Goa: No Change of Basic Policy

From speech in Lok Sabha initiating debate on the international situation, September 17, 1955

There is apparently a feeling, and newspapers in India and abroad have given  expression to it, that there has been some marked or sudden change in the Government’s policy in regard to Goa. It has been thought by some people, more particularly, I think, by some foreign observers, that we have made this change because of foreign opinion or foreign reactions. We are interested in foreign reactions, not only about this matter, but about every other matter, because we want to be wide awake and not isolated. But I should like to make it clear that whatever decisions we have arrived at have been completely internal decisions in our attempt to follow the policy which we consider right. Nothing that has happened or is being said in foreign countries has in the slightest affected or brought about the decisions we have made. Next, I would venture to point out to the House that there has been no reversal of policy and that we have consistently followed the same policy throughout and more especially in the course of the last year or more since certain developments took place. It is true, however, that there hasbeen sometimes a variation in emphasis and at some periodsa certain laxity in enforcing that policy. What are the basic elements of our policy in regard toGoa? First, there must be peaceful methods. This is essentialunless we give up the whole roots of all our policies and our behaviour. There is nothing I can argue with any person who thinks that the methods employed in regard to Goa must be other than peaceful, because we rule out non-peaceful methods completely.

We have taken into consideration not only what happened in Goa but what happened subsequently in the City of Bombay and elsewhere—the indiscipline and the methods other than peaceful which came into evidence and which were the very reverse of the peaceful atmosphere so necessary for a satyagraha. One cannot have it both ways. Either one adopts military methods or police action or one keeps to peaceful methods. To mix them up is to fall between two policies, and to be nowhere.

There are many Members in this House whose experience goes back over the last 35 years of India’s history. Under a great leadership, the national movement in India pursued peaceful methods, and whenever we slipped—and we slipped sometimes—the movement was stopped utterly and absolutely. It was felt by our leader that we must be true to our principles and to our policy, and that nothing would be achieved by indiscipline and by straying from the basic policy in excitement or anger.

Secondly, it has throughout been emphasized that there should be no mass entry into Goa, or, no satyagraha in the form of mass entry. Thirdly, we have said the satyagraha should be predominantly the business of Goans. That was first stated about a year ago, but gradually a number of nonGoan Indians, a relatively small number to begin with, have participated in the groups that have gone to Goa. Thegroups were small and the Indians were relatively few. It is true we may be criticized for having allowed this thing to continue, but I must say there was no vital principle involved. If we are asked why we did not deny to non-Goan Indians the right to join it, I would say Indians have every right to work for the freedom of Goa or, for that matter, for the freedom of the North Pole if they want to. Why should I impose a ban? If such work comes in the way of my policy, I might stop it for that reason, but I do not wish to deny the right in theory. We thought that the participation of non-Goan Indians in the so-called satyagraha in any large numbers would produce wrong results and therefore we expressed ourselves against it. When one or two Indians went in, it was not a matter of great significance. In July the number of Indians increased somewhat. Early in August, a week before August 15, we were in some doubt as to what action, if any, we should take, because we saw some developments which were not in keeping with the policy we had laid down. The policy all along, even at the end ofJuly, had been that there should be no mass entry and the emphasis should be on Goans and riot Indians, though there was no strict and rigid barrier against individual Indians going there. But the new developments caused us much concern. We knew that large numbers of enthusiastic countrymen and countrywomen of ours were going to Goa in a spirit of self-sacrifice and a desire to help in the freedom of Goa. Whatever our policy and theirs, there was no question of our not appreciating the individual motives of the people who went there. That is why on the morning of August 15, when I was speaking from the ramparts of the Red Fort here, I said that my mind and heart were full of thoughts for those people on the Goa border. My mind was full of what happened and what might happen to our people doing a brave act, facing a danger. Whether I agree or disagree with their motives, my mind and heart will go out to brave men facing danger for a cause.

But I was concerned about the consequences. We may perhaps be justifiably asked why we allowed matters to go thus far on August 15. I quite frankly say that my mind was not clear. I was not clear whether, having gone that far, we should suddenly ask these people who had collected or were collecting in large numbers for mass entry, not to do so. After the happenings of August 15 in Goa, all of us had to give a great deal of intense thought to this position, and as a result of that very careful and anxious consideration, we came to the conclusion that we must lay stress on our basic policies in regard to Goa, and not allow any doubt about that policy. It may be justifiably said against us that we were not quite clear, not about the basic policy, but about certain develop merits, and certain minor aspects of that policy and therefore the people were in doubt as to our policy. We felt that it was not right or fair to the public or to ourselves that we should leave scope for the slightest doubt; and we therefore came to the conclusion, in the present context, that no satyagraha, even individual satyagraha, should be permitted. It is obvious that I am not speaking on grounds of principle but practical considerations. After a big-scale effort had been made on August 15, going back immediately to individual efforts would have no particular meaning, moral or physical. Hon. Members may have read in the newspapers how the Portuguese have started describing some people as “violent satyagrahis" I do not know anything about them. I believe there are some small groups in Goa itself which may have indulged in acts of sabotage like damaging a small bridge and so on.

I am asked, “What is the alternative to this kind of satyagraha?55 In answer, I shall also ask: “What exactly do you seek to achieve by the particular methods that you may suggest?55 Obviously, problems of this kind do not yield themselves to some sudden, magic remedy. But, as the House knows, we have taken a large number of measures, economic, financial and other, which, I have no doubt, are effective to a considerable extent. Their effectiveness grows with other measures that we may take. These are the normal ways of approaching this problem. Remember that in our considertion of the entire question we are ruling out what is called military or police action. But I have no doubt in my mind that the steps we take must necessarily end in the liberation of Goa from the Portuguese. I cannot fix a date, even as no person can fix a date for the solution of any of the world’s problems, such as Germany, the Far East, Indo-China or Africa. The main thing is that the policies pursued should be on the right lines. Right conduct must necessarily lead to right results, just as wrong conduct leads to evil results. In Goa, we have a remarkable picture of the sixteenth century facing the twentieth century, of a decadent colonialism facing a resurgent Asia, of a free and independent India being affronted and insulted by the Portuguese authorities, of, in fact, Portugal functioning in a way which, to any thinking person, is so amazing in its incongruity in the modern world that he is a little taken aback.

We have watched with interest the reactions of foreign countries to what is happening in Goa. Goa is a symbol of decadent colonialism trying to hold on. It is something more :it has become an acid test by which we can judge of the policies of other countries. Does any country actively support or encourage Portuguese intransigence in Goa? If so, we know, broadly speaking, where that country stands in world affairs. Or are there any countries that, without positively and actively encouraging Lisbon, passively support or acquiesce in this position? We know how they stand. And lastly, do those other countries realize that Portuguese domination in Goa cannot and must not continue, not only for normal reasons and causes, but because it has become an affront to civilized humanity, more especially after the brutal and uncivilized behaviour of the Portuguese authorities there ?

I submit, therefore, to this House that the policy which Government has laid down in regard to Goa is not only a sound policy, but the only possible policy. Minor variations may take place from time to time, but the major roots of that policy must hold good. I submit that this policy fits in with our larger world policy as well as our national outlook, and is a policy which will yield results too. It is not a mere idealistic policy, but a practical policy. I trust, therefore, that any doubts about this matter would be removed from the minds of not only Members here but those outside, and they will realize that we have followed a consistent policy through this last year. We probably allowed the situation to drift a little, but the moment we saw that it was taking us in a wrong direction, we pulled ourselves up. I think the country and the Government have shown courage in this matter, to ourselves and to the world. I should like it to be clearly understood by people outside India that this does not mean the slightest slackening by our Government in regard to Goa. All the world knows, and I am quite certain that people in Portugal know, that it is inevitable that Goa has to come to India. If in the normal course this takes a little time, it does not matter much. There are many problems which take time. As the House knows.

there are bits of Portuguese-dominated territory in China and in Indonesia. The People’s Government of China does not get terribly excited about Macao being Portuguese. Macao will go to them; there is no doubt about it. But they do not get excited. They are not weak in their military power. It is a small matter for them if they choose to take it, but they do not choose to take it because of their larger policies. It would not matter normally to us if Goa’s coming to us takes a little more time, but the course of events has made Goa an important and vital issue. To some extent the iron has entered our souls over this issue. We have therefore to deal with it with all the wisdom and strength that we possess and not allow it to become a static question. I hope that people in other countries will realize this.

* *

Reply to the debate on the international situation, Lok Sabha, September 17, 1955

From the very outset our policy, both at home and abroad, has been to solve all problems peacefully. If we ourselves act against that policy we would be regarded as deceitful hypocrites. It would be said that we say one thing and do another. If it is proved that we have no principles and that we are opportunists, what would be the result? The high reputation that we enjoy in the world today and the weight that our words carry are due to the fact that we adhere to and honour our principles. If we suddenly reverse our policy, the world will get an opportunity to say that we are deceitful, that we indulge in tall talk but that when the time for action comes, we swing to whichever side is winning and at the crucial hour fail miserably.

Shri Deshpande said that most of the people who offered satyagraha believed or were told that they would be backed by the Indian Army. You will realize that if that be the position, the whole complexion of satyagraha is changed. What is satyagraha? It is the fight of the spirit of man against material might. It is a weapon which is very powerful and effective. It causes the enemy to retreat. The satyagrahi is even prepared to lay down his life. The philosophy of satyagraha makes the people brave and courageous and demoralizes the opponent. But when the satyagrahis know that they are backed by the Army, the nature of the entire situation changes and it no longer remains satyagraha. Shri Chatterjee remarked that the fight for Goa could be finished in a day or two, perhaps in a few hours. It is true that if there were a fight, it would be over in two or three days, irrespective of whether the Portuguese in Goa have 12,000 or 24,000 troops. It is possible that they may inflict still further sufferings on the people whom they are holding down. It has been stated by some Members opposite that after all it will be a minor fight, and that since Goa is small, it will be a petty affair. I want to emphasize, however, that it is a matter of principle. If the points of the Opposition Members were conceded, it would boil down to this: that the big countries of the world have a right to bring the smaller countries under their sway. That is a wrong stand. Once we accept the position that we can use the Army for the solution of our problems, we cannot deny the same right to other countries. It is a question of principle.

When our decision was announced it caused surprise to some people in the beginning. Tandonji has advised us to adopt a middle course between the stand taken by me and that taken by other persons. As far as I think, we have not changed our view to any great extent, though I concede that even a small change on certain occasions appears to be big. The fact is that the events, the newspaper reports and the statements made by several people had created such an atmosphere in the country that what we said went against that prevailing atmosphere. The people were surprised on that account and not because of our decision itself, for it was in no way against our earlier stand. The people were surprised and some of them were even shocked; but those who thought over it coolly came to the conclusion that it was a right and correct decision. Several Members of the parties opposite also ame to this conclusion. They were, however, not prepared to admit it publicly.

Supposing the Government had maintained the previous stand, that is, allowed satyagraha to be offered by a few people from time to time, what would have been the result? What would have those people done, and how long would they have continued it? Several such questions would have confronted us. The question whether our Army should also follow in their wake in any given case or circumstances would also have arisen.

Some people have repeatedly demanded that we should give an ultimatum and fix a target date. We are at this time faced with several great problems in the world—the problems of Taiwan, of Indo-China, of Germany and of Morocco. I am not aware if an ultimatum of that kind has been given anywhere. And who should deliver it to whom and what does an ultimatum signify? Ultimately we come round to the proposition that if the ultimatum is not complied with, the Army has to be sent. It would then mean that the satyagraha was being used as a screen and there was talk .of military action and police action behind it. The question also arises what after all is satyagraha. I have stated elsewhere that the ideology of satyagraha is dynamic, but that sufficient research has not been conducted into its nature. How far can it go and what are the limits beyond which it cannot go? I for one cannot answer that question. I can, however, say that at any rate it is not appropriate at the present moment and that it would be a blunder to embark on it at this juncture, because it would be harmful for the country.

You should also take into account the policy and methods followed by Dr. Salazar and his Government; keeping them in view you should consider how far satyagraha against such a Government and such a person can prove successful. Hence I would respectfully submit that the resolution was passed by us after great deliberation. I repeat that there is no difference in our previous policy and the present policy, unless it be a very minor difference in emphasis only. Previously we were lax, but later on we thought that this laxity should be ended. Shri Chatterjee has remarked that we have shown weakness and cowardice and that we did not have the courage to send our Army there. I wish to state that the decision taken by us called for much greater mental courage.

Previous Post Next Post