Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

Back in news: Liberation of Goa


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Goan Liberation

Mains level: Causes of delayed de-colonization

The PM recently took a jibe at then PM Nehru, saying that it could have liberated Goa in 1947 itself had Nehru sent the Indian Army there.

What is the news?

  • Goa was liberated 15 years after India attained freedom.
  • PM Modi accused Nehru as guilty of leaving satyagrahis in the dismay, refusing to send the Indian Army to liberate Goa, even after 25 of them were shot dead by the Portuguese Army.

Goa’s Colonization: A backgrounder

  • Goa became a Portuguese colony in 1510, when Admiral Afonso de Albuquerque defeated the forces of the sultan of Bjiapur, Yusuf Adil Shah.
  • The next four and a half centuries saw one of Asia’s longest colonial encounters — Goa found itself at the intersection of competing regional and global powers.
  • It received a religious and cultural ferment that lead eventually to the germination of a distinct Goan identity that continues to be a source of contestation even today.
  • By the turn of the twentieth century, Goa had started to witness an upsurge of nationalist sentiment opposed to Portugal’s colonial rule, in sync with the anti-British nationalist movement.

Beginning of freedom movement

  • Tristao de Braganza Cunha, celebrated as the father of Goan nationalism, founded the Goa National Congress at the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress in 1928.
  • In 1946, the socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia led a historic rally in Goa that gave a call for civil liberties and freedom, and eventual integration with India.
  • This event became a watershed moment in Goa’s freedom struggle.
  • At the same time, there was a thinking that civil liberties could not be won by peaceful methods, and a more aggressive armed struggle was needed.
  • This was the view of the Azad Gomantak Dal (AGD), whose co-founder Prabhakar Sinari is one of the few freedom fighters still living today.
  • Finally, Goa was liberated on December 19, 1961 by swift Indian military action that lasted less than two days.

Recognition of Goa

  • The Supreme Court of India recognized the validity of the annexation and rejected the continued applicability of the law of occupation.
  • In a treaty with retroactive effect, Portugal recognized Indian sovereignty in 1974.
  • Under the jus cogens rule, forceful annexations including the annexation of Goa are held as illegal since they have taken place after the UN Charter came into force.

Why was Goa left un-colonized?

As India moved towards independence, however, it became clear that Goa would not be free any time soon, because of a variety of complex factors.

  • No immediate war: Then PM Nehru felt that if he launched a military operation (like in Hyderabad) to oust the colonial rulers, his image as a global leader of peace would be impacted.
  • Trauma of Partition: The trauma of Partition and the massive rupture that followed, coupled with the war with Pakistan, kept the Government of India from opening another front.
  • Internationalization of the issue: This might have led the international community to get involved.
  • No demand from within: It was Gandhi’s opinion that a lot of groundwork was still needed to raise the consciousness of the people, and the diverse political voices emerging within be brought under a common umbrella.

Nehruvian dilemma

  • India’s global image: Nehru was headed in shaping India’s position in the comity of nations.
  • Trying peaceful options: He was trying to exhaust all options available to him given the circumstances that India was emerging from.
  • Portuguese obsession: Portugal had changed its constitution in 1951 to claim Goa not as a colonial possession, but as an overseas province.
  • Portugal in NATO: The move was apparently aimed at making Goa a part of the newly formed North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military alliance. Hence the collective security clause of the treaty would be triggered.
  • Weak indigenous push: Nehru saw it prudent to pursue bilateral diplomatic measures with Portugal to negotiate a peaceful transfer while, at the same time, a more ‘overt’ indigenous push for liberation.

Why did Nehru wait until December 1961 to launch a full-scale military offensive?

India could no longer be seen to delay the liberation of Goa because:

  • Portuguese offensive against Satyagrahis: The firing incident also provoked a sharp response from the Government of India, which snapped diplomatic and consular ties with Portugal in 1955.
  • India as torchbearer of de-colonization: India got itself firmly established as a leader of the Non Aligned World and Afro Asian Unity, with decolonisation and anti-imperialism as the pillars of its policy.
  • Criticisms from African nations: An Indian Council of Africa seminar on Portuguese colonies organized in 1961 heard strong views from African as this was hampering their own struggles against the ruthless regime.
  • Weakening Colonialism: The delegates were certain that the Portuguese empire would collapse the day Goa was liberated.

The debate in 2022

  • Politics needs to be charitable to history, because at some point it would be put to the same scrutiny and judgment as it becomes history itself.
  • Goa has seen 60 years of eventful liberation and successful amalgamation in the Indian Union.
  • It is more important for it to look ahead to its future than to rapidly receding, increasingly dim images in the rear-view mirror.


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