The Liberation of Goa, Role of Navy

The Portuguese were the first European power to arrive in India and the last to depart, the effort to dislodge them by those, whose land they had conquered and occupied was a long process that was fought with bloodshed, grief and sacrifice. This process began from the day the Portuguese set foot here in 1510 and was completed on 19 December 1961, when they were driven away. It was only in 1926, when Portugal, after a short spell of Republican Government, came under the iron grip of dictatorship, that the people of Goa began to chafe. The suppression of liberties in Goa and the intolerable conditions created by the dictatorship brought the great Indian socialist leader, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia to Goa. At a public meeting in Margao, he launched a movement for civil liberties which set in motion a mass movement for freedom from the Portuguese rule.

On 18 June 1946, which remains a memorable and sacred day in the history of Goa, Dr. Lohia truly kindled the flame of freedom in the hearts of the Goan people, as a result of which, all shops and business establishments put down their shutters and expressed their solidarity with cause. From then on men, women and even children came out in processions, expressing their deep desire for freedom. The Government of India strictly followed its policy of peaceful negotiations with Portugal and made attempts to solve the problem of Goa from 1947 to 1955, without the use of force. But every such attempt was turned down by the Portuguese. From 1955 to 1961, the Goans and the Indian political parties organised public meetings and adopted resolutions condemning Portuguese rule, giving wide publicity to the happenings in Goa and made the people in India aware of the terrible conditions prevailing in Goa.

And so on 18-19 December 1961, the Government of India adopted a plan called Operation Vijay to liberate the Portuguese colonies in India. By 11 December 1961, Indian forces were placed at Belgaum, Vapi and Una, for attacks on Goa, Daman and Diu, respectively. The Portuguese for the naval defence of Goa, deployed four frigates each equipped with three 120mm guns and four multiple pompoms (automatic rapid firing guns), which patrolled the sea areas of all three enclaves. These ships were Afonso de Albuquerque, Bartholomeu Dias, Gonsalves Zarco and Joao de Lisboa. However, when the action took place, it was found that only Afonso de Albuquerque was available for the naval defence of Goa, the other three having sailed earlier, for Portugal.

The escalation of tension was marked by the unprecedented firing by the Portuguese from Anjadiv island, on Indian steam ship Sabarmati, during her innocent passage, thus injuring the chief engineer and some Indian fishermen, killing one of them. In order to boost sagging morale of fishermen from the area and to ensure Indian Naval presence in the area as a deterrent, two ships of the Indian Navy - INS Rajput, a 'R' Class destroyer, and INS Kirpan, a Blackwood Class anti-submarine frigate - were deployed off the Karwar coast, as early as 28 November 1961.

By 01 December 1961, the Naval HQ had instituted a surveillance and patrolling exercise - Operation Chutney. Two naval frigates, INS Betwa and INS Beas (Leopard Class frigates), commenced a linear patrol off the Goan coast, at a distance of 13 kilometres. They were to report all ingress and egress - of shipping, aircraft and personnel - into and out of the Portuguese enclaves and to retaliate with necessary force, if engaged by the Portuguese units in the air or on the surface. The patrol remained established by a relay of ships till one day after D-Day. The only Portuguese war vessel was the frigate, 'Alfonso de Albuquerque,' whose movements between Anjadiv island and Mormugao were reported.

The tasks assigned to the Naval Task Force were on the outbreak of hostilities, firstly the establishment of effective control of the seaward approaches to the Portuguese territory of Goa (including Mormugao bay and Aguada), Daman and Diu and capture of Anjadiv Island. Secondly, to neutralise the coast batteries defending these ports and sink or immobilise units of the Portuguese Navy deployed inside Goa harbour or patrolling its sea approaches. The Naval task force was divided into four task groups - the Surface Action Group comprising Indian naval ships INS Mysore, INS Trishul, INS Betwa, INS Beas and INS Cauvery. The Carrier Task Group comprising of ships, INS Vikrant, INS Delhi, INS Kuthar, INS Kirpan, INS Khukri and INS Rajput. The Mine Sweeping Group comprising of mine-sweepers INS Karwar, INS Kakinada, INS Cannonore and INS Bimilipatan and finally the Support Group comprising of the solo ship, INS Dharini.

The capture of Anjadiv Island was considered the primary task for the Naval Task Force as the Portuguese provocative operations had originated in this island. The Army expressed its inability to provide troops trained in amphibious operations as time for training in such operations was not available, hence the Indian Navy took on the task. The liberation was carried out by sending landing parties from INS Trishul and giving covering fire from INS Trishul and INS Mysore. The landing operations were successfully carried out under Lieutenant Arun Auditto, who was Officer-in-Charge, Naval Landing Party and the first phase was completed on 1425 hours on 18 December 1961. In the liberation of Anjadiv island, seven sailors laid down their lives, two officers and seventeen sailors were wounded. A memorial was later erected at the Flagstaff Point on Anjadiv island, to commemorate those sailors of the Indian Navy, who made the supreme sacrifice for the liberation of the Portuguese possessions.

Albuquerque was at anchorage, at Mormugao Bay on 18 December 1961. INS Betwa was ordered to capture the vessel and she commenced on closing in on the vessel. At 1215 hours, INS Betwa commenced firing with her 4.5" guns and shortly Albuquerque surrendered and beached herself off Dona Paula jetty. Following the sinking of Albuquerque, the Indian Navy continued patrolling till 19 December 1961 and thereafter ships were ordered to return back to Bombay. All operations in Goa came to an end at 6:00 p.m., on 19 December 1961. The arrangements were made for receiving the formal surrender at the hands of the Portuguese Governor General, Vassalo De Silva. The documents of surrender were signed at 7:30 p.m. and Major General (later Lieutenant General) K.P. Candeth was appointed as the Military Governor of Goa. Thus within 40 hours of the start of the military operations, centuries-old foreign domination in Goa came to an end.