“It is better to die fighting for freedom, than remain a prisoner all your life”.
These words of renowned musician Bob Marley, symbolise every living being’s desire to be free and an abhorrence of life in captivity and subjugation.
I extend my warm greetings to each and every Goan on the 57th anniversary of our Liberation. On this auspicious occasion, I also extend my salutations to our freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives and led a life of penance while making persistent efforts to fight for Goa’s liberation so that our generation and those that will come after us will enjoy and experience freedom. They spent their youth in the prison, went through all kinds of sufferings; but never gave up their dreams and resolve to see Goa free. Liberation Day is a time when we take a solemn pledge to work for the welfare of Goa and our Mother India, and particularly for the welfare of the poor, the oppressed, Dalits, and the exploited people of our country.
Portugal, the erstwhile colonial power became a Republic on October 5, 1910 and had Constitution 40 years before India did. Portugal - of which Goa was then a part - had a parliamentary system of democracy that included two elected representatives from Goa, besides having democratically-elected governments at the local level as well. However, all this changed when António de Oliveira Salazar took over the reins in 1926, and gradually transformed the country into a dictatorship.
Citizen’s rights that were enshrined under Portuguese Constitution were iniquitously curtailed. Press censorship was enforced; postal mail was intercepted by Portuguese intelligence. Those opposing the dictatorial regime were branded as terrorists and anti-nationals, which included many of our valiant freedom fighters who even faced the ignominy of being exiled to distant Africa. Historians even speak of scripts of theatrical performances and wedding invitations having to undergo scrutiny of the authorities to ensure that their content did not include any criticism or satire against the Government.
It is this oppressive regime of Salazar that stifled and suffocated the freedom-loving people of Goa and sowed seeds of the struggle to be free.
So, what is it that attracted the people of Goa to India? Of course, it was the historical and geographical ties. But above all, I feel that it was the democratic, secular and socialist spirit of the Constitution of India. A Constitution that guaranteed fundamental rights and human rights to every citizen irrespective of his caste, creed or colour. A Constitution that upheld personal liberty and rule of law. This was India’s greatest USP that attracted the people of Goa. The people of Goa were yearning for freedom from the shackles of a dictatorial regime, and India, with its liberal Constitution, provided that optimum succour.
An unheralded fallout of Goa’s liberation was the boost to struggles for independence of Portugal’s colonies in Africa. Buoyed by news from Goa, the Mozambique Liberation Front commenced its guerrilla warfare in 1964. Soon Portugal faced rebellion in all its three colonies of Angola, Mozambique & Guinea Bissau. Goa was the bellwether and torch-bearer for inspiring the cry for freedom from an oppressive colonial master perceived to be invincible at the time.
The fruits of the endeavours of our freedom fighters are amply evident today. Economic and social disparities that prevailed six decades ago are virtually non-existent today, thanks to the slew of land reforms and social justice legislations that were implemented. Goa today has seen rapid strides in both infrastructural and socio-economic spheres. We have one of the highest literacy rates in the country. Goa has excelled in almost all other parameters. It is said that our health infrastructure and facilities are comparable to the best in Europe.
Liberation Day is a time to take stock, to take stock of Goa, yesterday, today and tomorrow. A time to ponder on the past, assess the present and plan for the future. A time to envision how we, as the leaders of tomorrow, can take Goa to new heights.
Goa today is facing its own challenges that call for a concerted and united effort by all Goans, particularly the youth, to overcome. Communal harmony, that Goa is known for, is clearly under threat. One just has to tune into social media to get a feel of the hatred being spewed, clearly designed to create a rift between communities. We are witnessing an unhealthy increase in drug peddling, criminal activity, robberies and violence against women and children.
Thousands of our young people are migrating to so-called “greener pastures” clutching their Portuguese passports. The consequent demographic change is a major cause for concern. What is it that stimulates the young Goenkar to emigrate? What do we need to do to create identical or better opportunities here itself? Mammoth infrastructure projects under “Sagarmala” threaten to swamp Goans and their land and denude it of its pristine beauty. The consequent large scale in-migration could imperil our low intensity lifestyle and hospitable nature of our people. Distress among mining dependants is a reason for worry; resumption of environmentally and legally sustainable mining is the need of the hour.
These are some of the issues that we need to ponder today. Goa is at the crossroads; her future is in our hands, to make or to mar.
(Sherwyn Correia is a First Year law student)