Prime Minister Narendra Modi today visited Goa to commemorate its Liberation Day. This visit is significant in many ways. Goan history is little known to most Indians because the history of colonial rule and freedom struggle is against the Gandhian narrative of colonialism and the freedom struggle of the rest of India. The prime minister’s visit has resulted in shining light over the dark chapter of Goa, and the armed struggle for liberation.
The British colonised India through treachery and deceit. But the British, for all their cruelty, never attacked the local cultures and never sought to impose Christianity upon Indians. In contrast, the Portuguese invaded Goa using armed fleets. They used brutal methods to colonise and convert the local population. Methods that would only rival those of today’s ISIS. New methods of torture were invented to convert unwilling people to Christianity.
Even for those who did convert, the torture did not stop.
Goan Inquisition: Brutal chapter never told
The Portuguese launched the programme of inquisition to brutalise Christian converts of Goa. Culture police used to look for Goans speaking Konkani, eating vegetarian food, singing folk songs, wearing traditional attire, and following any religious or cultural remnant of the Hindu faith. Those found guilty of these crimes were brutally tortured — sometimes to death — and made examples of.
This piece of history was buried like Mughal history, for the same “secular” reasons.
The prime minister’s statement today that “Goa did not lose its link with India despite 450 years under Portuguese rule” signifies the fact that even the most brutal torture methods used over 450 years did not help the Portuguese remove Hindu essence from Goa. Goans still speak Konkani, and Goan Hindus who did not convert and chose to escape — later came back to Goa from nearby regions.
Even today, Konkani communities from Maharashtra all the way to Southern Kerala speak Konkani, practice Hinduism and continue to recognize as original Goans.
Narrative of ahimsa broken by Modi visit
Indians are always told that we won against the British due to our “unarmed” struggle. While part of it is true – if INA is relegated to a footnote – it is not true in the Goan context. Goan freedom struggle had almost no element of civil disobedience and Gandhian Ahimsa. The Indian government tried to negotiate for the secession of Goa from Portugal, but diplomatic efforts did not yield fruit.
On17 December 1961, Goa was invaded by the Indian army, and the Portuguese surrendered on 19 December 1961.
The fact that Goa was taken by violence by Nehru, the best disciple of ahimsak Gandhi, is a fact seldom told. This fact would soil the veil of non-violence under which Pandit Nehru lives.
This visit by Prime Minister Modi and the discussion of facts it has sparked around the armed invasion of Goa by India is significant in breaking the false image of non-violence established through tightly controlled narratives.
India: Under attack by multiple enemies
The most significant part of PM Modi’s visit is a reminder to us Indians that Indians and Hindu culture have always been under relentless attack from multiple fronts.
Indian historians have tried to establish Indians as having only one enemy: The British. Through narratives, these historians even converted the deadliest enemies of India: The Islamic invaders – into Indians, despite the invaders’ own memoirs recording their hatred against Hindus and the Hindu faith.
Portuguese similarly were portrayed as people who came to trade with India, and then settled down and converted a few people in Goa. For example, Vasco Da Gama is portrayed as noble. But one of his missions in his voyage to India was to identify targets for the Portuguese to invade and brutalize. Today’s visit by Prime Minister Modi helps remind Indians and Hindus that we have always had to fight enemies on multiple fronts, all of whom had the same goal — the obliteration of Hindus and the Hindu culture.