Revolutionaries take the road less traveled | Goa News


PANAJI: In the mid-20th century, Latin American revolutionaries like Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara achieved cult status for their guerrilla tactics and exploits against oppressive state machines. But on the other side of the planet, in little Goa, there was no cheering and adulation – only the struggle – for the young guerrillas who, against all odds, fought the dreaded, entrenched and brutal Portuguese state.
Not only were they waging a dismal battle against David and Goliath within the state borders, there was also no support from the Indian government. In fact, New Delhi only added to the problems of revolutionaries.
Throughout the subcontinent, Mahatma Gandhi’s ideology of non-violence had gripped the consciousness of an entire people, and armed resistance was considered anathema.
“After India’s independence, the Indian government was too concerned about the opinion of the world,” said Prabhakar Sinari, 93, who now resides in Caranzalem with his wife Vilasini. “They were worried about what the United States would think about it and we weren’t given any support. In fact, the Indian government has thrown obstacles in our way. At the border, they would stop my colleagues and take the ammunition they were trying to smuggle into Goa. There were people ready to give us donations, but customs blocked them. ”
It was exactly one year after Ram Manohar Lohia’s civil disobedience movement in Margao that the militant Azad Gomantak Dal was formed on June 18, 1947. Seven young men —Sinari, Dattatreya Deshpande, Betu Naik, Tukaram Kankonkar, Jaiwant Kunde, Narayan Naik, and leader Vishwanath Lawande – pledged their lives to liberate Goa through guerrilla tactics, at Shree Shantadurga temple in Kunkoliem, near Mardol, Ponda.
Azad Gomantak Dal, or AGD, was born after young people witnessed the cruelty to which non-violent protesters were subjected by the Portuguese. But revolutionaries had to start from scratch, learning how to shoot rusty pistols for the first time in the middle of a siege, planning robberies on settler treasury to secure funds for ammunition.
“Our first target on the night of July 21, 1947 was the Fazenda treasure building in Mapusa, where we hoped to get our hands on money for our activities,” Sinari said. However, the only sentry of the Fazenda sounded the alarm and their attempt was unsuccessful. But with a seriously injured policeman, it sent a shock wave through the base of the Portuguese administration.
The failed attempt made AGD realize that they needed better training. Soon a former Indian Navy officer, Mukund Dhakankar, trained young revolutionaries in the use of firearms and explosives.
Now much better equipped, the AGD has set its next target: Banco Nacional Ultramarino in Panaji, the Portuguese bank for financing abroad.
“The action was to take place in Porvorim,” Sinari recalls. “Unfortunately, on the bus, the bank officer carrying the bags of money saw us waving to our friends and pushed the bag of money under a young girl’s seat. We were only able to retrieve the other bag, which was mostly filled with checks and very little cash. After this roundup, the police identified us one by one and when I was only 14 years old, when I was a minor, they handed down an eight-year sentence.
In prison in Aguada and later in Reis Magos, AGD members were subjected to untold torture. They were whipped with hippopotamus skin whips, starved, kept in unsanitary conditions, placed in solitary confinement, and crammed into a cell with not enough space for everyone to sleep at night.
Sinari managed to break out of prison four years after the start of his sentence and returned to the movement to find that many more young men had signed up for AGD.
When the AGD made Pernem their base, Sinari said the area was virtually liberated from Portuguese rule, as the colonizers’ officers were terrified of going there for fear of attack. The AGD was also actively involved in helping free Daman and Diu from the Portuguese clutches.
“We did not receive the support of the Indian government until the end of the struggle for the freedom of Goa. We would lay mines on the roads, set traps and blow up crucial roads and railroads for the Portuguese. We had learned how to cover up landmines so well that the Portuguese authorities could rarely say where they were expected, ”he said.
As liberation approached, Sinari recalled how the AGD came to the aid of the Indian army by clicking on photographs of the terrain of Goa and identifying landmines to aid their advance in the region then occupied by Portuguese.
“During these years with AGD, many of our young colleagues have been martyred,” said Sinari, the only surviving member of the group. “Our families were harassed, my mother was left to starve to death with her three sons in prison or working for the Dal subway. Some men have lost their limbs or their eyes. But when Goa was finally released, it was a moment of pride. Many had said that the Portuguese had been here for over 400 years and that they would never leave. But we showed them that we didn’t go to jail for nothing.
Much later, Sinari was the first Inspector General of Police (IGP) of Liberated Goa, then deputy director of the Indian intelligence agency R&AW, looking after the security of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. But it was decades later, in the 1980s, that the AGD finally gained official recognition from the state it helped liberate.


Thelma J. Longworth