18th June and the Boiling Point of Goan Blood

18th June is the day written in red letters in the history of Goa. It is the day that ignited the spark of a touch of freedom in the hearts of Goans. Even to this day, it has a unique way of gripping the attention of Goans of all walks of life. There is a tremendous latent power in this primal event. We Goans can still feel its intensity. It’s spontaneity is excitingly contagious. It instils courage in us and leads us to live and defend the freedom that we cherish the most. This is why we cannot forget the event. The memory of this day has been creatively enshrined in many ways in Goa. One important instance is the poetry ‘Ottra Jun’ composed by Monoharai Sardessai. The day warms our hearts as we remember how Goans had reached the boiling point of their blood. It was a point that never turned back until we saw the back of the Portuguese colonial rule in Goa. Every 18th June re-enacts the memory of the great event and our blood begins to boil again. It draws us back because we feel that the freedom that we earned is being snatched away from us.

The original meeting was held to speak and act as if the laws that curbed public assembling and other civil liberties did not exist while conversely, the annual memorial of the same event celebrates the laws that guarantee freedom and civil liberties. Some scholars including Dr. T. B Cunha thinks that it was discontentment of the people due economic mismanagement by the Portuguese that was the chief reason which fired the uprising of the people. The same is also echoed by Dr. Nandkumar Kamat who points out that it was powered by Goa’s salt economy being hit by the Anglo-Portuguese treaty of 1878 which gave Bombay Presidency of British India the monopoly on the manufacture of salt and its trade-in Portuguese India. Assolna, the village of Dr. Juliao Menezes, being a major salt-producing site, it is possible that Dr. Ram Monohar Lohia, who had Phd., in economics from Berlin University, Germany might have become aware of the depressed salt economy on his visit to that Village.

But Dr. Lohia appears to keep the quest for political freedom above everything in his epoch-making speech that he gave in a historic gathering along with his friend Dr. Julia Menezes. His 18th June 1946 fiery speech that called all Goans to awaken themselves to their freedom and civil liberties does have a brief mention of the poverty that afflicted Goans of that time. This movement for civil liberties will crystallize in time to become the struggle for the liberation of Goa from the Portuguese rule. The movement for Goa’s liberation will keep the blood of Goans till the final liberation of Goa through operation Vjay of the Indian Army on 19th December 1961.

18th June was not the first time the two friends Dr. Lohia and Dr. Juliao came together to register their protest. Oestheld reports that Dr. Juliao was with Dr. Lohia when he disrupted the meeting of the league of the Nations in Geneva where they lodged their protest against the Maharaja Bikaner whom they deemed as unfit to represent British India. Their spirited action outside the country was followed by another equally important protest event in Goa that we have immortalized as Goa revolution day. Certainly, the anti-colonial pot that was put on fire by the two friends began to boil and Goans began to feel and absorb the energy that they exploded in Margao on 18th June 1946.

Dr. Nadkumar Kamat notes that Young Juliao Menezes was influenced by the patriotic thought of Dr. Luis de Menezes Braganza who used the dexterity of his pen to awaken Goan people to unite against the colonizers. Due to his journalism, social and political activism, he is fondly called as the Tilak of Goa. Maybe it was this early influence that shaped the anti-colonial leanings of Dr. Juliao and Goa was blessed with another unsung hero who along with his friend Dr. Lohia staged the civil disobedience movement that spelled the beginning of the end of the Portuguese rule in Goa.

Dr. Juliao established the Club Juvenile de Assolna and a library to spread his ideas on freedom and nationalist thought among the youth in his village. His home was said to have become the meeting point of several intellectuals and political activists. The fact that he hosted his friend Lohia whom he met in Germany for ten days in his house also points to the fact that the house of this great son of Goa became the site where the strategy of the civil disobedience that they both launched on 18th June 1946 was planned to its last details.

They secretly mobilised the people of Goa and when a huge crowd of men and women showed up on the appointed day, the colonial administration was caught off-guard and could not subdue the enthusiastic crowd. Both Dr. Lohia and Dr. Juliao were arrested and were taken to the Panjim police station in the dead of the night. It is said that the news of their arrest soon spread far and wide and the people of Goa gathered and agitated in several towns and villages. Several people demonstrated their protest in from of Camara in Margao and demanded their release. Anzil Fernades notes that were released on a subsequent day but a rumour was circulated that said that they were released only after they both offered unconditional apologies to the authorities. Dr. Juliao is said to have countered those rumours and pledged that he did not seek any pardon from anyone. His note that contradicted the rumour of his apology was read by Mr. Evgario George at a meeting held in Margao on 20th in Margao while Dr. Juliao was forced to travel to Mumbai.

While in Mumbai Dr. Juliao continued his campaign for civil liberties and Goa’s freedom through his paper Gomantak and published a booklet, Goa’s freedom struggle in 1947 recounting the events that took place for the fight for the civil rights. He was also one of the founders of the National Congress of Goa and remained its active member. Unfortunately, the great son of Goa was not recognized by the Government of Goa when he was alive. He was finally honoured on 18th June 1986, six years after his death on 2nd July 1980. But this great son deserves more. Goa cannot forget this son who put us on the road to freedom. He deserves a dignified memorial lest we forget 18th June. Will our blood boil to bring him the recognition that is due to him?

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao