The Problem of Goa: Future Status of Area

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Statement by Jawaharlal Nehru in Lok Sabha, August 25, 1954

The situation in respect of the Portuguese Settlements in India, which has aroused much attention and concern both in the House and the country, has continually engaged the study and active consideration of Government. Internally in the Portuguese Settlements, the opposition and resistance to foreign and colonial rule has gathered momentum. This is an entirely Goan movement, popular and indigenous. It has been countered by the authorities in the traditional but discredited methods of colonial assertion, repression and authoritarian violence coupled with the denial of the inherent rights of the people to their freedom and self-determination.

The position of the Government of India, and indeed of the people of this country, is well known and hardly needs restatement. Goa and the Union of India form one country. As a result of foreign conquest, various parts of India came under colonial domination. Historical developments brought almost the entire country under British rule. But some small pockets of territory remained under the colonial rule of other foreign Powers, chiefly because they were tolerated as such by the then British power. The movement for freedom in India was not confined to any part of the country. Its objective was the freedom of the entire country from every kind of foreign domination. Inevitably the movement took shape in what was called British India and ultimately resulted in the withdrawal of the colonial Power and the establishment of the Republic of India. That process of liberation will not be complete till the remaining small pockets of foreign territory are also freed from colonial control. The Government and the people of this country, therefore, fully sympathize with the aspirations of the Goan people to free themselves from alien rule and to be reunited with the motherland.

The policy that we have pursued has been, even as in India under British rule, one of non-violence and we have fashioned our approach and conduct accordingly. This adherence to non-violence means:

(i) that we may not abandon or permit any derogation of our identification with the cause of our compatriots under Portuguese rule; and

(ii) equally we may not adopt, advocate or deliberately bring about situations of violence.

We regard and base our position on the fact that the liberation movement is Goan and spontaneous, and that its real strength lies in this fact. The Government of India, and I am confident the great majority of our people, have no intention of adopting any policy or methods which depart from these principles, which are the foundations on which our very nationhood rests and which are the historic and unique legacy of Gandhiji and the pioneers of our freedom.

Further, we may never forget that, in our approach and endeavours for our own freedom we were enjoined to eliminate fear. I want to say in all sincerity that the Government do not and will not function in this matter on a foundation of apprehensiveness and fear of probable consequences of threats, from whatever quarter they may come, or condone, much less approve or support, methods of conduct based on fear. Such methods are opposed to our policy and deny the basic ideas of non-violence.

The Portuguese Government have indulged in reckless allegations and unrestrained abuse of us. Moved by the fear characteristic of those whose strength is based on force, they have sought to amass their military strength on their possessions in India to terrorize the people. They are well aware that they constitute no terror for us.

It is not, however, the intention of the Government of India to be provoked into thinking and acting in military terms. The Portuguese concentrations and ship movements may well be a violation of our national and international rights. We shall examine and consider these and take such legitimate measures as may be necessary. But we have no intention of following the Portuguese Government’s example in this respect.

The Portuguese Government have, in their representations to us and to other countries, as well as in their crude propaganda, indulged in totally untrue and reckless allegations. The purpose of all this is to arouse opinion against us by painting us as aggressive militarists, anti-Christian, particularly anti-Catholic, and hypocritical expansionists. They want others to believe that we want to make Goa an Indian colony.

These allegations are repudiated by the Goan people in the Portuguese possessions themselves, despite the authoritarian regime there and the repression, the censorship and State-controlled propaganda. The Goan liberation movement, however, continues to grow and may well be measured by the increase in violence and recklessness of Portuguese allegations and propaganda. Goans outside Goa, mainly in India and East Africa, have expressed themselves in favour of this movement. They demand the end of alien rule and the reunion of Goa with the motherland.

The Portuguese allegations about Indian hostility to Roman Catholics and the danger to Catholics if Goa joined the Indian Union have been repudiated most emphatically by the Roman Catholics of India and, more particularly, by their eminent leaders. The Catholics in India regard these Portuguese allegations not only as false but as a slur on themselves and their country. They point to the five million Catholics in India, who have absolute religious freedom and enjoy the consideration and respect of the rest of their compatriots. They know that the guarantees of our Constitution are a reality. Recently, at a widely attended meeting of Goans in Bombay, composed of people of all shades of opinion, mostly non-sectarian and non-party, this feeling found emphatic expression and the falsity of Portuguese allegations was exposed.

I deeply regret that the Portuguese Government should have decided to arouse religious passions to serve their colonial ends. They have failed in this endeavour.

I should like to take this opportunity of stating once again some aspects of our basic approach in respect of Goa, when it becomes a part of the Indian Union :

(a) The freedom and rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India and which specifically refer to freedom of conscience, worship and practice of religions, will extend in full measure and in all their implications to these areas.

(b) The special circumstances of cultural, social and lingual relations and the sense of a territorial group which history has created will be respected. 

(c) Laws and customs which are part of the social pattern of these areas and which are consistent with fundamental human rights and freedoms, will be respected and modifications will be sought only by negotiation and consent.

(d) As we have done in the rest of India, full use will be made of the administrative, judicial and other services, confident that the return of freedom to and the unity of these areas with the motherland will enable adjustments to be made in harmony with progress and with the desires of the people.

The House knows that recently some Notes have been exchanged between the Portuguese Government and the Government of India. They have been placed on the table of the House. It will be evident from these Notes that the Government of India have stated their position with firmness, clarity and restraint and unprovoked by either the language or the content of the Portuguese Notes. The Government believe and are confident that the House will agree that this is and should be the way of behaviour of governments. I shall refrain from detailed comments on the Notes exchanged except to say that, consistent with their policy of settling differences and resolving problems by conciliation and negotiation, the Government of India promptly accepted the very first offer of the Portuguese Government to co-operate with them on the issue of impartial observation. The Government of India have no objection to this and they have nothing to conceal. They have proposed that representatives of the two Governments should meet together at once and implement the principle on which they have agreed. The last Note of the Portuguese Government appears to raise some further doubts and difficulties, but the Government of India have intimated their firm desire to pursue conciliation and negotiation and urged the Portuguese Government to enable the conference to begin.

I would like to say on behalf of my country and Government that we have no animosity towards Portugal or her people. We believe the freedom of the Goans, now subject to Portugal, would be a gain for Portugal as well. We will continue to pursue, with patience and firmness, the path of conciliation and negotiation. Equally, we must declare that we would be false to our history and betray the cause of freedom itself if we did not state, without reserve, that our country and Government firmly and fully believe in the right of our compatriots in Goa to free themselves from alien rule and to be reunited with the rest of the motherland. This will serve the cause of friendship and understanding, even as the freedom of India has led to friendly relations between the United Kingdom and India. We would therefore invite the Portuguese Government to co-operate in the peaceful consummation of these endeavours.

The position in respect of the French Settlements happily affords at present a different and more hopeful picture. I believe we may reasonably feel that we are nearing the consummation of our hopes of a peaceful and lasting settlement, arrived at by conciliation and consent, honourable and satisfactory to all concerned. Exchanges of views and ideas between ourselves and the Government of France have been in progress for some time and they are being pursued with goodwill on both sides. The Prime Minister of France has demonstrated to the world his patriotism and political boldness as well as his desire for peaceful settlement by negotiation. I have every hope that we shall before long witness the solution of this problem in the context of the full freedom of our people and of firmer friendship between India and France.

The present phase of this problem is, as I have said, hopeful, but it has not always been so. The exercise of patience and our firm desire to reach settlement by negotiation has justified itself. The House will perhaps allow me to say that this policy of acting with patience and prudence, in accordance with the principles we hold, does justice to ourselves and also yields results.

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