Friday 21 September 2018

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Goan nationalists urge to oppose Vasco celebrations

 

Citizens of Goa, the state ruled by the Portuguese for 450 years, at a state-level rally have demanded that resolutions be passed in the Parliament as well as in the state Assembly, opposing fifth centenary celebrations of Vasco da Gama.

The rally, organised by Deshpremi Nagrik Samiti (Patriotic Citizens' Committee), was attended by the local freedom fighters, who fought against the Portuguese rulers till 1961, besides leaders of several political parties. They have resolved to oppose tooth and nail any attempt to celebrate Gama's arrival in the country.

Vasco da Gama's effigy was also burnt at the rally held in Panaji, Goa's capital city, on May 27, the day he arrived in India 500 years ago. It also demanded a statement from the government on the issue.

Breaking the mysterious silence the local government was maintaining on the issue, chief minister Pratapsing Rane today told newsmen that no celebrations would be organised at local level. But he declined to comment further, terming it as a "non-issue".

Though Gama never came to Goa, his arrival in Calicut 500 years ago is looked upon by the people here as the beginning of Portuguese colonialism in India. Twelve years after Gama's "discovery" of India, Goa was conquered by Afonso de Albuquerque.

The Samiti has also decided to celebrate the whole year, which marks 50th year of Indian independence and birth centenary of Subhash Chandra Bose. Recalling the freedom struggle, they would also hold seminars, debates and publishing literature on brutal rule of the Portuguese colonialists.

The Samiti, after personally meeting President of India and other dignitaries in Delhi, have now also resolved to begin a separate movement to change name of the port town, known as Vasco da Gama, while also demanding to change all the names of cities and villages, written in Portuguese style, while distorting the original Goan names.

"We are not opposed to today's democratic government of Portugal. But it's a shame to India to celebrate fifth centenary of Vasco da Gama's arrival, who had begun the most torturous colonial era in the country", says Nagesh Karmali, president of the freedom fighters' association.

The Samiti goes much beyond the controversy whether Gama discovered India or not and looks upon him as a symbol of colonialism, which tried to destroy the local religion and culture through Inquisition and its religious rule.

While the movement is gaining support from all quarters of the state, union law minister Ramakant Khalap has also backed it. "It's better to abstain from such celebrations since the issue has become controversial", he says.

BJP's national president L K Advani, while passing through Goa with his Swarn Jayanti Rath Yatra, raised the issue of Vasco da Gama celebrations, reiterating that his party would continue garnering support in the Parliament over the issue.






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