Herald: Memorial for freedom fighters is resting place for beggars and stray dogs
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Memorial for freedom fighters is resting place for beggars and stray dogs

16 Jun 2015 01:54am IST

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16 Jun 2015 01:54am IST

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Azad Maidan now wants freedom from all kind of nuisances. It wants government attention, says freedom fighter Nagesh Karmali; Azad Maidan has no proper lighting, cleanliness or security

A square in the heart of Panjim, originally conceived by the Portuguese as the Largo Afonso de Albuquerque, and now rightly known as the historic Azad Maidan, is where hundreds of agitations and public meetings, right from the significant Opinion Poll in January 1967, followed by the language agitation in 1986, during which seven pro-Konkani lovers became martyrs, have taken place. 

The Azad Maidan today has a brass memorial dedicated to the distinguished Goan freedom fighter Dr T B Cunha. The maidan that serves as a platform for democratic expression – where Goans gather in large numbers to sound off against the State government – stands neglected, with the civic body failing to maintain the spot.

It’s on June 18 – Revolution Day – when the historic spot and the two monuments – the urn containing the mortal remains of Dr T B Cunha and the memorial to the martyrs of the freedom struggle against the Portuguese colonial rule – comes alive. Attention is paid on cleanliness, the only reason being that the chief minister along with his cabinet colleagues will visit the memorial to pay floral tributes.

“The historic spot is in a pitiable state. My heart cries, when I see, how it is 

left neglected. It was here at this spot where hundreds of people lost their lives for freedom. It was here where people fought not to merge Goa with Maharashtra. It is this place, where thousands gathered to make Konkani the official language of Goa,” freedom fighter Nagesh Karmali told Herald. 

“Ironically, the Azad Maidan now wants freedom from all kind of nuisances. It wants government attention,” Karmali added. 

A walk at this spot, located right at the centre of the Capital City, clearly shows the sorry state of affairs – with no proper entry gates, no security personnel to man the spot, no special lights and nor any maintenance staff deployed. The historic spot is easily accessible to humans as well as to animals, with the monuments an ideal place to rest or take a nap. 

“The government and the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) are deliberately neglecting the maintenance of this spot. The move is basically to provide an unhealthy atmosphere to the people, who gather here for agitations and protests, raising their voices against government policies,” Union leader Ajeetsingh Rane said. Rane, in the last six months has led over five major protests here, including the two-month-long agitation by the security guards.

In the last decade, the Azad Maidan has seen some major people’s agitations against successive governments. Be it the agitation led by Goa Bachao Abhiyan on the controversial Regional Plan 2021 introduced by the then Congress government or the agitation on the Medium of Instruction (MoI) call given by the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch. Later, hundreds of people from mining areas walked into the Azad Maidan demanding an immediate resumption of mining activities, which are still at a halt. The maidan has been witness to a series of protests by the working class for their economic freedom.

Political parties – BJP, Congress and AAP – have all, in the recent past, used this historical venue. This includes the mega public meeting of the BJP, addressed by party national president Amit Shah last month.  

CCP is authorized to maintain the historical structure. Panjim Mayor Shubham Chodankar was not available for comments.

Sadly, the place is barely respected. This concern was voiced by shopkeepers on its sides who have been witness to some of the major movements. 

Shopkeeper Maria Furtado, who has been here for 16 years, said, ‘This place is remembered only at the time of public meetings, protests and now even for cultural events. It’s unfortunate that the place stands neglected otherwise, especially on the maintenance front.”

However, the establishment owners are not in favour of rallies and protests at Azad Maidan as these lead to traffic woes and noise pollution. But they don’t deny that the soil in the maidan and the blades of grass that cover it have served as a platform for history to leave its footprints.

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