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Mainstream, VOL L, No 1, December 24, 2011 (Annual 2011)

March to Panjim

Reportage on Goa Liberation

Tuesday 27 December 2011

by RAZA ALI

Panjim, December 21—The lush, luxuriant wild beauty that is Goa has risen and gripped our entire country these days in a close embrace, as it were.

The story of the triumphant march of our Army to bring Goa back home is known already. But close upon the heels of our Army, a bare six hours behind the advancing line, was a batch of people from places near and faraway from Goa, who had found their way to Panjim to celebrate Goa’s liberation together with the Goanese and our own jawans.

This batch went on swelling as it advanced from Banda. At midnight, as December 19 dawned, gunfire signalled zero hour, but undaunted by the great risks involved, this batch marched ahead till it reached Panjim in the early hours of the morning.

Among them were the Communist Municipal Councilors of Bombay: G.L. Reddy, who had taken part in the Nagar Haveli liberation struggle, and Tara Reddy. A Goanese girl, Prema Tendulkar, who had been deported from Goa in 1946 for participating in the freedom movement and who had been living in Bombay since then, was with them. When I reached Panjim I found Tara Reddy already there. Smiling broadly, she told the following inspiring story of the people’s march to Panjim.

Goa Entered

BANDA is the place where the Goa Vimochan Samiti had offered satyagraha in August 1955. It was in that historic spot that on August 3, 1955 Baburao Thorat and Nityanand Saha had laid down their young lives. It was there too, that on August 15, Karnail Singh, Madhukar Chaudhury and Mahenkar had made the supreme sacrifice.

As the very atmosphere began to breathe of the impending action, these three intrepid persons set out from Bombay and reached Banda on December 13. Military traffic to the Dodamarg area was heavy, indicating imminent action. The mood of the people was one of enthusiastic expectation. At a public meeting in Banda the next day, the entire population turned out to greet Goa’s day of deliverance.

To the sounds of gunfire on December 18 night, Banda awoke. Tara and the others switched on to Goa Radio. Some programme was on the air. Suddenly at 6.30 next morning Goa Radio went dead.

They rushed out of their house and found everybody else streaming towards the border, to the Lakkarkot checkpost, a bare two furlongs away. The Special Reserve Police cut the cordon wire and about four to five hundred people entered freely what till a moment ago had been Portuguese occupied territory.

In a mood of exultant joy the flag-hoisting ceremony was held at about 8 am on Goa’s newly free soil.

Tricolour Hoisted

THE Lakkarkot checkpost had been abandoned by the Portuguese on Decembe 17 evening. But some 300 of them had fled to the woods about a mile away. A Portuguese jeep was last seen patrolling in that area as late as 7 o’clock on December 18 morning.

After the flag-hoisting ceremony, the Special Reserve Police tried to send back our people who had crossed the border. But in vain. With spirits soaring high, they kept marching ahead in a procession of victory. By then some people from Banda and even from the further away Sawatwari, had joined them in cars.

One and all they marched ahead, hoisting Indian flags all along the way.

Some went towards Pernem. Our group, leaving the main road, turned towards the village routes in the direction of Dhargal.

In every village they were greeted by the people, who offered them, with all their affection, coconuts, bread and tea. On their way, they came across some commandos. It was a god-send. For, these brave commandos guided the batch the rest of the way to Panjim.

Continuous gunfire kept them company to Dhargal. They were hardly three hours behind the Army’s advancing line at that time. They reached Dhargal at 4 pm. They found the Dhargal checkpost still occupied by the Portuguese. The commandos then went into action. It was a grand sight of swift manoeuvring, sudden attack and instant victory.

The Portuguese took to their heels. And in the Shanta Durga Temple, to the accompaniment of drums and temple music, the flag-hoisting ceremony was held.

It was well past midnight by then. So they stayed on for the rest of the night in Dhargal.

In the early hours of December 20 morning, this group of about ten people, with about 15 commandos, started again. After crossing the Shapura river, a short distance from Dhargal, they managed to get taxis with the help of the General Organiser of the Quit Goa Commando group, and drove on to Mapsa. Mapsa was in jubilant spirits with people hoisting Indian flags in the golden rays of the morning sun.

By 10 am this group was in Parra, an important place, when the news came that our Army had reached Panjim.

The impatience of our grouip to get to Panjim can be easily imagined. But it was only at 11.30 am that they were allowed to cross the lagoon and enter Panjim.
Jubilant crowds thronged the streets of Panjim. It was the greatest day in its history. The last citadel of the oldest colonial power had fallen.

From Panjim jail were released patriots, who had fought for this day.

Among these was Mark Fernandes, who was once reported in our Parliament as killed under Portuguese torture. Arrested in 1954 for offering satyagraha, Fernandes was released five-and-a-half years later in 1959. About a month back, he had gone to Goa to see his ailing mother and was put behind bars again. Laura D’Souza was also among those released by the Indian Army in Panjim.

After greeting the released patriots, our group came back to Parra, where at 4 pm a grand meeting was organised, the first ever held on the territory of free Goa, and, in fact, the first after a long, long period of suppression of all democratic rights.

Presiding over the meeting, a local inhabitant of Parra reminded all the villagers that had gathered there, that it was in Parra that the first meeting of the Goan National Congress was held. And it was again here that the first meeing was being held after the liberation of Goa.

On December 20 came to Panjim the prisoners released from the Aguad jail. Most of the Aguad prisoners had sentences ranging from seven to 24 years. In a number of cases they had already completed their sentences.

It was with unbounded joy that this group of people from India greeted our brothers who had suffered and sacrificed in fighting Portuguese colonialism.

And it was with the same joy that I listened to the inspiring story of our Bombay Municipal Councillors, who had succeeded in embracing our Goan brethren in the streets of Panjim at the dawn of Goan liberation.

[Courtesy: New Age (January 7, 1962)]

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