Goa freedom fighters protest celebration of Portuguese arrival

November 11th, 2010 - 11:40 am ICT by IANS  

By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar
Panaji, Nov 11 (IANS) Goan freedom fighters are up in arms again. They had once fought against Portuguese rule in the state and this time they are opposing grand plans to mark 500 years of the arrival of the colonisers.

More than 1,000 elderly freedom fighters have demanded that the state government boycott the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Portuguese arrival in Goa even as one of Portugal’s biggest naval vessels, NRP Sagres, prepares to dock in the state Friday.

“How can anyone celebrate the arrival of oppressors?” asks Nagesh Karmali, 71, spokesperson for the Freedom Fighters Association of Goa (FFAG).

“We will protest. Let the state government put us behind bars and celebrate the 500 years of Portuguese (arrival) in this part of the world,” Karmali told IANS.

FFAG executive committee member Chandrakant Pednekar,77, said that irrespective of age, freedom fighters would use walking sticks as lathis and physically baulk any attempts to “Portugalise” Goa once again.

“Efforts are being made once again to rename the streets of the capital in the names of Portuguese rulers and lords. We will not hesitate to use our walking sticks as lathis and physically stop such efforts,” Pednekar said.

The celebration is an initiative of the Portuguese government and has been endorsed by the state government. A film festival at Goa University here and a lecture series instituted in the name of Portugese poet Luis de Camoes are lined up for the celebrations that may continue till December.

According to Portugal’s Consul General in Goa Antonio Sabido Costa, the arrival of the naval vessel is a major event in itself.

“The tallest ship of the Portuguese Navy, NRP Sagres, is visiting Goa as a part of its 2010 circumnavigation of the world,” Costa said, adding that the vessel would be anchored at the Mormugao port, 40 km from here, from Nov 12 to 16.

“The journey of the ship is to mark the arrival of the Portuguese to the orient and extreme orient 500 years ago,” he said.

The vessel would be received at the Goa port by Rear Admiral Sudhir Pillai, flag officer of Goa area, he said.

But the docking of the ship may see a string of protests from members of the freedom fighters association. “The Congress government in Goa should hang their head in shame for officially joining the celebrations,” said Karmali, who was injured when Portuguese colonisers fired bullets on freedom fighters.

He along with several others was also arrested during Goa’s freedom struggle.

The freedom fighters have found an ally in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which claimed that the cry is in sync with its call for nationalism and nation-building.

“We will be supporting the protest by the freedom fighters because their demand is patriotic,” said Goa state RSS chief Subhash Velingkar.

In 1510, Portugal’s explorer general Afonso de Albuquerque first won a military conquest on Goan soil by defeating Adilshah of Bijapur who ruled over the western Indian state known for its rich maritime trade in spices.

Goa was liberated after nearly 450 years of Portuguese colonial rule by the Indian armed forces in 1961, 14 years after India won independence from British rule.

Goa’s freedom movement gathered steam in the 1940s, having been inspired by the nationalistic spirit of the freedom movement in British-ruled India.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

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