Goan History
Route To Independence, Recent History

This page focuses on Goan history from the movement towards independene to events influencing Goa today.

Explore Goa's ancient past and pre-colonnial history, or the Portuguese intervention in Goa's colonial period.

The Massacre of Gaspar Dias

Goa was the last part of India to achieve independence from its colonial rulers, the Portuguese, fifteen years after India was liberated from the British. Discontent with the Portuguese rule however had been brewing for over a century both in Goa and in Portugal.

On May 4th, 1835 the disenchantment stirred into violence when an attempted coup by the Goan military ended in the massacre of the Portuguese regiment posted at the fort in Gaspar Dias. Though the Portuguese did not lose their power in the area, it was clear that a tighter hold on the colony would be needed if they were to stay in power.

The Independence Movement

Hindu people in Goa were becoming increasingly irritated with the attitudes of Portuguese settlers. Hindus were being treated as second class citizens, and were denied vocations with any influence, despite often commanding important roles in the economy.

In 1926 the independence movement suffered a setback when the right wing dictator Salazar took control of Portugal. His tight hold on Portuguese overseas colonies throughout the duration of his rule was responsible for Goa's 'lagging behind' the rest of India which by 1947 had achieved independence from the British. This ofcourse put great pressure n Portugal to finally 'quit Goa.'

Portugal struggled to fund its overseas colonies as it was suffering economic difficulties at home, and lack of work in Goa forced many Goans to search for work abroad, a common theme throughout Goan history in the 20th century.

A handful of groups in Goa formed to demonstrate resistance to the Portuguese rule following India's independence in 1947. They were greatly inspired by Gandhi's policy of non-violence, though they failed to unite to form an effective front. Nonetheless, hundreds of these freedom fighters were tortured, shot, imprisoned or exhiled during the 1950s, worsening the Portuguese's reputation in the rest of India.

The first prime minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru openly supported the freedom struggle of the Goans and urged them to fight for their freedom while amassing troops around Goa's borders.

Goa's Independence

The Portuguese influence on nearly 500 years of Goan history came to an end on December 17th, 1961 when Indian forces entered Goa, responding to an attack on Indian fishermen by the Portuguese a month earlier. The liberation of Goa, known as Operation Vijay took place with barely a shot fired on either side.

In Goa, fears began to mount about the merger with India. Years of separatism between Goans and Indians and the social groups within Goa led to concerns about cultural identity and a drop in living standards due to the arrival of immigrants from poorer states.

Goa's Statehood

Aware of the fact that Goan history, culture and ideals differed from that of India as a country due to its long period of Portuguese rule, the Indian government designated Goa as a Union Territory, with its own elected government.

Throughout the 1960s the primary concern of politicians and many Goans was whether Goa should remain a Union Territory, or be merged with its neighbouring state of Maharashtra. The question was put to public vote on the 16th January 1967, when 54% of the population declared the desire to remain as a Union Territory.

Public pressure in the second half of the 1980s ensured Konkani, the language spoken by most Goans, was recognized in India as an Official Language. It would only be a matter of time before Goa was recognised as a separate state, since states in India are commonly defined through linguistic regions. On May 31st, 1987 Goa was declared the 25th state of India.

Recent Goan History

Goa struggled to find political maturity throughout the final years of the 20th Century. Extreme differences of opinion among political parties (partly as a result of the divisional social policies instilled under Portuguese rule) have led to bitter oppositions, corruption and insecurity.

The right-wing Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are believed to have had a hand in anti Muslim riots of 2006, an event that seriously discredited Goa's reputation as a state of model religious harmony.

With Goa increasingly more accesible to Indian immigrants and foreign investment, the state will no doubt change dramatically over the coming years, and it is hoped that the Goan government will have the strength to avoid the corruption and divisions that have so weakened it in the past.

What are the events that led to Goa's long struggle for independence? Read about the colonial period in the history of Goa and the ancient and pre-colonal Goa history.

Read more about Goa, India.


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