, worked together. The well organised efforts of the GPCC, UGP and the Anti-Merger Front had nothing in common, except the zeal to preserve Goan individuality35.
How deeply the people were divided was dramatised by an incident. Dr Sequeira was supposed to address a meeting at Sanquelim and since he was expected to come by the Amona ferryboat, Sadanand Kanekar, Balaji Bodke, Vasant Pokle, Shantaram Poojari and Sadanand Kutarkar went to receive him. As the ferryboat arrived, members of the pro merger groups shouted, “Go back Dr Jack Sequeira” and the situation became tense. Dr Sequeira did not move. Instead, he shouted “Goem Konnachem…Goemkaranchem”. Within a short time, five pick-ups of anti-merger protagonists arrived on the scene with police, in defence of Sequeira36.
On November 20, 1967, Dr Sequeira was the speaker at a public meeting at Dramapur, Cuncolinm and Velim, during which he explained the benefits Goans would derive if Goa remained a separate administrative entity. At a meeting of the UGP in Panaji, there was a demand for voting rights for Goans, wherever they lived37. They repeatedly charged Bandodkar of being constantly away from the seat of government and pointed out his frequent ‘pilgrimages’ to Mumbai and his inability to promote the economic progress of Goa38. The MGP was blamed for Goa’s slow development39. Dr. Sequeira alleged that Maharashtra was pressing men, money and material, including goonda elements to boost the merger campaign.40
Several contestants issued pamphlets in their individual capacity or on behalf of the party. Leo Velho, who had contested the first general elections from the Navelim constituency, accused the MGP government of political instability and made promises of a responsible government, mutual tenancy legislation, ration of 150 gs per head by importing food grains from neighbouring states, concession to tillers to increase agriculture productions, improvement in the conditions of rural people, etc. Another pamphlet titled “Motaim zaunchinam nhuim mhunn tharavnne zaunchinam zor tor…”(It will neither garner votes nor will any decision be taken) clarified that, in keeping with the spirit of democracy, Goans had the right to choose their status, but the UGP demanded they be given three options: union territory, separate state or merger. Moreover, the UGP argued that the Opinion Poll was not a simple poll and, therefore, it was important to have two-third majority. Thus, they argued, all Goans had to be included in the roll, irrespective of where they lived. For this to be achieved, they also felt a new electoral roll had to be prepared, excluding officers deputed from other states.
With a week to go before the polls, campaigning for and against merger entered an intensive phase with political meetings, press conferences and campaigns41. The MGP issued pamphlets that focused on the economic benefits of merger. In the pro-merger strongholds, an appeal was made to Hindu sentiments. The MGP spread the word that merger meant the meeting of Shantadurga and Bhavani, the family deity of Shivaj42. Bandodkar appealed to the Maharashtra Vilinikaran Samiti to send volunteers to Goa to canvas for merger. The All Party Goa Merger Committee was constituted under the president of the BPCC, P.G. Kher, in Mumbai to rally mass opinion in favour of merger and to launch a mass campaign to convince the Goans in Maharashtra of the benefits of merger. It led a batch of 100 volunteers, who were seen off at the ferry wharf by Kher, Acharya Atre, Vasantrao Patil and S.K. Kulkarni43. In Panaji, the government of Maharashtra opened the Maharashtra Parichaya Kendra a few weeks before the poll with the objective of disseminating information on the advisability of merger while the Information Department of Maharashtra issued pamphlets and handouts and outlined the assurances given to the people if they opted in favour of merger.44
On Sunday, there was a fight between workers of the two groups in Ponda, Mardol and other areas in which six workers of the MGP were arrested and bazaars in these areas were closed. As a protest against this, hundreds of people gathered outside the police station, but the police refused to grant bail. In Panaji, three cars of the MGP were stoned in which a party worker, Balakrishna Shirodkar, was injured. A truck carrying a torch symbolising a union territory statue was passing through Mapusa when rival campaigners staged a mock funeral and obstructed its way. Campaign motorcades, cycle processions, single taxis, vans and private cars equipped with loud speakers and posters went around publicising their respective causes. Some volunteers even had symbols of the cause they supported embroidered on their shirts. Posters and paintings with rival symbols were plastered on the walls in the remotest villages in Goa. There is a reference to a ‘poster war’ where posters with the symbol of the flower were found with the flower erased and only two leaves at the base.45
In Gogol, the pro-merger faction obstructed the campaign rally of the UGP, beat the driver, snatched the party flag and tore it. Similar incidents of violence were reported from Margao and St. Cruz, where the situation was tense on account of the people who were opposing merger46. In Mayem, two groups of the same party clashed. In Bhatlem, people stoned an office. In some parts of Panaji, people burnt hoardings and banners of the MGP. In Vasco, 14 were arrested47. At a public meeting at Lohia Maidan, stones were pelted by the Opposition from the Communidade building when Mohan Dharia was addressing a public meeting. Seven people, including four policemen under DySP Dhaigude were wounded and nine were arrested48. Volunteers, cultural groups, shahirs and kalapathaks from Maharashtra participated in the campaign for merger. The powadas and shahirs of Amar Shaikh made a clear appeal for merger49.
Sanquelim was a pro-merger stronghold. In fact, many villagers had visited Maharashtra under the Maharashtra Darshan Scheme of the Government of Maharashtra. On the occasion of Datta Jayanti in Sanquelim, the pro-merger group organised a programme during which Amar Sheikh referred to Goans as “14 Karats”. The people were furious and, almost immediately, a public meeting was addressed by Shankar Bhandhari, following which the enraged people ran towards Amar Sheikh, who was forced to move away under police protection50. In Cuncolim, Shabu Dessai, a staunch anti-merger activist, organised a Sangha Pradesh Jyot, starting from Fatorpa and covering Canacona, Sanvordem, Panchawadi, Mhapa, Shiroda, Ponda, Madkai, Panaji, Mandrem, Pernem, Mapusa, Siolim, Patradevi, Bicholim, Sanquelim, Sattari, Kudtari and Margao. Shabu Dessai invoked the blessings of Shri Shantadurga, whose image was a part of the procession to save Goa from pro merger forces51. The Puegeot of Vassudev Sarmalkar and the land rover jeeps of the Sequeiras’ were rammed into service.
Pro merger chants could be heard in synchronisation with claps as farmers, mundkars and workers joined hands in their mission to ‘free Goa… and large processions and public meetings boosted the confidence of the Maharashtrawadis’52. Bandodkar was hailed as the champion of the merger53 and complimented for having carried forward the work of Shivaji and Sambhaji. The merger was projected as a dream of the people of Maharashtra and the majority of Goans who “after a long period of 450 years can become a part of India in the true sense.”54
Interestingly, the MPCC kept Opposition Poll leaders like Acharya Atre, Jayantrao Tilak, S.M. Joshi and Shirubhav Limaye out of the Goa campaign. Instead, Mohan Dharia, who had lost his deposit more than 20 times in Maharashtra, was entrusted with the organisation of the Goa campaign. Since Y.B. Chavan and V.P. Naik had lost credibility, it was up to the common people of Maharashtra to tell the Congress that if Goa merged with Maharashtra, it would enjoy power otherwise it would be ‘thrown out’55. The MGP claimed that the Centre had created bottlenecks in the implementation of various projects. Humour and restraint were conspicuous in campaigning by both groups. The popular slogan was ‘zalach paije’ (it should happen). The general question was ‘Tumchem mot konak’ (who’s your vote for), to which they said ‘amchem mot gulabachya fulakuch’ (our vote only for the rose flower), while the anti-merger protagonists said, “Arre patrao, amchem mot don pannakuch re baba’ (Hey boss, our vote’s only for two leaves).
Some literati like R.V. Pandit condemned the anti-merger leaders of the Congress saying they were sidelining the proactive MGP, thus hampering Goa’s development of Goa56. Nath Pai stated that the Maharashtrawadis were going to win and Goa would be a part of Maharashtra as they campaigned in an aggressive mood: “This time, we have worked out every policy on every concern and question raised by the opposition over the merger”57. The pro merger group relied on small pockets of vested interests like Marathi teachers, drivers, shopkeepers, tradesmen, Bhandaris or toddy tappers, etc. They had the strong backing of the Bahujan Samaj58. Bandodkar’s personality and innate populist style of operation, for the first time, gave the downtrodden a sense of self importance, which the traditional elite classes interpreted as vulgar insolence. They anticipated a new rule that marked a sharp break from the past quasi-feudal ethos that prevailed in Goa59. Disowning the Goa Dourada image was not enough, Goa itself was to be denied by denying the existence of a Goan regional culture. It echoed the Portuguese claim that Konkani was not a language but a useless dialect of crude toddy tappers and fishermen: a mere variant of Marathi60. The authorities were worried about how the people of Goa would take the verdict of the Poll, whichever way it went. They were busy taking precautions to see that there was no breach of the peace after the results were announced. Four days before the Poll, the police watched helplessly as MGP workers were terrorised by anti-merger workers and the former were compelled to stay at home as most of their meetings were disturbed by the latter.61
Over one month, 1200 public meetings and 800 rallies were arranged, of which 400 took place in the last week of the campaign62. On December 17, the MGP had already announced a six-point programme, but surprisingly did not stress on merger63. Bandodkar addressed 330 meetings from Dussehra to October 30 while Dr Sequeira addressed 120. Kakodkar did not address even one64. Addressing a gathering in Margao on January 13, presided over by K.D Naik, Nath Pai stated, “I am a confident Goan. I know my history and I am ready to carry the tradition of Marathi culture. Now I am ready to select my fate… I am ready to choose the symbol of flower”. In another public meeting at Panaji, he said “Flower represents the great Indian culture and traditions while the two leaves represent the section that is still mourning the demise of the Portuguese era.”65
On January 13, 1967, it was reported that the outcome of the Opinion Poll was expected to be closely fought affair. Reports reaching Panaji from the interior indicated that the campaign was in full swing by both merger and anti-merger platforms and indicated that the percentage of polling would be even higher than the last elections (70%).66
On January 11, 1967, the Election Commission conducted a mock poll to create awareness among the political parties and public about how to vote. Polling agents were permitted to go for a trial vote and were trained in the technicalities of voting procedures67. The uniqueness of the Opinion Poll was that there would be no names of candidates or party symbols. It was a faceless election68 where one of the two symbols, representing merger or union territory, had to be selected and stamped in red ink.69
- Free Press, January 14, 1967.
- Loksatta, January 16, 1967.
- A Vida, February 26, 1967.
- Maria do Ceu Rodrigues, ‘Goa’s Opinion Poll: A contest for identity’ in Remy Dias and Pius Malekandathil (ed), Goa in the 21st century: History and Culture, Institute Menezes Braganza, Panaji, 2008, pp. 243-255. She submitted a Doctoral thesis on a similar topic Goa University in 1996
- Rajay Pawar in Remy Dias and Pius Malekandathil (ed), Op. Cit, p 297.
- Maharashtra Times, January 6, 1967. On December 4, 1967, Prabhat reported that approximately 58,000 industrial workers in Goa worked on docks, in mines and fields.
- Maharashtra Times, January 15, 1967.
- Times of India, January 18, 1967.
- Free Press, January 17, 1965.
- Goa Today, February 1967.
- Times of India, December 29, 1966.
- Free Press, December 23, 1966. The memo was sent on December 22, 1966.
- Sakal, December 30, 1966.
- Pudhari, January 30, 1967.
- Free Press, April 18, 1966.
- Times of India, January 16, 1967.
- Goa Today, December 1966.
- Free Press, January 14, 1967.
- Loksatta, January 18, 1967.
- Hindustan Times, January 17, 1967.
- Times of India, January 17, 1967.
- Loksatta, January 18, 1967.
- Loksatta, January 19, 1967.
- Times of India, January 14, 1967.
- The resolution was moved by Dr Antonio Colaco, former MP, and seconded by Uday Bhembre and supported by Marcelino de Lima Leitao, Dr Simon Fernandes, Alberto da Costa, John Micheal Fernandes, Chandrakant Gaitonde, Hitler de Cuncolim and Dr Jack Sequeira. Recorded in Self Determination of Goans, Tipografia Rangel, 1966.
- At a meeting held at the same venue on May 15, 1966.
- Maharashtra Times, January 20, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, January 8, 1967.
- Pudhari, January 13, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, January 15, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, January 16, 1967.
- Maria Rodrigues, Op. Cit.
- Goa Today, February 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, January 20, 1967.
- Sadanand Kanekar, Opinion Poll, Trimurti Publications, Sankhali, June 2005.
- Goa Today, December 1966.
- Free Press, January 20, 1967.
- It was reported that a 2250 feet long bridge was yet to commence because the money that was sanctioned for the GMC and the welfare fund for freedom fighters had gone back to the Centre, the laying of a 110 KW electricity line from Dandeli to Ponda was pending etc. Bandodkar countered these arguments on grounds that the Centre was slow in sanctioning development projects for Goa and the Goa administration remained busy writing letters to the Centre.
- Times of India, January 16, 1967.
- Hindustan Times, January 10, 1967.
- Times of India, January 14, 1967.
- Free Press, January 14 1967.
- Suresh Amonkar, Goa Opinion Poll 1967: An analytical study of voting pattern, Tipographia Rangel, Bastora, Goa, 1967, p 10.
- Hindustan Times, January 17, 1967.
- Sakal and Pudhari, January 13 , 1967.
- Times of India, January 20, 1967.
- Pudhari, January 13, 1967.
- As revealed by Ravindra Kelekar.
- Sadanand Kanekar, Op. Cit.
- Sadanand Kanekar, Ibid.
- Maharashtra Times, January 15, 1967.
- Times of India, January 16, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times editorial.
- Prabhat, November 24, 1966.
- Maharashtra Times, January 7, 1967.
- Loksatta, January 19, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, January 19, 1967.
- T.R. de Souza in The Transforming of Goa, Norman Dantas.
- Newman in The Transforming of Goa, Norman Dantas.
- Times of India, January 20, 1967.
- Loksatta, January 16, 1967.
- Times of India, December 18, 1966.
- Times of India, January 19, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, January 15, 1967.
- Free Press, January 14, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, January 8, 1967.
- Suresh Amonkar, Goa Opinion Poll 1967: An analytical study of voting pattern, Tipographia Rangel, Bastora, Goa, p 15.
- Prabhat, January 14, 1967.
Day Of Reckoning
A BITTER MONTH LONG campaign came to a close at 5 pm on January 14, 1967 and calm descended on Goa after a hectic and bitter public debate for and against merger1; the loudspeakers finally went mute. Bandodkar left to offer prayers to his family deity and Sequeira attended to his personal business2. The day of the Opinion Poll was an epoch making day as it was the first time in India when its citizens were asked to give their verdict in such a democratic manner and prove that they were worthy of the trust put in them by the nation3. The Election Commission announced the final voters’ list on January 15. About 25,000 additional people had registered their names in the list after November 19664. Jawaharlal Nehru’s pledge to the territory after liberation—that the people of Goa would decide the future status of their territory—was finally redeemed on January 16, 1967. The verdict of the Poll was expected on January 18. The poll campaign ended on a Saturday, allowing the whole of Sunday for the dust and heat raised up by the poll arguments to settle, so that the poll could be conducted in a calm atmosphere on Monday5. However, volunteers of different parties were seen visiting and canvassing for votes door-to-door.6
The historical Opinion Poll got underway at 8 am in the morning of Monday, January 16, 1967 with two loud toots from the Champavati, a passenger ship anchored at Panaji-Goa, which signalled the starting of the polling process. To the surprise of polling officials, headed by the then chief election commissioner (CEC), K.V.K. Sundaram, long lines started forming even before the time for commencement of polling at the 442 polling booths that had been set up throughout Goa to enable the electorate of 3,88,000 voters to cast their vote. The polling was so brisk that, at some booths, as many as hundred votes were cast in the first hour itself. Long queues were still visible even at the end of the scheduled polling time of 5 pm, compelling electoral authorities to extend the polling time to 7 pm. In some cases, petromax lamps had to be used. In Cortalim, more than 100 voters cast their votes after 5 pm. Proprietors in Panaji had to replace waiters who went to cast their votes7. Addressing a press conference later in they say, the CEC reported that, after nine hours of polling, the percentage of voting was 80-90% or even more.8
Attendance at some booths was as high as 100%. Such was the desire to vote and impact the outcome of the Opinion Poll that an octogenarian woman from a remote village and seven patients, including two bedridden women, from a hospital made the arduous journey to the polling booth. Aged men and women as well as women dressed in traditional, festive attire were also seen. Enthusiasm for participating in the polls was so high that a 92-year-old journalist Baptist Vaz cast his vote from a wheelchair in Loutolim. A 75-year-old Bishop was also among the first to cast his vote. It was also alleged that a large group of underage seminarians from the Rachol Seminary cast their vote10. People from all walks of life thronged to the polling booths and taxi drivers had a field day ferrying people back and forth9. The CEC spent the day taking rounds of the constituencies while R.K. Gupta, the assistant poll commissioner, noted that the ‘situation was satisfactory’. While Dr Jack Sequeira cast his vote in Panaji, Dayanand Bandodkar voted at the Lyceum at Altinho11. The Champavati and Konkan Sevak transported a large number of voters to polling booths to exercise their franchise. Others came on the Sabarmati, while still others flew in to Goa from Mumbai, Delhi and as far as Nairobi to ‘perform their sacred duty’12. The polling, according to reports in the national and local media, was by and large orderly and peaceful, except for a moment of panic in a polling booth in the hilly village of Surla. So great was the enthusiasm to participate in the polling process that not only human residents of Goa, but even wildlife decided to visit polling booths. According to a report that appeared in the Times of India on January 17, 1967, the first voter at a polling booth in Surla was a panther! In Savoi-Verem, some 1,400 villagers decided to boycott the Poll as a protest against the Bandodkar ministry’s failure to construct roads linking their village to the urban areas. However, both camps successfully persuaded them to change their minds.13
Counting Day was declared a public holiday and the roads were deserted. More than 2000 policemen, including the Central Reserve Police, were posted at various booths while mobile police patrolled the towns and villages. The armed constabulary of the CRP escorted the ballot boxes from 442 polling stations to Institute Menezes Braganza in Panaji where they were kept under lock and key overnight14. The ballot boxes started arriving from across the union territory under police protection. Counting was expected to begin at 9 am on Tuesday, January 17 and the results were expected to be declared by Wednesday noon.
Unlike in the other elections held in the country prior to 1967 and the first general elections held to the Legislative Assembly of the union territory of Goa in 1963, the choice in the Opinion Poll was limited to merger with Maharashtra or Goa retaining its status as a union territory. The symbol for merger was a flower whereas the symbol for maintenance of status quo was two leaves, more popularly referred to as don pannam. The excitement and enthusiasm that marked the Opinion Poll was dramatised by the fact that the polling percentage was as high as 82% as against the polling percentage of just over 70% in the first Assembly elections.
Of the total electorate of 3,88,432 for the Opinion Poll, 2,16,000 were estimated to be Hindus, 1,57,000 Roman Catholics, 6000 Muslims and 9000 personnel of the armed and security forces that had been stationed in Goa after liberation. According to reports in the national press, of the 25,000 new voters who availed of the opportunity to register themselves specifically for the Opinion Poll, 9000 were Catholics and the rest were Hindus. It had also been reported that, on the eve of the Opinion Poll, several shiploads and trainloads of expatriate Goans arrived in Goa to participate in the Opinion Poll.
The Electorate also included a large number of officers deputed from other states, the majority of whom were from Maharashtra with a significant proportion from Karnataka as well. The arrival of an estimated 500 men of the Maharashtra State Reserve Police to cast their votes at the Lyceum evoked a storm of protests from UGP and Congress workers who blamed Maharashtra for its unscrupulousness15. The treasurer of the GPCC, Apa Karmalkar, released a letter of protest to the press which he had written to the Chief Electoral Officer P.B. Venkatasubramaniam16 informing him that it was obligatory on the part of the Electoral Registration Officer to delete the names of the personnel on deputation from the electoral rolls, including the SRP17. The Chief Electoral Officer had then clarified that general instructions were issued that the names of those not ordinarily resident in Goa should be removed from the poll lists and a written notice was given in the case of the Reserve Police18. Later, the Chief Opinion Poll Officer, D.K. Das, stated that the SRP were already registered in the voters’ list and the rule permitted those who were registered in the list to vote.19
Writing on the eve of the Opinion Poll, the Free Press Journal from Mumbai speculated that if voting was done purely on communal lines, the pro merger group would win by a substantial majority. But, apparently, it was not going to be fully that way because factors other than Marathi v/s Konkani, which was a major issue in the 1963 elections, had come to the fore during the campaign preceding the Opinion Poll. The Free Press correspondent opined that while the anti merger votes had remained more or else constant since the Assembly elections, the merger votes had split due to the dissatisfaction of even staunch Maharashtrawadis with the performance of Dayanand Bandodkar’s ministry and the high cost of living. Free Press also speculated that the majority of the 30,000 votes which went to the Congress in the 1963 elections were likely to go in favour of merger.
The counting of the votes extended over three days, with fortunes fluctuating dramatically – to the dismay and exhilaration of both sides. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) checked and counterchecked identity cards and scores of police and officials guarded the room that was located at the left of the presiding table “where under lock and key, lay the destiny of Goa”. At 4 minutes to 9, the top brass of the Poll, led by Das, addressed those who were associated with the counting along with Sundaram, the Development Commissioner Balasubramaniam and CEO P.B. Venkatasubramaniam. Close to them were Victoria Fernandes (Congress), V.S. Karmali (MGP), Enio Pimenta (United Goans Party-Furtado), Dr Jack Sequeira (United Goans Party-Sequeira) and Divakar Kakodkar (Frente Populare-Communist). The material to be counted was kept in pigeonhole shelves behind the Commissioner20. A large crowd gathered around the Institute Menezes Braganza where the votes were counted and announced on a loud speaker and on Akashwani-Panaji, thus breaking the air of expectancy. The Election Commission engaged 15 groups of three members each to undertake the counting21. A graph was plotted every 15 minutes, showing the cumulative percentage of votes for and against merger and six teams inter-checked the figures.
On the first day of counting, when 12,13,74 of an estimated 3,30,000 were counted over 167 booths, the champions of Goa‘s merger with Maharashtra secured a lead of 10,579 votes22. The anti merger group secured 53,756 votes at the end of the day, while 64, 335 votes went in favour of merger with 3024 votes declared invalid. Although the pro merger group had a lead, they were disappointed with the narrow margin. The anti merger workers, on the other hand, were thrilled that they were able to make inroads into crucial constituencies. The future at the end of day one remained unpredictable23 as the results for 17 constituencies was yet to take place.24
There was a dramatic change in fortune on the second day, however, when counting when on till 8.30 pm. The group that fought to maintain status quo made strong comebacks. It was a day of high drama with the pro merger lead falling, rising and falling again while counting progressed through 11 constituencies. The overnight margin of 10,579 enjoyed by the pro merger group fell to 2455 by noon on the second day of counting. But, by early afternoon, the pro merger vote picked up quickly, giving them a massive lead of 20,040. This was, however, the peak that the pro merger faction could not sustain. It was all downhill after that and, when polling officers began counting votes from South Goa, especially Salcete, at about 7.25 pm, the pro merger group gained significant leads to end the day on a high of over 8000 votes ahead of the pro merger group. By the end of the day, 28 of the 32 constituencies had been accounted for. The merger group had secured 1,25,066 votes while the anti merger forces had managed to secure 1,33,954 votes. A total of 6495 votes were disqualified.25
The pro-merger early lead on the second day of counting was primarily because of the massive support they enjoyed in St. Estevam, Madkai, Ponda and Shiroda. But, to the shock of merger camp, they lost to the anti merger camp in Sanguem, which was traditionally an MGP stronghold that voted in former law minister, Tony Fernandes to the first Legislative Assembly of Goa on the MGP ticket. Ponda was the last constituency from where the pro merger group got a majority. The predominantly Catholic constituency of Benaulim gave 10000 votes to maintain status quo. Navelim put the last nail on the coffin of merger by adding another 10,000 to the tally of those who wished to retain and preserve the identity of Goa. In Madkai, the constituency of Bandodkar, the pro-merger vote was raised to a respectable level, but even here 15% of the Hindu votes went against merger. 26
At the end of the day, 26,55,515 votes were counted and 267 polling stations were completed. St. Estevam, Madkai, Ponda, Shiroda and Canacona voted for merger while St. Cruz, St. Andre, Sanguem, Quepem, Cortalim, Cuncolim and Benaulim remained on the side of the union territory. Margao and Mormugao were mixed areas that were unevenly divided while Curtorim and Cortalim were Christian strongholds. By 7.15 pm, the anti-merger group celebrated victory27. In Navelim and Cuncolim, not a single vote was disqualified. Of the 55 postal votes, two went in favour of merger, 46 went against merger and seven failed to qualify28. With the predominantly Hindu constituencies providing a slender majority, the hopes of merger was largely unfulfilled as a spokesman of the MGP opined, “At the eleventh hour, some forces worked against us”29. Vithalrao Karmali commented, “At around 7.25 pm, when Don Pannam took the lead of 214 votes, I felt that the Maharashtrawadis are going to face a defeat”30. The three constituencies that were taken up at the fag end of the day were responsible for the landslide in the vote. At least 54.2% of the voters cast their votes in favour of merger31. Kakodkar and the bulk of Congressmen who were associated with the anti- merger front opined that, while gigantic forces came to the side of the pro merger group, Goans alone were on the side of the union territory: “Reasonableness and Goa were with us”.32
The last rites to the persistent ghost of merger were administered on Thursday, January 19, 1967. The defeat of the pro merger group was confirmed when counting of 24 out of 28 constituencies was complete as the remaining four constituencies was expected to take the anti merger group to an unpredictable win33. When the counting process came to an end at around 2 pm, the Opinion Poll Commissioner, D.K. Das, announced that Goa had rejected the merger with Maharashtra and opted to remain a union territory by a majority of over 34,000 votes34. The anti-merger supporters celebrated the victory with crackers and shouted slogans of Kendrashashit Gomantak Zindabad (Long live Goa controlled by the Centre). A large crowd that had gathered outside the town hall gave a throated cry of ‘Amchem Goem, amkam zai’ and students jumped on the streets with candle lights. The main road near the hall was blocked and crackers were burst as a typical Goan expression of undisguised elation35. The anti merger forces, much to the surprise of everyone including themselves, won the Opinion Poll by a margin of 34,021 votes. Of the 3,17,633 voters who exercised their franchise in the Opinion Poll, 1,72,191 (54.2%) favoured the continuation of Goa as a union territory as against 1,28,170 (43.5%) of the voters who opted for merger while 2.3% of the votes were invalid. The total number of votes polled was 3,17,633, out of a total electorate of 3,88,392.36
- Kamaraj felt that the verdict had to be accepted by everybody while S.K. Patil opined that “We must respect the wishes of the people.” Speaking to the media at the Srinagar airport, Indira Gandhi expressed her happiness that the people of Goa had peacefully and amicably decided their fate in the most democratic manner. “We will respect the decision taken by the people of Goa” and naturally implement the verdict of the people. Nijalingappa saw the outcome as a slap to the language policy makers37. Accepting defeat, the president of the BPCC, P.G. Kher said, “I bow down to the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Goa.38” M.S. Aney and Vasantrao Dada Patil congratulated Goans for the democratic verdict. Simon Fernandes, the general secretary of the Delhi Goans Association, and Romy Oliveira rejoiced at the victory and saw it as the first step towards a Konkani-speaking state.39
Dr. Alvaro Loyola Furtado, founder of the UGP, attributed the outcome of the Opinion Poll to God: “Goans believe in God and He can write straight on crooked lines.”40
The Poll, in retrospect, was seen as a felix culpa in which Goans could settle down, manage their own affairs and plan ahead for the social and economic prosperity of the territory41. Ironically, after the poll results (which was a rebuff not only to the MGP, but also its political patrons in Maharashtra), the chairperson of the Sampurna Maharashtra Committee, Udhavrao Patil, made a scathing attack on Y.B. Chavan because of the incorrect and weak policies adopted by the Maharashtra government and the union home minister, on account of which the Poll went against Maharashtra42. The former vice president of the MGP blamed Bandodkar for the defeat: “If he had honoured the mandate of the Steering Committee of the MGP, he would have saved merger.” The MGP leaders themselves opined that their supporters had cheated them43. Unfortunately, the official views of V.P. Naik and other ministers in Maharashtra could not be taken as they had gone to their respective constituencies to file their nominations when the Opinion Poll results were declared.44
Anticipating extreme reactions from rival groups, the authorities had taken precautions. The then administration, headed by the Lieutenant Governor, prevented the anti merger group from celebrating their victory in true Goan fashion by invoking Section 144 and banning public meetings throughout Goa for seven days45. Even worse, several thousands of anti-merger supporters, who had taken out a boisterous procession, were lathi-charged and forced to disperse. Carrying branches of trees, the supporters went through the streets of Panaji shouting slogans. Four tear gas shells were fired in the heart of Panaji to disperse them. Dr Sequeira angrily commented, “I am absolutely shocked at the disgraceful way in which it is clamped down on us in this moment of our great victory… it is regrettable that the Home Minister, who is a Maharashtrian, does not seem to know how to take defeat.46” The police also arrested 36 persons and detained two truckloads of people from a distant suburb who were celebrating their victory47. On account of the curfew, many arranged for celebrations in hotels, bars and private places. The Natyamahautsav that was scheduled in Panaji on January 21 was postponed.48
After the declaration of results, Sequeira stated, “Now we will raise a new movement demanding a separate state of the Konkan region. The people of Goa have strongly voted against merger and now the issue of merger is a part of history49.” He said his party would carry on the struggle for the recognition of Konkani as the state language and to make Goa a separate state. The next demand would be for a Konkan state. Dr. Loyola Furtado announced that the real struggle for a separate state would begin henceforth and the UGP would have nothing to do with the GPCC unless it changed its manifesto and supported the demand for a separate state of Goa.
The possible causes for the defeat of the pro merger faction was the over confidence and complacency of the MGP leadership due to faulty analysis of the 1963 elections where the pro merger stand of the MGP was clear. Caste and class differences among Hindus were also fully exploited, on account of which the MGP won in the predominantly Hindu constituencies, with 45.10% votes. The protagonists of the merger took this as a pro merger vote. They were duped by the false belief that the Catholic masses, especially the tenant class, would vote solidly in favour of merger. The three-year incumbency of the MGP government had a record of defections by the members of the party and MLAs failed to satisfy the voters50. After the Poll, the MGP held its annual meeting to review the factors that led to their defeat. The karyakatas attributed the defeat to the party workers and supporters who did not vote against Maharashtra, but wanted to teach the leaders of the MGP, who treated them badly, a lesson.51 Most of the students voted for union territory status as they did not want interference from outside. Interestingly, those who voted for merger were afraid that they would have to go to Maharashtra or would not be allowed to live in peace in Goa. In the anti merger stronghold of Loutolim, a local barber who supported merger was ostracised for some time. But, after the results, they went to him with unshaven faces.52
The national press reported that the Opinion Poll had proved to the hilt how unwanted and artificial the agitation for merger was53. Questions were asked on why the Congress ministry had deviated from the solemn assurances that were given by Nehru at the time of liberation. The Poll was seemingly devised to provide an escape route to evade the threats of the top leaders of Maharashtra who wanted to annex Goa to their state54. The result of the Poll was not seen as a surprise55. It was opined that the pro merger group enjoyed the initial lead because the predominantly Hindu districts were counted first56. What apparently weighed in favour of maintaining status quo were practical considerations as Goa was a prosperous area with a higher standard of living than Maharashtra and Mysore57. Held prematurely, it provided a testing ground for the traditional conflict of loyalties between Hindus and Catholics who had lived in peace and amity even during its long colonial history.58
The Poll ended, but it left both the rival groups less than satisfied. Despite succeeding in his mission of maintaining the unique and distinct status of Goa, Dr Jack Sequeira pledged to carry on his party’s struggle for a separate state and to get Konkani official status. However, the UGP was split into two factions and, thus, became a subject of ridicule to the public59. It was opined that Dr Sequeira antagonised his own men and party by vindicating the trust that people had put in him and could have easily carried his party from the opposition benches in the first elections to the ruling benches in the second assembly as he had a ‘throwaway’ chance of becoming the chief minister. He could have rectified the situation by approaching his colleagues in the erstwhile Furtado group to return to the party by assuring them of a strict adherence to the constitution of the party. With almost 14 constituencies solidly behind the UGP, he could have entered into an alliance with the territorial Congress, thus reducing the Maharashtrawadis to a pitiful minority60. But he lacked the political astuteness to handle the situation, thus causing the dissidents to desert him.
As far as the MGP was concerned, MGP minister V.S. Karmali, unable to accept defeat, alleged that the poll had been rigged and proclaimed the MGP would continue the struggle for merger with Maharashtra. In his capacity as the chief polling agent of the MGP, he raised serious charges against the way in which the Poll was conducted and condemned it as a vitiated poll wherein the entire government administration, including the police and the polling staff, went against them61.
Official circles reaffirmed that the verdict that was given by the citizens of Goa in favour of remaining a union territory would be fully honoured62. Speaking at a press conference after the declaration of the results, Bandodkar stated “Today, we have lost the battle and not the war. I am sure we will win the war. Today’s defeat is just the result of the non unity of the merger groups63…even if the people of Goa decided not to merge with Maharashtra, our party won this battle on moral grounds.64” S. K. Patil urged Goans to forget the past, bury the hatchet and address themselves to the task of making Goa prosperous and peaceful.65
The chief minister of Maharashtra, V.P. Naik faced heavy flak in the Legislative Assembly of Maharashtra for his contradictory statements on the Opinion Poll verdict. Immediately in the wake of the Opinion Poll verdict, Naik insisted that, despite the defeat of the merger group which had enjoyed support across political affiliations in Maharashtra, the issue of merger was still open. Subsequently, however, (presumably under pressure from then prime minister Indira Gandhi) he changed his stance. He told the Assembly, “In the first instance, we accept the verdict of the people of Goa as expressed by them in the Opinion Poll. This poll, as the house is aware, was accepted by both the former chief minister of the union territory and the leader of the opposition in the state legislature. On the last occasion when I said that the chapter of the future status of Goa was not closed, I had in view the larger question of the future of the union territories as such. About their continuance, there are two opinions in our country. This is why I feel that if and when this larger question is considered at the national level, naturally the question of the future status of Goa will also have to be determined in that context.” This provoked a walkout by the members of the Opposition who were bitter about what they saw as a betrayal of the unanimous resolution of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly in favour of merger.
To his credit, Dayanand Bandodkar graciously accepted the verdict of the Opinion Poll and got re-elected chief minister in the Assembly elections that followed the poll. It was not until 1987 that that the ghost of merger was permanently buried when Konkani became the official language of the state and statehood was conferred on Goa in May 1987, two decades after the Opinion Poll.
- Maharashtra Times, January 16, 1967.
- Times of India, January 15, 1967.
- Suresh Amonkar, Goa Opinion Poll 1967: An analytical study of voting pattern, Tipographia Rangel, Bastora, Goa.
- Prabhat, January 16, 1967. This, in turn, increased the chances of the anti-merger group: Pudhari, January 22, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, January 15, 1967.
- Loksatta, January 16, 1967.
- Times of India, January 17, 1967.
- Free Press, January 17, 1967. It was anticipated that Goa would break the record of 82% set by Kerala in the 1960 midterm elections.
- Free Press, January 17, 1967.
- Alfred Braganza, ‘The Counting as I saw it: An Account of the Historic Poll. Goa Today, August 1996.
- Free Press, January 17, 1967.
- Times of India, January 17, 1967.
- Free Press, January 17, 1967.
- Press Trust of India, January 17, 1967; Hindustan Times, January 17, 1967.
- In a letter dated December 12, 1966.
- Hindustan Times, January 17, 1967.
- Loksatta, January 19, 1967.
- Goa Today, February 1967.
- Prabhat, January 18, 1967.
- 12,1374 votes were , of which UGP got 53,756; MGP secured 64,335 and 3283 failed to qualify: Maharashtra Times, January 18, 1967.
- Free Press, January 18, 1967.
- Loksatta, January 18, 1967.
- Prabhat, January 19, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, January 19, 1967. They fired crackers and danced for joy for the tide turned in their favour: Prabhat, January 19, 1967.
- Loksatta, January 18, 1967.
- Times of India, January 18, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, January 19, 1967.
- Sakal, January 20, 1967.
- Free Press, January 19, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, January 20, 1967.
- Free Press, January 19, 1967.
- Hindu, January 18, 1967.
- Loksatta, January 20, 1967.
- Free Press, January 19, 1967.
- Goa Today, February 1967.
- Times of India, January 20, 1967.
- Goa Today, December 1966.
- Prabhat, January 18, 1967.
- Sakal, January 19, 1967.
- Free Press, January 19, 1967.
- This was decided by the District Magistrate: Maharashtra Times, January 20, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, January 20, 1967. Incidentally, Section 44 was not invoked in Daman & Diu.
- Hindustan Times, January 17, 1967.
- Times of India, January 20, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, January 20, 1967. It was opined that some issues had been deliberately kept out of discussion and one issue that was not looked into was the demand for Vishal Gomantak or Greater Goa Frederick Noronha, ‘Popular Protests and Free Goa Press’ in Norman Dantes, Op. Cit., p. 92.
- Suresh Amonkar, Goa Opinion Poll 1967: An analytical study of voting pattern, Tipographia Rangel, Bastora, Goa, p 21.
- Pudhari, January 22, 1967.
- Times of India, January 20, 1967.
- The Madras Mail, January 19, 1967.
- Hindu, January 19, 1967.
- Statesman, January 18, 1967.
- Hindustan Standard, January 19, 1967.
- Hindustan Times, January 19, 1967.
- Goa Today, February 1967.
- Times of India, January 20, 1967.
- Press Trust of India, January 20, 1967.
- Maharashtra Times, January 20, 1967.
- Hindustan Times, January 20, 1967.
- Goa Today, February 1967.
Anatomy of Victory
THE OPINION POLL VERDICT, which supported maintaining status quo of the union territory, took everyone by surprise. Considering that the Poll was expected to go the merger way, a deeper analysis is needed to understand the factors that went in favour of the anti merger faction and went against the pro merger group.
Understandably, the MGP and its patrons in Maharashtra were very bitter about the outcome of the Opinion Poll. They had played the communal card to the hilt and had assumed that they would win by a large margin on the assumption that the entire Hindu population, which then comprised 62% of the total population of Goa, would vote for merger. They were also expecting considerable support from the thousands of officers deputed from Maharashtra who had come to Goa soon after liberation to meet the demand for Marathi teachers in the primary schools and to run the new administration. According to Mohan Dharia, then general secretary of the Congress Party, the territorial army and the police force, which had been deputed from Maharashtra, were also expected to vote for merger with Maharashtra during the Opinion Poll.
But as luck would have it for all those who wanted to preserve the unique and distinct identity of Goa, a significant section of the majority community was persuaded to vote against the merger by the Anti Merger Front. Indeed, it was the efforts of the Anti Merger Front, which snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. This is clear from the fact that 54.2% of the total electorate voted for retaining status quo. Even if 100% of the Catholic population (which was perceived to be unanimously favouring the status quo) had voted against merger, the anti merger forces would not have succeeded as Catholics constituted only 38% of the population. So much so, even if one assumed that all the Catholic voters voted against merger, 16% of the majority community voters obviously voted against merger; this being the difference between the number of votes polled by the anti merger group and the percentage of the Catholic population of Goa at the time of the Opinion Poll.
The truth was actually more complicated. An analysis of the Opinion Poll results indicates that, in every constituency, the anti-merger votes exceeded the Christian votes, further indicating that a significant proportion of Hindus, even in the MGP strongholds, voted against merger. Conversely, there is some evidence to suggest that at least a section of the Christian Gaudis and other backward classes probably voted for merger because of the promises held out by the Dayanand Bandokar-led MGP government that they would be liberated from the tyranny of Catholic land owners or bhatkars and, by the virtue of the Tenancy Act and the Mundkar Act, they would become owners of the land that they had been tilling for generations and the mundkar homes in which they had been living for generations.
Interestingly, senior MGP leaders themselves admitted that a significant proportion of the officers deputed from Maharashtra, principally the large group of Marathi primary school teachers, voted against merger because, as employees of the union territory, they would get Central government pay scales which would be considerably downscaled if Goa merged with Maharashtra.
Voting trends indicate that, with the exception of Bicholim, Pale, Mandrem and Pernem, the MGP did not get a sizeable lead even in Maharashtrawadi strongholds. In fact, even in the heavily Marathi and MGP-dominated constituencies, the merger group did not get as huge a majority as the anti merger group secured in their own strongholds. What made a significant difference was the fact that in Benaulim, Navelim and Curtorim, the anti merger group got huge leads with the pro merger group getting only a very few votes. In Benaulim, for instance, don pannam got 10,796 votes as against only 629 for the MGP. Similarly, in Curtorim, while the anti merger group got 10,414 votes, the pro merger faction got only 926 votes. Even in Hindu-dominated Margao, the anti merger group got 4000 votes more than their opposition. The migrant factor seemed to have affected the polling in favour of merger in Mormugao, where the 8,092 voted for merger while 7,654 wanted to maintain status quo. This can probably be attributed to the large number of migrant workers, mostly from Maharashtra and Karnataka, who were employed by the Chowgule group who supported the move to merge the territory with Maharashtra. In sharp contrast to the Chowgule group which put its entire weight behind merger, using the paper it owned (the Gomantak), the V.M. Salgaocar group not only supported, but heavily funded the anti merger group.
Notwithstanding rival claims made by leaders and supporters of the pro and anti merger groups, the ground reality was that a very large number of Hindus voted against merger. They voted against merger because, though they were attached to the Marathi language, they did not equate love for the Marathi language with love for Maharashtra! A classic case is that of noted Konkani writer Uday Bhembre, whose columns in the Rashtramat and public speeches during the Opinion Poll campaign were a significant factor in countering the propaganda of the pro merger leaders and their patrons in Maharashtra. Uday Bhembre’s father, Laxmikant Bhembre, was a prominent writer in Marathi but was quiet relieved when the pro merger movement failed. Bhembre recalls his father congratulating him on the victory, despite their being on different sides during the campaign. Economic factors also played a very significant part in the rejection of the merger with Maharashtra as there was an underlying fear that if Goa was merged with Maharashtra, the prices would go up as taxes in Maharashtra were much higher than in Goa.
It must be remembered that, before liberation, Goa was virtually a duty free zone like present day Dubai, with customs duty on watches levied—not by piece, but by weight. Goans were also used to getting the best cheese, wines, cosmetics and other luxury consumer goods from Europe and the world over which were difficult to come by in the rest of India after independence because of the socialistic policies of Jawaharlal Nehru. This included a ban on the import of luxury goods or extortionate custom duties levied even on foreign-made blades and lipsticks. Arguably, the thought that they would have to pay more for the small luxuries of life played some role in the decision of Goans, cutting across religious lines, to vote against merger. And, of course, there was the question of a fundamental right of Goans to drink liquor and get drunk. This would have been severely affected if prohibition in force in Maharashtra had been extended to Goa upon merger. However, in the ultimate analysis, the Opinion Poll victory of the anti merger forces over the merger forces, reinforced the triumph of the secular over the communal, both amongst Hindus and Catholics in Goa.
Strategy is as crucial to winning any elections whether it is a general election to Parliament, state Assembly or a unique faceless election like the Opinion Poll. In every election, there is what is called the swing factor. In any election, there are groups which are committed or loyal to a particular party or a candidate. The challenge before the candidates or parties contesting in an election is to see how they can persuade undecided voters or voters owing allegiance to the rival group to change their loyalties.
In the case of the Opinion Poll, according to the analysis done by the Anti-Merger Front, and also according to the late Chandrakant Keni, the challenge was to convert a section of the Hindu majority voters who had supported the pro merger Maharashtrawadi Gomamantak Party in the first general elections to review their stand on merger with Maharashtra. It was assumed that the overwhelming majority of Catholics, who then constituted around 38% of the population, would vote against merger anyway. The Catholics, or at least their leaders, were very conscious of the fact that while they constituted a significant minority in the union territory of Goa, they would be totally marginalised if Goa was merged with Maharashtra. With the Roman Catholic Church not only supporting the anti merger group, but even campaigning actively, the perception was that the Catholic vote could be taken for granted.
It was the admirers and followers of the father of Konkani, Shenoi Goembab, who played the most crucial role in ensuring that the undecided voters and an adequate section of Hindu voters swung towards rejecting merger in the Opinion Poll. It began with the formation of the Anti Merger Front in November 1966 with Professor Laxman Rao Sardessai as the president. One of the first demands of the Anti Merger Front was that voting rights should be extended to Goans, wherever they lived and not restricted to people residing in Goa. During the campaign, the Anti Merger Front organised hundreds of meetings, tiatrs and nataks. It also sought to mobilise the support of Goans from outside the state. The Front succeeded in mobilising the support of Goans in Kolkata and Delhi, which resulted in the formation of the National Union of Goans in October 1964.
It was the Anti Merger Front, with which the Konkaniwadis were closely associated though not officially a part of, that worked out the strategy to persuade the majority community to change their point of view on the question of merger. At a meeting of the Anti Merger Front, Chandrakant Keni suggested that the campaign of the Anti Merger Front should concentrate on the 20% of the Hindu community who were educated and were more likely to recognise the consequences of merger with Maharashtra. Keni’s logic was that 60% of the Hindu majority community comprised of the Bahujan Samaj, who were either semi-literate or illiterate and were easy prey to the propaganda of the Maharashtrawadis. It was also decided, as a part of the strategy, that no negative propaganda would be carried out against Dayanand Bandodkar, who was extremely popular with the Hindu masses. In fact, when leaders of the Anti Merger Front and members of the Konkaniwadi group addressed meetings in Maharashtrawadi strongholds like Ponda, they pointed out that if Goa was merged with Maharashtra, Bandodkar would cease to be the chief minister as Goa would be reduced to a zilla parishad of Maharashtra.
According to Keni, the Bahujan Samaj was against what they perceived as Brahmin Raj, but Bandodkar was reluctant to antagonise the powerful Brahmin lobby. Keni told our research team that he and his colleagues even offered political support to Bandodkar if he would give up the idea of merger with Maharashtra. According to Keni, it was Ravindra Kelekar who was the ‘one-man-brains-trust’ of the Anti Merger Front. It was he who worked out the strategies that should be followed. Ravindra Kelekar also helped with the Rashtramat in his capacity as an advisor. Rashtramat also had the support of the veteran journalist and writer Shankar Bhandari.
Keni, along with other secularists, did not believe that the battle for the Opinion Poll was a battle between Hindus and Catholics. In fact, according to him, the main objective of the Anti Merger Front was to make the majority community aware that merger would be disastrous for Goans, whether Hindu or Catholic. So much so, after the battle of the Opinion Poll was won, the Rashtramat, in its editorial on January 20, 1967 declared the Opinion Poll as “a victory of Hindus and Christians.” Rashtramat also urged Goans to continue the process of unity till Goa achieved the status of a full-fledged state. Fortunately, Chandrakant Keni lived long enough to realise his twin aspirations of Konkani becoming the official language of Goa and Goa achieving the status of a full-fledged state.
While there can be no two questions that the Konkaniwadi group was the swing factor, this does not minimise the contribution of the UGP to the victory of the anti merger forces in the Opinion Poll. The UGP did not mean only Dr. Jack Sequeira as the perception appears to be. The UGP was unique in that its leaders were, largely, a group of professionals. They knew how to heal the wounds of communalism unleashed by pro merger forces because there were, coincidentally, four doctors in the party, all of whom were elected MLAs of the UGP in the Goa Assembly. The UGP’s group of leaders included two shipping agents from Vasco-Mormugao, Froilano Machado and Marcelino de Lima Leitao along with his wife Urminda. It was the combined efforts of the Catholic community and an influential committed section of Hindus which ensured that the anti merger group snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.1
- Goa Today, February 1967.
Through the Looking Glass
CONTEMPORARY HISTORY IS often reflected in newspaper reports of the event. The reflections may not always be very faithful as media comes with its own biases – not only the bias of the proprietor who owns the media company, but also because of pressures on the media house concerned from state and central governments or, more specifically, the political parties in power in the concerned states or regions. There are no two questions about the fact that the media played a major role in the Opinion Poll. Not surprisingly, all the Marathi newspapers in Goa and Maharashtra favoured the MGP, which sought merger with Maharashtra. The notable exception was Rashtramat, which was wholly owned by the late V.M. Salgaocar at the time of the Opinion Poll. Rashtramat, a Marathi newspaper published from Goa, is credited with having played a very significant role in persuading the majority Goan Hindu community voters to vote against merger and in favour of retaining Goa’s identity as a union territory. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, most of the English newspapers published in Mumbai or the Mumbai editions of national newspapers like the Times of India, perhaps under pressure from the then government of Maharashtra, also supported and promoted the cause of merger with Maharashtra.
In its issue dated January 15, 1967, the Times of India (Mumbai edition) reported that the bitter month long campaign in the run up to the Opinion Poll had come to a close. The paper reported, “To Mr. Bandodkar goes the credit of addressing the largest number of public meetings, estimated at over 330.” But TOI also noted that the MGP had started its campaign as early as on October 23, 1966 i.e. on Dussehra. In contrast, the leaders of the UGP, which vehemently opposed merger of Goa with Maharashtra, addressed only 120 meetings during the campaign. Apparently, Purushottam Kakodkar, the president of the GPCC, did not address a single meeting. However, TOI, quoting the news agency Press Trust of India, noted that Purushottam Kakodkar charged office bearers of the Maharashtra and Bombay Pradesh Congress Committees of openly working within the jurisdiction of the Goa Congress for merger.
In its report published on the day of the Opinion Poll, Monday, January 16, 1967, the Free Press Journal jumped to the conclusion that Goans would vote along communal lines, as they had done in the first general elections. The Free Press correspondent wrote, “But, broadly speaking, the Hindus are going to vote for merger while Catholics are going to vote for union territory status.” The Free Press added that, of the total electorate for the Opinion Poll (3,88,432), 2,16,000 were estimated to be Hindus, 1,57,000 Roman Catholics, 6000 Muslims and 9000 personnel of the armed and security forces, who were mainly deputed from Maharashtra and, therefore, presumed to favour merger with Maharashtra: “The import of uncalled for large number of deputed officers from Maharashtra to man the administration in Goa presented an eyesore to patriotic Goans1 and they had to be withdrawn to rule out any apprehensions that they might influence the elections2. The Free Press reporter commented that “While there can be no doubt about the victory for merger, most do not expect a large majority. Most people in Goa believed that the ‘mergerists’ would win by a margin of 55%.”In fairness, the Free Press report, perhaps by way of hedging its bets like most newspaper try to do, warned that more Hindus were likely to vote against merger than Christians. The newspaper also reported, on the eve of the Opinion Poll, that a sizeable number of Hindu Saraswat Brahmins (who formed five percent of voters), alarmed at the anti-Brahmin propaganda of the MGP during the last elections and who had been adversely affected by the land reforms, were likely to vote against merger.
Free Press also claimed that of the 20,000 Christian Gaudis, 75% would vote for merger because they had benefited from the land reforms and the scheme of free education up to the eighth standard introduced by the MGP. A columnist of the Free Press, who went by the name of Monitor, opined that while the Opinion Poll was not likely to be overwhelmingly in favour of merger, a slender majority of over 51% would be a fair indication of the votes likely to be cast in favour of merger. The Free Press, on the eve of the Opinion Poll, also carried an allegation by Nath Pai, the socialist MP, that the Catholic Church had been distributing wheat, received as a gift from America, to voters in Valpoi to vote against merger.
Pudhari, which was then a very influential Marathi paper, started its campaign in favour of merger in an editorial dated November 30, 1966. Commenting on the bill passed by both houses of Parliament to conduct an Opinion Poll in Goa, the editor said the UGP was well known for its affection for the Portuguese. The paper also took a swipe at S.K. Patil, the union railway minister, for supporting the demand that even Goans living outside Goa should be allowed to vote in the Opinion Poll. A large number of Catholic Goans did take advantage of the offer as statistics show that of the 25,000 new voters who enrolled themselves after the announcement of the Opinion Poll, only 8000 were Hindus and the rest Catholics.
The Delhi edition of the Hindu, in its curtain raiser on the historic Opinion Poll (written by a special correspondent), was more objective. The report, which appeared on January 14, 1967, noted: “Those who have watched poll trends in Goa considered that pro merger sentiment was stronger some weeks ago, than on the eve of the Opinion Poll. They attribute the swing… to the excessive interest shown by the Maharashtra government in the outcome of the poll and the campaigning by Maharashtrian leaders for merger…” The report pointed out that Goans were sensitive and while the interests of the Maharashtra government may have been well intentioned, it was seen by many Goans as an unwarranted interference in a matter of concern to the people of Goa alone. However, even Hindus presumed a verdict in favour of merger with Maharashtra on the assumption that the voting would be along communal lines, as in the first general elections.
IN A LIGHTER VEIN
Adding a light touch to the reporting on the historic poll was a report in the Times of India on January 14, 1967, which claimed that the people of Goa were mesmerised by the Opinion Poll: “They discussed little else, whether over a scotch and soda in the numerous bars or when they are eating their fish curry and rice.” The reporter revealed that when he absent-mindedly threw a piece of paper out of the window of the vehicle he was travelling in, his Goan companion snapped “You would have been arrested for that under the Portuguese! Look at the water front, it is filthy and full of beggars…before liberation it was clean and a delight to walk down…” Later, while offering the TOI correspondent a drink, his guide apparently remarked, “This stuff used to cost Rs. 8, now I pay Rs. 40. Because it is very expensive, we are made to feel guilty when we drink it. But, unlike during the Portuguese times, now there are drunkards at every street corner!” It may be recalled that Maharashtra’s chief minister, V.P. Naik, on the eve of the Opinion Poll, had assured Goans that the stringent prohibition policy then prevailing in Maharashtra would not be extended to Goa even after it merged with Maharashtra.
A report in the Kolkata Statesman, appearing on the eve of the Opinion Poll, commented that there was a fear that the qualities that distinguished Goa from the rest of the country, would be lost if Goa had to merge with Maharashtra. The report also revealed that the New Conquests were merger strongholds and that those favouring the status quo were concentrated in the richer coastal regions that were dominated by Catholics. It also pointed out that only three of the 12 Christians elected to the Legislative Assembly from Goa came from Hindu majority constituencies and, similarly, of the 16 successful Hindu candidates, only two were elected from Christian majority constituencies.
A Statesman report also noted the communal card that was being played by the pro merger groups. It pointed out that a typical slogan that was widely used by the pro merger forces was, “After 450 years, Goddess Shantadurga, the family deity of most Hindus in Goa, is going to be Goddess Bhavani, the family deity of Shivaji. So, vote for merger.” The counter slogan by anti merger forces was equally vehement: “We do not want Maharashtra’s shrikhand-puri, we are with our xitt-coddi! The Statesman report also expressed concern about the tense atmosphere prevailing on the eve of the Opinion Poll. The correspondent reported that when he asked the man sitting at next table at a restaurant how he would vote, the response was “I cannot tell you, I may get beaten up.”
After polling was concluded, all the newspapers expressed surprise over the fact that the polling percentage was over 80%. But, not surprisingly, various political leaders sought to interpret the high turnout as a sign that their group would win the contest. According to a PTI report, Dr Jack Sequeira apparently told the PTI correspondent, “I am sure we will get 80% of the votes.” Predictably, the Maharashtra Times edition dated January 17, 1967, reported that Maharashtrawadis were confident of getting 60% of the votes. Sakal, another newspaper published from Pune and now owned by the Sharad Pawar family, also predicted victory for the MGP. Sakal quoted Dayanand Bandodkar as claiming that he expected 52-53 % of the votes going in favour of merger.
On January 18, 1967, Sakal gloated that the Maharashtrawadis were leading, but expressed concern over the fact that some MGP bastions had fallen to the anti merger group. The report on the first day of counting noted, disapprovingly, that some Hindu groups in Pernem had favoured the status quo. The paper reported that “Although Maharashtrawadis managed a lead of 3803 votes, the result is not as per expectations. We expected the Christian community to go against us. But, from the results, it seems that some Hindu sections have also preferred the union territory status for Goa.” Sakal pointed out that though there were only 680 registered Christian voters in Pernem, as many as 2350 votes went against merger. The greatest shock to the MGP on the first day of the counting of results was the fact that Siolim, which was considered a stronghold of one of the founders of the MGP and had elected P.P. Shirodkar, former speaker in the first Assembly elections, voted against merger. Similarly, in Mapusa – the bastion of former deputy speaker in the Bandodkar government, P.A. Tople and where the MGP had won the first general elections by 1738 votes – the verdict was against merger. Sakal also expressed concern that even in constituencies considered MGP strongholds like Sattari, pro merger forces did not secure the expected strong lead.
On the first day of counting, the pro merger forces were leading by 10,579 votes, but the second day of counting saw a ding-dong battle with leads changing repeatedly as the counting went on. With only four constituencies left to be counted, of which three were considered anti merger strongholds, it was not surprising that the Maharashtra Times issue dated January 19, 1967, carried the headline “Are Maharashtrawadis heading for a big defeat?” The report from the Maharashtra Times correspondent reluctantly concluded that the general opinion of the people of Goa seemed to be that it should remain a union territory: “Going by the voting trend of the last Assembly election and the social cultural composition of the four remaining constituencies of which counting would be taken up on Thursday, certain defeat is facing the Maharashtrawadis.” In fact, the Maharashtra Times reported that, after the final result of the second day of counting was announced the anti merger activists starting celebrating and the air was full of slogans of “Jack Sequeira Zindabad!”
At exactly 1.50 pm on Thursday, January 19, 1967, Opinion Poll Commissioner D.K. Das declared that the anti merger group had won by a whopping 34,021 votes. The people of Mysore, according to a report in the Deccan Herald in its issue dated January 19, 1967, celebrated the victory of Goa as a union territory. The Finance Minister of Mysore even took the credit for the victory and claimed that he and then chief minister S. Nijilangappa had lobbied with the Centre to retain Goa as a union territory.
In a case of sour grapes, the Times of India, in its editorial on January 21,1967, said “Why precisely they (Goans) should have reached this decision is, however, a question. There has been some talk of the hidden hand behind the anti merger vote with suggestions that the Church played a major part in mobilising Christian voters as against this there are some complaints that revivalist slogans were raised to rally Hindu voters in favour of merger. But what stands out is the fact that a sizeable number of Christian voters were for merger and a sizeable number of voters voted against it… The fact has to be accepted. If there are basic affinities between the people of Maharashtra and Goa, which may make a merger desirable in the interests of both, this cannot be obliterated by the vote in favour of the status quo. It is mistake to think that legislative measures and political propaganda can solve the problem, which is essentially of emotional integration.”
Prabhat, on the other hand, in its editorial on the same day chose to blame the Congress leaders of Maharashtra for the defeat of the pro merger group: “The Opinion Poll result is a slap on every Congress leader of Maharashtra. The people of Goa have shown no confidence in the government of Maharashtra, even though Chief Minister Mr. Vasantarao Naik had tried to lure them with lots of promises. Mr. Naik assured them that he would not ban liquor. But it seems that nobody, even a Goan, has confidence in Congress. Congress has a great history of not keeping promises made. It is a fact that not only the people of Goa, but also even most citizens from different states prefer President’s rule to the Congress government. The people are really fed up of the Congress. Congress leaders behave as if they are “Sansthans” of independent India… In Maharashtra all is not well within the Congress. And that is why the people of Goa have shown no confidence in Maharashtra. The Maharashtra Congress must be blamed for this defeat.”
The anger of aam Goans was reflected in a letter to the editor in an issue of A Vida, published on August 4, 1965 which referred to the political situation in Goa as the ‘Goa cauldron’. In a scathing comment on the leadership of the Congress, the letter writer commented: “In the confused and chaotic state of affairs over the Goa issue – the prisoners of indecision being responsible for the same – one thing stands out and that is the people in question, namely Goans, the sons of the soil who are quite capable of taking care of their own destiny and living up to their responsibilities are deliberately kept out of the picture by the powers that be.”
- In fact, the admission of the former chief minister on the floor of the Assembly in March 1966 bore testimony to the charges of the Opposition that there were 1204 deputed officers in Goa, of which 759 were Maharashtrians: Free Press, January 20, 1967.
- Times of India, November 29, 1966.
First Person Singular
DURING THE COURSE OF COLLECTING data for this book, the Research Team was fortunate to meet and interview some key personalities directly involved in the Opinion Poll. In retrospect, over two decades after the Poll, it is even more interesting to record the memories of those who were involved in the Opinion Poll and how they look back in time at one of Goa’s historical crossroads.
The research team succeeded in tracking down the then union minister of state for home, Vidya Charan Shukla, who moved the Opinion Poll Bill. However, the minister for home, Y.B. Chavan, who favoured outright merger on the basis of the verdict of the people of Goa in the first general elections, was reluctant to speak. V.C. Shukla explained the backdrop against which the Congress Parliamentary Board, then headed by Indira Gandhi, took the decision to hold the Opinion Poll.
The minister pointed out that during the tenure of Lal Bahadur Shastri as prime minister, the powerful Maharashtra lobby – headed by the then defence minister, Y.B. Chavan – had almost persuaded the Congress Parliamentary Board (CPB) to yield to the demand of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee, Bombay Pradesh Congress Committee and a section of the Congress leaders even within Goa to merge Goa with Maharashtra. In fact, an assurance to this effect had been given to Chavan at a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Board at Guntur, Andhra Pradesh in early 1965. The decision was postponed following the war that broke out with Pakistan and the declaration of national emergency. Soon after India merger victorious in the war, Lal Bahadur Shastri went to Tashkent in Russia to sign a ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan, which had been brokered by then superpowers USA and USSR. Shastri died mysteriously in Tashkent and, after an interim period when G. L. Nanda was acting prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru’s daughter, Indira Gandhi, was chosen to step into the former prime minister steps.
The pressure for Goa’s merger with Maharashtra was stepped up following the CPB’s decision to retain Goa’s status, as assured by first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The announcement of this decision at a press conference in Panaji by then railway minister S.K. Patil sparked off a major controversy. Goa’s Legislative Assembly at the time passed a private member’s resolution demanding merger; both houses of the Maharashtra Assembly promptly followed suit. In retaliation, the Legislative Assembly of Mysore passed a resolution demanding merger of Goa with Mysore! Then governor of Maharashtra, Dr P.V. Cherian, in his address to both houses of the Maharashtra Assembly, also urged the central government to take cognisance of the resolution passed by the Maharashtra and Goa governments.
Shukla recalls that the conflicting resolutions passed by the Maharashtra and Mysore Legislative Assemblies put prime minister Indira Gandhi in a dilemma. Indira Gandhi had been installed as prime minister by a powerful group of senior Congress politicians, which included then president of the Congress K. Kamaraj, Mysore’s chief minister S. Nijillingappa and the Maharashtra Congress lobby, led by Y.B. Chavan, who had become the home minister. Indira Gandhi could not afford to antagonise either Chavan or Nijillingappa. She was also disturbed over the fact that a former leader of the Goa Congress had taken the extreme step of taking sanyaas and retreating to an ashram in rishikesh because he was disgusted with the interference of the Maharashtra Congress leaders. Purushottam Kakodkar was popular not only with Jawaharlal Nehru, but the entire Nehru family, who held him in high respect because he had spent ten years in a Portuguese prison, fighting for Goa’s liberation.
According to Shukla, the Maharashtra leaders, sensing that Indira Gandhi would not be willing to concede their demand for merger of Goa with Maharashtra, decided to ask for a referendum instead. The proposal for referendum also had the backing of Purushottam Kakodkar, who believed that the voting in the first general elections was for Dayanand Bandodkar and not for the merger of Goa with Maharashtra. Overruling the protests of Y.B. Chavan, Indira Gandhi decided that the people of Goa should be given an opportunity to decide their political future.
Shukla told the research team that it was not an easy decision for Indira Gandhi to make because there was no precedent for holding a referendum. On the contrary, when there was a demand for a referendum on the issue of Kashmir by Pakistan in the United Nations, India had refused to agree to the suggestion. There were also fears that the decision to hold the referendum in Goa would spark off similar demands from disputed areas like Belgaum and Karwar, which were part of the state of Maharashtra in 1960 as per the linguistic reorganisation of the country. But Goa’s case was different, according to V.C. Shukla, because it had been a Portuguese colony, unlike the rest of India which had been a British colony.
Shukla revealed that Indira Gandhi refused to accept the argument of the pro merger group that Goa was similar to Maharashtra linguistically and culturally. She went by her father’s declaration that Konkani was an independent language, as dramatised by the fact that, in a 1960 census, over 80% Goans had declared Konkani their mother tongue. Thus, Indira Gandhi stood firm by her decision that a referendum should be held to let the people of Goa decide their political future. However, she was advised by bureaucrats, particularly officials of the External Affairs Ministry, not to use the word ‘referendum’ as it would cause international complications. During a brainstorming session on how to determine the will of the Goan people, a bureaucrat apparently suggested that instead of calling it a referendum, it should be called an ‘opinion poll’.
According to Shukla, while the passage of the Opinion Poll Bill was relatively smooth in the Lok Sabha where it was rushed through on the late evening of a lame-duck session before the elections, there were major problems in the Rajya Sabha. There was also a demand both in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha that, this being an Opinion Poll and not an election, the normal rules could not apply. According to Shukla, there Congress MPs representing Mysore and Swatantara Party members demanded that Goans living outside Goa be given a chance to vote in the historic Poll because Goans had migrated to other parts of the country and the world due to religious persecution by Portugal’s colonial regime, and the lack of education and employment opportunities in Goa. It was pointed out that in Mumbai alone, there was a population of two lakh Goans and they would be deprived of the right to determine the future of Goa, if they were not allowed to vote. Some MPs also highlighted the fact that, following liberation, the Bandodkar government ‘recruited’ a large number of officers from Maharashtra, giving pro merger forces an unfair advantage.
Shukla claims that he was sympathetic to the demand that even Goans settled outside Goa should be permitted to vote, but the Election Commissioner entrusted with the responsibility of conducting the Opinion Poll was obstinate on the principle that only people who were normally resident in a state could vote in any election. This, ironically, meant that migrants and deputed officers who had flooded Goa post liberation could vote while niz Goenkars outside Goa could not. A compromise was then worked out with the direct intervention of prime minister Indira Gandhi. The Election Commissioner was persuaded to permit fresh enrolment of voters without paying fees, and even through post, to avoid inconvenience to Goans who could not physically come to Goa to register themselves as voters. There was, however, one condition – those who wanted to register had to have maintained their family residence in Goa. Goans who had moved comprehensively moved out of the state – lock, stock and barrel – could not participate in the Opinion Poll. According to Shukla, the concession to permit non-resident Goans to vote contributed to the victory of the anti merger forces in the opinion Poll as 25,000 non-resident Goans (8000 were Goan Hindus) took advantage of the relaxation of the voter registration rules. According to him, the 8000 Hindus who decided to enrol were educated upper class Hindus who probably voted against merger. In V.C. Shukla’s perception, it was Indira Gandhi’s insistence on honouring her father’s pledges to the Goan people (of which she was reminded by family friend Purushottam Kakodkar) that played a decisive role in Indira Gandhi’s insistence on holding the Opinion Poll, instead of merely accepting the demand of the Maharashtra government for immediate merger.
The General Secretary of the AICC in charge of Goa then was Mohan Dharia, who was pro merger. In an interview with our researchers, he revealed that the aggressive campaigning by leaders from Maharashtra did not go down well even with large sections of the Hindu population of Goa, who were otherwise inclined towards merger. Not just Catholics, but even enlightened Hindus in Goa resented the charge by then defence minister Y.B. Chavan that those who were against merger were anti national and wanted to enjoy the privileges they had secured because of their collaboration with the Portuguese colonial regime. Even a section of Mumbai Catholics who were pro merger were distressed by Y.B. Chavan’s remark that Catholics in Goa were “black Portuguese.”
According to Mohan Dharia, economic factors also played a major role in the defeat of the pro merger forces. He pointed out that, prior to liberation, taxes in Goa were very low and Goans were permitted to import luxury goods at very low rates. In sharp contrast, taxes in the rest of India (including Maharashtra) were much higher, and there was a total ban on the import of lipstick and blades. A major factor, of course, was the fear that liquor prices would rise.
Mohan Dharia also pointed out that, much to the disappointment of the pro merger faction, security forces (which included the Territorial Army and policemen on deputation from Maharashtra) were not allowed to vote following objections from the anti merger group. Moreover, the majority of the civil officers from Maharashtra, particularly the large army of Marathi school teachers who were imported following the decision to make education up to the eighth standard free, also worked against merger.
Ravindra Kelekar, who was belatedly conferred the Padma Bhushan recently, insisted that the campaign of the anti merger group was spontaneous: “We reacted to the false propaganda and the pro merger group’s provocations.” The Christians, Kelekar told us, had a clear stand. Speaking on the challenge of persuading Hindus to vote against merger and resisting pressure from national parties, Kelekar said, “The support base of the UGP and the Congress was more than that of the MGP. Credit must be given to Purushottam Kakodkar who, despite great pressure from the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee and the Congress Parliamentary Board, struck to his anti merger stand.
Elaborating on the campaign launched by those in favour of merger, Kelekar revealed that senior leaders from Maharashtra like Nath Pai and Mohan Dharia spoke at length on the benefits of merger at meetings convened by MGP MLA, Gopal Mayekar. As far as the Council of Action was concerned, it not only organised public meetings but even meetings of groups, late at night, in the houses of sympathisers, especially in Bardez and Tiswadi, which were Marathiwadi strongholds. In fact, Ravindra Kelekar recalled that the houses of anti merger activists were stoned. Ravindra Kelekar also recalls that Bandodkar tried to persuade Surya Wagh, a prominent leader of the MGP, to support merger, but he refused. Apparently, when Surya Wagh raised the issue of his opposition to merger at party meetings, Bandodkar is reported to have said that it was left to individuals to decide what to do as far as merger was concerned. According to Ravindra Kelekar, Bandodkar attended and sat on the dais at public meetings, but usually did not speak. Apparently, Bandodkar refrained from getting into an open confrontation with the Anti Merger Front. Another interesting titbit Kelekar revealed was that Bandodkar enjoyed a cordial relationship with Dr Jack Sequeira, but could not stand Kakodkar!
Ravindra Kelekar also gives credit to Konkaniwadis, who strongly opposed the demand for merger made by the Marathi Sahitya Sammelan in 1962. Marathi writers played a major role in pressurising politicians, both in Goa and Maharashtra, to support merger. Konkani, on the other hand, was used very effectively by anti merger protagonists in the fight to retain Goa’s identity. Kelekar also revealed that the then union minister of railways and general secretary of Congress, S.K. Patil (who was from Kudal in the Konkan) was opposed to merger. When he made the announcement that the Congress Parliamentary Board had decided to hold and Opinion Poll, Patil is reported to have told Bandodkar “You are a sportsman. Take up the challenge.”
Speaking on the origin of the expression ‘Opinion Poll’, Kelekar clarified that it was termed by union home secretary of the time, L.P. Singh, and not MGP stalwart P.P. Shirodkar, as it is commonly believed. Apparently, during a discussion on what expression to use, the then union home secretary pointed out that the use of the word ‘referendum’ would have had serious international ramifications. Kelekar revealed that Shirodkar, who had broken away from the Congress on question of the merger with Maharashtra, was to become the first chief minister of Goa when the MGP and its allies were invited to form the government. But Bandodkar was elected chief minister because he had more money and was the darling of leaders from Maharashtra who thought they could manipulate him more easily. Kelekar recalls that Shirodkar was shocked when Bandodkar was made chief minister and could not help exclaiming: “Tum re Bandodkar”. Kelekar recalls telling a Marathi Literary Sammelan in Mumbai that there were no differences between Marathiwadis and Konkaniwadis, but only between Goawadis and Maharashtrawadis.
It is also widely acknowledged that Uday Bhembre played a key role in the campaign against merger. His widely read column, Brahmasth, was literally a thunderbolt that raised consciousness among members of the majority community over the consequences of merger with Maharashtra. In his interview with the research team, Uday Bhembre, revealed that he was part of a small group who came to be called Konkaniwadis because they were all inspired by Shenoi Goembab, the father of Konkani’s renaissance. According to Bhembre, the Konkaniwadis were not affiliated to any group, but comprised of individuals from various walks of life who were passionately committed to maintaining Goa’ unique identity.
Though the Konkaniwadis did not formally belong to any group or association, they participated in campaign events organised by various groups fighting merger. For instance, he was invited to address a meeting organised by the UGP at Curchorem. The backdrop of the meeting was just Don Pannam, the symbol of the anti merger faction. Bhembre revealed that some of the key members of the group included Chandrakant Keni, Aravind Bhatikar, Shankar Bhandari, Ravindra Kelekar, Manoharrai Sardesai, Janaradhan Phaldessai and himself. Many of them wrote for the Rashtramat. They also addressed public meetings throughout Goa. Bhembre understood that the masses of the Bahujan Samaj who backed merger merely because of their devotion to Dayanand Bandodkar did not realise the consequences of merger. So much so, even while being unsparing in his criticism of Dayanand Bandodkar, Uday Bhembre pointed out that if Goa was merged with Maharashtra, their beloved leader would cease being the chief minister and would be reduced to the status of a zilla parishad president.
According to Bhembre, the Konkaniwadis probably played the most crucial role in swinging a significant proportion of the majority community vote, including the better off sections of the Bahujan Samaj. Bhembre believed that the time was then not ripe for Goa to become a full fledged state, which is why the group had not demanded that statehood be made an alternative in the Opinion Poll. The Konkani stalwart also clarified that many members of the majority community (including his father, the late Laxmanrao Bhembre) were staunch Marathiwadis, but were against merger. His father and his ilk were only concerned about the future of Marathi.
Bhembre also averred that the Congress Party was routed in the first general elections held in Goa because unpopular candidates were chosen, and not because of the Party’s ambivalent stand on merger. Bhembre clarified that the Congress gave most of the tickets to Saraswat freedom fighters who insisted that they were entitled to tickets because of the sacrifices they had made during the liberation struggle. Bhembre recalls that even Dayanand Bandodkar, who went on to become the president of the MGP, had approached the Congress for a ticket but was refused because of pressure from the Saraswat lobby. Bhembre believes that the first elections were fought entirely on communal as well as caste lines and the Congress fared dismally because it did not sense the mood of the electorate and give due representation to the Bahujan Samaj and the minority community in the distribution of tickets.
C.P. DA COSTA
Recalling his role in the anti merger campaign, freedom fighter C.P. da Costa said he joined stalwarts like Uday Bhembre and Shankar Bhandari in a motorcade to campaign in favour of Goa among the common folk at the grassroots level. Though he was not very happy with the developments in the Congress preceding the merger, he opined that most Congressmen were staunch pro Goans and, hence, spared no effort to convince Goans, till the day of reckoning, that the only hope for Goans was to retain their status as a union territory. He recollected the fear with which Congressmen, including himself, roamed the streets of Mumbai as they were branded ‘anti-mergerites’.
Some prominent MGP leaders to whom the research team spoke to included Gajanan Raikar, an MLA in the first assembly who insisted that Dayanand Bandodkar was not really interested in merger: “In fact, Bandodkar did not want merger. He wanted to remain chief minister, in spite of his public claims that he had no interest in politics and the MGP would be dissolved after merger with Maharashtra.” Raikar claims that a group of MGP MLAs like V.S. Karmali, advocate P.P. Shirodkar and Shambu Polyekar, along with himself, formed a separate group in the Assembly and were firm about merger and making Marathi the official language of the state. In fact, they tabled a resolution in the Assembly demanding official language status to Marathi. The resolution was passed and they asked the Bandodkar to introduce an official bill for the purpose as it would have strengthened the cause for merger, but Bandodkar refused.
Gajanan Raikar is very bitter even 40 years after the Opinion Poll and insists that Dayanand Bandodkar, in his anxiety to retain his chief minister’s kodel, launched a war against genuine supporters of merger like V.S. Karmali and P.P. Shirodkar. Raikar alleges that Bandodkar also tried to undermine his position as the leader of unions and chairman of the Fisherman’s Society. Raikar insists that though he was not interested in power in the beginning, once he tasted it, he became obsessed with it. Raikar also revealed that the Marathas of Cuncolim were opposed to merger and that Shabhu Desai, a strong Maratha, even took out a torchlight procession against merger, which made a major impression on the Bahujan Samaj. Raikar also claims that mine owners and businessmen in Goa opposed the merger because they knew that while they were big people in the small pond of Goa, they would be reduced to mosquitoes in the ocean that was Maharashtra! He gave credit to the followers of Shenoi Goembab like Ravindra Kelekar, Chandrakant Keni and Uday Bhembre for successfully persuading a large number of Hindu voters to reject Goa’s merger with Maharashtra.
Gajanan Raikar concluded on a sad note. He pointed out that the demand to maintain Goa’s status as a union territory in the Opinion Poll was mainly to maintain the unique and distinct identity of Goa. People voted against merger out of the fear that people from Maharashtra would take over Goa if merger became a reality. “Now, we are a separate State but thousands of people from Karnataka, Kerala, UP, Bihar, Orissa, Nagaland and even Bangladesh, have flocked to Goa and made it their permanent home. Shenoi Goembab used to say that if Goa was merged with Maharashtra, all Marathi people would come to Goa and spoil Goa, and now what is happened? Goa has become a separate state, but it is full of people from other states. It is not Goans or Maharashtrians who are now the majority in Goa, but people from the north who neither have historical nor cultural links with Goa.
According to Bhai Vaidhya, a socialist leader, S. M. Joshi was a good friend of Dayanand Bandodkar. He believes that it was under the influence of Bandodkar that the socialist joined the pro merger lobby. However, S.M. Joshi himself was not in favour of merger so much as Goa becoming a separate state with Marathi as the official language. But since the idea did not receive much support from other leaders in Maharashtra, it was decided to press for merger of Goa with Maharashtra. Vaidhya feels that religion played a major role in the Opinion Poll campaign. He pointed out that many Hindus voted against merger because though they had a cultural and social affinity with Maharashtra, they were proud of their mother tongue, Konkani. He pointed out that even though Bandodkar led the campaign for merger, he never insisted that Marathi be made the official language. Vaidhya also endorsed the belief that Bandodkar may have changed his mind towards the end of the Opinion Poll campaign because he had become addicted to the power that the office of chief minister gave him.
DR MAX LOYOLA FURTADO
It has always been wondered why Goans were not given the option of voting for a separate state during the Opinion Poll. According to Dr. Max Loyola Furtado, Dr Alvaro de Loyola Furtado’s son, the UGP was an amalgamation of four or five smaller parties. The original demand of the UGP was statehood and recognition of Konkani as the official language. According to Dr Max Furtado, his father persuaded Jack Sequeira to join the party and later made him party president because of his organisational skills. Apparently, Dr Sequeira was deputed to represent the UGP at an All India Congress Committee meeting in Bangalore. Dr. Max claims that the Congress MLAs of Maharashtra prevailed upon Dr Jack Sequeira to accept the options of merger and union territory instead of statehood. This led to a split in the UGP with the Furtado faction insisting that the alternative to merger should be statehood while the Sequeira faction accepted the argument of senior Congress leaders that it was premature to grant statehood to Goa. Dr Alvaro de Loyola Furtado, the original founder of the UGP, felt that even if the anti merger forces won the Opinion Poll, there would be another struggle because Maharashtra would continue to make attempts to take over Goa.
DR LUIS PROTO BARBOSA
Dr Luis Proto Barbosa, who was the formal leader of the opposition in the first Assembly, was elected from the Cortalim constituency. He was a practicing doctor in Cansaulim and Dr Jack Sequeira persuaded him to contest the elections because he was very popular in the constituency. Dr Barbosa told us that, in Salcete, the campaign was easy as the people were against merger: “They fought, we guided.” The meetings were organised by locals themselves and the leaders only had to address the meetings.
DR WILFRED D’SOUZA
Recalling his experience of the Opinion Poll, Dr Wilfred D’Souza said polling ended very early in Saligao. Taking a dig at merger proponents, D’Souza spoke about how even ghosts from the crematorium were resurrected, suggesting that then, as now, there were lots of attempts at match-fixing.
DR MAURILIO FURTADO
Dr Maurilio Furtado, who was a minister in Dayanand Bandodkar’s cabinet, was elected to the first Assembly on the UGP ticket from Benaulim. At the time he was persuaded to contest the elections, in fact, he was serving as a medical officer in the Portuguese navy. According to Dr Maurilio Furtado, the UGP had an advantage in the Assembly because most of its members were highly educated. Dr Furtado insisted that Dayanand Bandodkar was not opposed so much to Catholics but against a section of the Catholic community which continued to adopt Portuguese attitudes and lifestyle. To this section, Portuguese was both the father tongue and mother tongue. He told us that since the UGP was a regional party, there was no question of it receiving funds from outside. During the Opinion Poll, leaders spent their own money. Dr Furtado believes that though Jack Sequiera was highly qualified, he was very egoistic and this led to a lot of problems.
The present St. Cruz MLA, Victoria Fernandes, was among the first to respond to the call given by the Council of Action constituted by Ravindra Kelekar to awaken the people and warn them about the dangers of merger with Maharashtra. Victoria Fernandes claims she used to undertake padyatras and organise mahila mandals to mobilise women against merger. She recalls leading a large group of more than 500 women to Azad Maidan in Panaji and delivering a speech in defiance of the police. She was arrested, but even from behind the bars she claims to have instigated people and was subsequently moved to a more remote part of the police headquarters building, which led to angry protests from the youth gathered outside. According to Fernandes, fearing further reproach from the public, the police released her.
Fernandes also claims that she chose to actively campaign in North Goa where UGP jeeps were burned and its workers not allowed into villages. She claims to have infiltrated the MGP stronghold of Pernem dressed in a peacock blue Maharashtrian sari, travelling in a cheap jeep which had a sound system playing Marathi bhajans. When she started giving speeches against merger, a rain of stones greeted her. She also recalls that there was so much enthusiasm about participating in the Opinion Poll that even those who were terminally ill insisted on being taken to the polling booth to cast their vote. She quotes a terminally ill person telling her, “I’m happy to die now for I have saved Goa for future generations.”
Speaking on his role in the Opinion Poll campaign, the UGP candidate from Canacona, Rahul Bose, divulged that he often spoke in Marathi as sections of the crowd claimed they did not Konkani. He also revealed that of the 80% Hindus in his constituency, 45% voted for merger. Interestingly, after the split in the UGP, Bose claims that the UG(F) supported Bandodkar in certain tenancy reforms, merely to spite UG(S).
- C. ALMEIDA
During the Opinion Poll, J.C. Almeida was the managing director of the Economic Development Corporation. When he was chief secretary of Goa, Daman and Dui he was in contact with the administration in his capacity as the secretary of industry, labour, revenue and education. He knew that, being a union territory, he had to refer any new schemes to the central government for approval. The liaison officer in Delhi would pursue such cases, resulting in administrative delays and difficulties. But the advantage was that the revenue gap was met by the central government.
Regarding Dayanand Bandodkar, Almeida says the first chief minister had a ‘fixed idea’ of merging Goa with Maharashtra. He enjoyed mass popularity at the grassroots level and was a man of ‘common sense’. According to Almeida, Bandodkar received Re. 1 as token salary.
How did the media look at the Opinion Poll? According to Vilas Sardessai, the veteran publisher of The Navhind Times, “Zalach Pahije was countered by hai chach.” (Must merge was countered by never!) The anti merger group comprised 95 % of the Catholic population and rich and upper middle class Hindus. Those who favoured merger were lower class Hindus and some lower class Catholics. Most businessmen were against merger though they could not publicly take a stand for fear of being victimised by the government, both in the state and at the centre.
A senior journalist based in Delhi who closely followed developments in Goa, Dharmanand Kamat noted that Goa’s political status was in question from the time it was liberated. A major debate that broke out was on the administration of the state – if Goa would be administered by a central agency or conferred statehood. While this debate was going on at the national level, Maharashtra staked its claim over Goa on the basis of linguistic and cultural identity, with Mysore following suit.
The question that arose was: if Goa was to be granted statehood, on what basis would it be done? Goa did not have an official language. As a preliminary step, Goa was made a union territory. In the meanwhile, a third lobby to retain the separate identity of Goa surfaced in the form of a regional party.
In the meanwhile, Maharashtra was looking for someone to pursue the cause of merger. Maharashtra had a long tradition of anti Brahmin movements and socialist leaders tried to exercise that concept in Goa. Thus, Bandodkar was their choice.
THE ANNIVERSARY OF the Opinion Poll, January 16, is usually accompanied by the controversial subject of identifying the Father of the Opinion Poll. In more recent times, statues of Jack Sequeira have been erected in various parts of the state, including a traffic island in Dona Paula. There can be no dispute about the major role that Jack Sequeira played in the defeat of the pro-merger, pro-Maharashtra forces in the Opinion Poll. Indeed, Jack Sequeira’s efforts to preserve the unique and distinct identity of Goa go back to the formation of the United Goans Party, which fought the first elections to the Legislative Assembly of the then union territory of Goa on the plank of not just maintaining the status quo of union territory, but creating a full-fledged state and recognising Konkani as the official language of the state.
There are others, of course, who argue that while Jack Sequeira undoubtedly played a major role, his task was relatively simpler because he was canvassing for the Christian population’s vote, who in any case were vehemently against merger. So much so, he was preaching to a community which was already committed to the cause of retaining the distinct identity of Goa. And although Jack Sequeira got the credit for the Opinion Poll victory, there were other Christians like Urminda Lima Leitao (the only woman MLA in the first Legislative Assembly of Goa) and Dr. Alvaro Loyola de Furtado, to mention only a few. These leaders played a significant role in mobilising the Christian community to come out in large numbers to vote against the merger of Goa with Maharashtra.
Goans in Mumbai and other parts of the country also participated in the campaign and specially came to Goa to vote in the Opinion Poll. Consequent to the decision of the Election Commissioner to permit Goans (who had ancestral homes in Goa) in Mumbai and other parts of the country to register themselves as voters, as many as 25,000 Goans who were living outside the state are reported to have registered themselves as voters and travelled to Goa to cast their votes in the crucial Opinion Poll. The majority of those who registered themselves and came to Goa to vote—some even from countries outside India—were Goan Christians.
If you talk to the Hindu section of the population, particularly those who were involved in the Opinion Poll, many of them inevitably tend to give credit to Purushottam Kakodkar. It was Purushottam Kakodkar who, because of his closeness to the Nehru family, played a significant role in persuading the first prime minister of the country, Jawaharlal Nehru, to declare Goa a union territory. As far back as in September 9, 1963, then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to Purushottam Kakodkar, who had apparently insisted on resigning from his post as president of the Goa Pradesh Congress because of the split in the Congress in Goa on the issue of merger with Maharashtra. In his letter, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote, “I see that some people are laying great stress on the merger of Goa with Maharashtra. I think this is very wrong and foolish of them. I have said that the future of Goa will be decided by the people of Goa. This does not mean so soon after liberation we should consider the merger of Goa with Maharashtra …for the present it is essential that Goa should remain a Union Territory and settle down.”
Following the death of Nehru, the Maharashtra lobby within the Congress almost persuaded Nehru’s successor, Lal Bahadur Shastri, to merge Goa with Maharashtra. The claim being that the first election to the Legislative Assembly of Goa was fought on the issue of merger and that the victory of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and its Praja Socialist Party allies was a mandate for merger of Goa with Maharashtra. It was Purushottam Kadkodkar’s frustration over his inability to persuade Lal Bahadur Shastri and other members of the Congress Parliamentary Board to maintain status quo that provoked him to take sanyaas.
This concerned Indira Gandhi (who succeeded Lal Bahadur Shastri after his sudden death in Tashkent). In fact, she is reported to have sent the then general secretary of the Congress, S. K. Patil, to Rishikesh where Kakodkar had taken refuge. In response to a letter from Kakodkar, Indira Gandhi wrote to him on April 14, 1966, “We have all been very concerned for these last few months. I am glad that you decided to write as there was not only anxiety on the part of the central and state governments, but there was considerable uneasiness in the public mind over your so called disappearance. I can understand your desire to be alone to think things over. The Goa issue is a complicated one and, in politics, one cannot proceed very logically or as one wants.”
Apart from Indira Gandhi, even then Congress president, K. Kamaraj, was concerned about Kakodkar’s disappearance. In a letter addressed to Purushottam Kakodakar dated April 8, 1966, Kamraj wrote, “I am happy that you are alright. Your sudden disappearance had caused anxiety to all of us, particularly your relatives and colleagues in Goa. There is a lot of work waiting for you and I feel you should now sincerely think of going back to Goa as early as possible.” There can be no doubt that Purushottam Kakodkar’s disappearance played a major role in persuading Indira Gandhi and Kamraj to reject the demand for merger of Goa with Maharashtra and hold an unprecedented opinion poll to let the people of Goa decide their own future.
Besides Dr. Loyola de Furtado, Jack Sequeira and Purushottam Kakodkar, it is acknowledged that Padma Bhushan Ravindra Kelekar (who formed the Anti-Merger Front in October 1966, soon after S.K. Patil announced the Congress Parliamentary Board’s decision to hold an opinion poll) played a major role in protecting the unique and distinct identity of Goa. Along with Ravindra Kelekar, credit for winning the battle of the Opinion Poll should also go to Chandrakant Keni whon, as the editor of the Marathi newspaper Rashtramat, not only countered the tendentious propaganda of the pro-merger Chowgule-owned Gomantak but, in his own right, played a major role in persuading significant sections of the Hindu community to vote against merger. The results of the Opinion Poll show that not only the Hindu Saraswats, but even a significant section of the Hindu Bahujan Samaj voted against merger, contrary to the expectations of the MGP and its Maharashtrian patrons.
Uday Bhembre, with his powerful column in the Rashtramat and his eloquent speeches, undoubtedly managed to persuade several Hindus who were sitting on the fence to vote against merger. Uday Bhembre, as he himself told us, was conscious of the fact that the Bahujan Samaj was supporting the MGP and the pro-merger group not because they were in favour of the merger, but because of their great love and affection for Dayanand Bandodkar, who was seen not only as a clean politician, but perceived by many as a messiah who would liberate the Bahujan Samaj from the tyranny of the bhatkars through the Tenancy Act and the Mundkar Act.
While all the leaders belonging to the Konkaniwadi group were unsparing in their attack on Dayanand Bandodkar, some of them also strategically praised Bandodkar. Uday Bhembre recalls that he used the very adulation that Bandodkar attracted to dramatise the consequences of the Bahujan Samaj voting for merger by pointing out at a public meeting at Ponda that their leader Bandodkar would be totally marginalised if Goa was merged as their “beloved Bandokar would cease to be the chief minister and may be reduced to the status of zilla parishad chief!” There are suggestions from MGP leaders like Gajanand Raikar that Bandokar himself, towards the end of the campaign, began to realise that it was not in his personal interest for Goa to merge with Maharashtra.
Unlike many leaders, Christian and Hindu, whose followers insist insist that one or the other leader is the father or mother or uncle or aunt of the Opinion Poll, nobody talks about the mining magnate from Vasco da Gama who staked the future of his entire business empire on the outcome of the Opinion Poll. V.M. Salgaocar, who was virtually the finance minister of the Anti–Merger Front, never sought any credit for his monumental contribution to the victory of the anti-merger group. This was because V.M. Salgaocar not only donated huge amounts of money, but took a very active part in the Anti-Merger Opinion Poll campaign because of his deep and abiding love for Goa.
At the time of liberation, many industrialists, including mine owners, were worried about their future in India and many of them were even considering relocating in various other parts of the world. I recall the late Pascoal Menezes, founder of the Cosme Matias Menezes group, talking about a discussion he had with V.M. Salgaocar immediately after liberation. Pascoal had even greater cause for concern because the source of his enormous wealth was trading, which came to a complete halt because of the then government’s obsession with self-reliance. The ban on imported goods (the foundation of the CMM empire) drove Pascoal to despair. He pointed out to V.M. Salgaocar that the new Indian government might not renew or recognise the mining concessions that had been granted by the Portuguese and advised him to consider relocating to a country outside India. To which V.M. Salgaocar’s replied, according to Pascoal Menezes, that he was a son of the red soil of Goa; that he owed everything that life had given him to this red soil of Goa; that he would never consider the idea of living anywhere else.
It was, therefore, not surprising that when some members of the Anti-Merger Front, including Ravindra Kelekar, approached him for support, V.M. Salgaocar very readily and spontaneously agreed to extend them his total support. It has been my experience that V.M. Salgaocar always committed himself mind and body, heart and soul to a project when he was convinced that it was the right thing to do. Having decided to extend his total support to the anti-merger movement, Salgaocar instructed Chandrakant Keni to use the Rashtramat to aggressively campaign to preserve status quo and counter the Gomantak and the entire Marathi press, which had been carrying on a fierce campaign for merger of Goa with Maharashtra. Salgaocar decided to bear all the expenditure of Rashtramat, which was virtually distributed free.
But Salgaocar did not stop at giving Chandrakant Keni a free hand and encouraging him to use the Rashtramat to mobilise the Hindu population against merger. Salgaocar set up his own special task force to monitor and to co-ordinate the campaign against merger. He set up a separate office for the anti-merger campaign in Margao and deputed one of his senior colleagues, E. Fernandes, to run the campaign headquarters. Another senior executive, M.K. Kavlekar, co-ordinated between the head office and the campaign office in Margao. The task force included Francisco Cruz, who was entrusted with the responsibility of printing all the posters, leaflets, and banners in Mumbai and supplying them to the activists. V.M. Salgaocar not only monitored the progress of the campaign to the most minute detail, such as how many people attended each meeting, but often attended the meetings himself, not as one of the leaders on the dais, but as a member of the audience. At one such meeting in Vasco da Gama, Ulhas Buyao was singing his heart out against merger and about the need to preserve beautiful Goa. A confidant of Salgaocar, Vithu Lotlikar, who was on the dais, told Buyao about V.M. Salgaocar’s presence among the audience. Buyao invited V.M. Salgaocar on stage, but he refused. Instead, he suggested that Buyao should come to see him at his office. The next day Buyao was very pleasantly surprised when, after meeting V.M. Salgaocar, he was presented with a garland of currency notes1. Buyao’s composition, Chanyeache Ratri, virtually became the rallying cry and the anthem of the anti-merger movement.
Not that V.M. Salgaocar did not come under tremendous pressure, both from the then chief minister Dayanand Bandokar and senior leaders from Maharashtra and the Centre. His colleagues recall that many files relating to business were held back by the then chief minister. Despite the fact that it was V.M. Salgaocar who provided the money to Dayanand Bandokar when he got a mining concession from the Portuguese government and did not have the money to operate it. There was also great pressure from the government of Maharashtra.
The late V.M. Salgaocar’s colleagues recall a visit by the then industries minister, N. Tirupde of Maharashtra. V.M. Salgaocar agreed to meet him on the insistence of his friend Vishwas Rao Chowgule, who was backing the merger movement. Always courteous, V.M. Salgaocar greeted the minister at the entrance to the building housing the Salgaocar office and personally escorted him in. He had laid out an excellent spread of tea and Goan delicacies for the honourable visiting industries minister. After the courtesies were over, the minister got down to business and made an hour-long presentation to V.M. Salgaocar on why it would be advantageous for a businessman like him to have Goa merge with Maharashtra. There was no talk of politics. The industries minister only spoke of benefits to V.M. Salgaocar and the economy of Goa consequent to merger with Maharashtra. Salgaocar listened to him very patiently. At the end of the presentation, he had only one question: “After merger will we remain Goans or will we all have to become Maharashtrians?” Chowgule and the minister got the message and left without saying another word.
When activists of the Anti-Merger Front attempted to thank V.M. Salgaocar, he inevitably chided them with, “Why are you thanking me? Instead, I should be thanking you! I am one of you. We are all humble soldiers fighting to preserve the unique identity of Goa. We are doing it for Goa, who is our mother and for Konkani which is our mother tongue.” During his lifetime V.M. Salgaocar never took credit for his contribution to the success of the anti-merger lobby in the Opinion Poll. Goa was his janma bhumi. And he was only doing his duty by supporting and participating in the anti-merger movement.
Which is why this book is dedicated to the memory of a man who was one of the major contributors to the victory of Goans in the Opinion Poll. A contributor not only of the purse, but contributor of the heart.
However, the victory in the Opinion Poll cannot be attributed to anyone individual. It was a victory of all Goans and the defeat of those who wanted to divide Goa along religious, linguistic and caste considerations. The Opinion Poll, the movement to make Konkani the official language and the more recent citizens’ movement of the Goa Bachao Abhiyan are all testimony to the fact that whenever Goans come together, cutting across communal and caste lines, the winner has been Goa.
- Voyager, p 167-169.
‘Figure’ing It Out
Legislative Assembly Elections 1963
|Party||No. of seats contested||Seats won||Votes polled||Percentage of votes|
Elected Members of the First Goa Legislative Assembly
Speaker : Pandurang P. Shirodkar
Dy. Speaker: M.R.Jivani
|St. Estevam||D.K. Chopdekar||MG|
|St. Cruz||J.L.G. Araujo||UG|
|St. Andre||T.F. Pereira||UG|
|Dayanand Bandodkar||Chief Minister|
|Vithal S. Karmali||Information and Tourism, Education, Public Health and Public Works|
|Tony Fernandes||Law, Industries, Labour and Agriculture|
|Chief Secretary||G.K. Bhanot|
Community-vote: Legislative Assembly Elections 1963
|Name of the constituency||Hindu voters||Catholic voters||Muslim voters||Majority||Member Elected||Party successful|
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Antulay A.R., Mahajan Report Uncovered, Allied Publishers, Mumbai, 1968.
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Kerkar Ravindra, Nation’s Solemn Commitments on Goa (Experts from the Speeches and Letters of Shri. Jawaharlal Nehru), Goa, Daman and Diu Territorial Congress, 1965.
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No. 1236-PMH/63 (Letter dated May 11, 1963 from Jawaharlal Nehru to Purushottam Kakodkar).
Letter dated May 18, 1963 from Indira Gandhi to Purushottam Kakodkar.
No. 2183-PMH/63 (Letter dated September 9, 1963 from Jawaharlal Nehru to Purushottam Kakodkar).
Letter dated April 8, 1966 from K Kamraj to Purushottam Kakodkar.
No. 646-PMO/66 (Letter dated April 14, 1966 from Mrs. Indira Gandhi to Purushottam Kakodkar).
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United Nations Documents
Document Nos. S/5020- S/5057, A/Pv.703, S/5028, A/5201, A/Pv. 987, A/6300, A/6455, A/6.4/L.855, A/6626, A/6464, A/6625, A/5800, A/6051.
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Notifications And Acts
Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.
Government of India, Chief Election Commissioner, LA/ELN/2229/66, dated December 12, 1966.
Government of India, Gazette of India Extraordinary, dated December 14, 1966.
Notification for the Goa, Daman and Diu Opinion Poll Act (No. 38 of 1966)
Notification No 464) Goa/66 (3).
Representation of Peoples Act, 1950 and 1951.
Journals And Magazines
Asian Recorder (Vol. XIII, No. 6, February 5-11 and 12-18, 1967)
Economic and Political Weekly
Indian Economic and Social History Review
The Goan World
Free Press Journal
The Bombay Chronicle
Times of India
West Coast Times
Debates In The Legislative Assemblies
Debates dated January 21, 1965, January 22, 1965, February 16, 1965, March 25, 1965, July 26, 1965, July 30, 1965, Januray 21, 1965 and January 22, 1965.
Debates in the Maharashtra Legislative Assemblies and Councils (1962-67).
Debates in the Mysore Legislative Assemblies and Councils (1962-67).
Proceedings of the Debates in the Lok Sabha dated 16-3-1963 (pp. 4319-4372); 18-3-1963 (pp. 4438-4442); 3-5-1963 (pp.13651-13688); 4-5-1963 (pp. 13785-13908); 21-11-1966 (pp. 4383-4389); 30-11-1966 (pp. 6429-6456) and 1-12-1966 (pp. 6656-6766 and pp. 6806-6810)
Proceedings of the Debates in the Rajya Sabha dated 20-3-1963 (pp. 3579-3658); 10-5-1963 (pp. 2911-3036); 6-12-1966 (pp. 4493-4504) and 7-12-1966 (pp. 4641-4765)
Acts And Bills
Goa, Daman and Diu (Opinion Poll) Bill, 1966
Goa, Daman and Diu Reorganisation Bill and Constitution (Fifty-Seventh) Amendment Bill, 1987.
Goa, Daman and Diu Union Territories Act, 1963.
UGP, GPCC, MGP, Frente Populare.
Entry 97 of the Union List read with Article 248
Section 246(A) of Article 979
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- J.N.U. Library, New Delhi.
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- Bangalore University Library, Bangalore.
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- Legislative Assembly Library, Goa.
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- Personal library and archives of Adv Uday Bhembre, Goa.
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- Archives of Gomantak, Goa.
- Archives of O Heraldo and A Vida, Goa.
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- Konkani Bhasha Mandal.
- Gomantak Marathi Parishad.
- Mr Shantaram Naik, Rajya Sabha MP.
- Mr V.C. Shukla, former minister of state for home who moved the Opinion Poll Bill.
- Mr Mohan Dharia, former General Secretary of the AICC.
- Mr John Fernandes, former Rajya Sabha MP.
- Mr Dharmanand Kamat, senior journalist, New Delhi.
- Mr Eduardo Faleiro, Commissioner NRI Affairs and former MP.
- Mr Uday Bhembre, former Rashtramat columnist.
- Late Mr Chandrakant Keni, former editor, Rashtramat.
- Dr Max de Loyola Furtado, son of Dr Alvaro Loyola Furtado.
- Mr Ravindra Kelekar, Sahitya Academy Awardee.
- Mr Gurunath Kelekar, freedom fighter.
- Late Dr Maurilio Furtado, first MLA from Benaulim.
- Dr Luis Proto Barbosa, former chief minister.
- Mr Leo Velho, former MLA from Navelim constituency.
- Mr Atchyut Usgaonkar, MGP MLA of first Legislative Assembly.
- Mr Noel Lima Leitao, son of Urminda Lima Leitao.
- Mr C.P. da Costa, freedom fighter and veteran Congressman.
- Late Mr Floriano Machado, freedom fighter and former MLA.
- Dr Francisco Colaço, cardiologist.
- Mr Raphael Viegas, activist.
- Mr Brian Mendonca, Oxford University Press and poet.
- Mr Michael Gonsalves, former editor, Free Press and Maharashtra Herald.
- Bhai Vaidhya, leader of the socialists and a close associate of S.M Joshi, Pune.
- Mr G.P. Pradhan, former MLA, Maharashtra.
- Dr Yeshwant Sumant, Department of Political Science, University of Pune.
- Mrs Lilia Colaco e Sousa, former librarian, Xavier Centre for Historical Research.
- Mr Menon da Costa, Margao-based businessman.
- Mr A. V. Raikar, lecturer, CES College.
- Mr Nityanand Naik, lecturer, CES College.
- Fr Raymond Antao, Goa Diocese.
- Mr Bobby Mathew, lecturer, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai.
- Mrs Clancy Baretto, research assistant, Goa University.
- Mr J. M. Braganza, Under Secretary, Secretariat, Goa.
- Mr D.C. Pardesi, Gokhale Istitute, Pune.
- Mr Shridhar Kamat, vice Chairman Ravindra Bhavan, Margao.
- Mr Prashant Naik, President Konkani Bhasha Mandal.
- Prof Prasanna Kumar Akluskar, Ranade Institute, Pune Akroskar.
- Mr Arun Tikekar, former editor of Maharashtra Times.
- Mr Virchand Dharmsey, Asiatic Society, Mumbai.
- Mr Rahul Bose, contested the first elections from Canacona on the UGP ticket.
- Mr D. Moore, on the staff of Mantralaya, Mumbai.
- Mr Mervin D’Souza, teacher, Cuncolim.
- Dr J.C. Almeida, former chief secretary.
- Dr Archana Kakodkar, former librarian.
- Mr Pundalik Naik, writer.
- Mr Gajanan Raikar, poet and freedom fighter.
- Mr Sandesh Prabhudessai, journalist.
- Dr Tanaji Halarnkar.
- M.K. Kavlekar.
- G.N. Bene.
- Vithu Lotlikar.
- Fr Firoze Fernandes, editor of Vavredeancho Ixtt.
- Prof. Harishchandra Nagvekar, retired Principal, MES College, Zuarinagar.
- Researcher: Prof Prajal Sakhardande.
- Research Assistants:
Gurudas Sawal, former chief reporter, Navprabha.
Pradeep Padgaonkar, Prudent Media.
Jayprakash Kulkarni, Gomantak.
Mr M. Malkarnekar.
Miss Gretta Lobo.
Mrs Cynthia Coelho.
Mr. Shridhar Kamat
Adv. Uday Bhembre
Mr. Dharmanand Kamat
Dr. Alvaro de Loyola Furtado
Mrs. Jonquil Sudhir de Souza, Executive Editor, Goan Observer.
Mrs. Tara Narayan, Publisher, Goan Observer.
8 thoughts on “TRIUMPH OF SECULARISM: The Battle of the Opinion Poll”
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Pls explain what is secularism is that only criticism of Hindu
Kashyap Bandodkar…an amazing piece of literature
A long document, will read in parts
The credit of the victory at opinion poll goes to Dr. JAC Sequera and his secular party named United Goan Party. The defeated communal parties were Maharashtrwadi Gomkant Party and Maharashtra State branch of Indian National Congress Party. Afterward prominent leaders of MGP like Rane join Congress party and became secular.
Indians are secular by birth, by nature , it is in their culture. When people of other faith were driven from their home land they took assylum in Bharat land eg PARSI, TIBETIANS, JEWS. This is not taught in school