Friday 14 December 2018

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He wanted to blast railway bridges, Portuguese tortured him for 4 weeks…

 

Author with FF Subhash Karmali

Late Subhash Karmali was destined to be a freedom fighter. He had in him all that was essential to take on the might of Portuguese Junta under the dreaded PIDE Chief Casimiro Monteiro .

Monteiro had  joined the Portuguese Colonial Police- PIDE- in Goa in 1951 and he would interrogate freedom fighters with the most brutal torture  that one could imagine.

Subhash was a contemporary of my eldest brother Datta – both joining Railways during Portuguese rule. But I never had an opportunity to speak to him on his gallant leap in the freedom struggle.

Fortunately, I had this chance meeting with him,   in Dec 2014 and I decided not to let the opportunity of understanding from him the nature of his role in Goa’s  freedom struggle. And this is what he had to say.

‘’It all started in December of 1959. Although I had a good job in Dharwad, my father wanted me to come back to Goa and  he managed to get me a job in Goa Railways. I was all of 22 years then.  

Many of us youngsters were restless after the massacre of several freedom fighters on 15th Aug 1955 at Patradevi. What added fuel to the fire was one day Monteiro’s police guards barged into my office and dragged and beat mercilessly a railway officer purely on suspicion of his links with activists. After 8 days of severe torture, my colleague was declared innocent.

My blood started boiling. It was October 1960. Three of us – me, Jayaram Bhise from Cansaulim and Furtado from Chinchinim - decided to paralyse entire Railway of Goa. Portugal’s economy was dependent to a great extent on export of iron and manganese ore and if Railways were disrupted for long, then there would be huge economic pressure.

But the question was how to go about with it.

We decided to blow two railway bridges- one near Margao, another on Kushavati River near Shelvon. All arrangements made. The procedure of blowing bridges was communicated from Mumbai members of Goa freedom struggle through Furtado, a Goan student studying in Mumbai.

The papers had to be collected the next day from Chinchinim. Furtado had written down my contact address  on a piece of paper and kept in his pocket.

As luck would have it, Monteiro’s men were driving by the village road. They saw these 4 boys on an evening stroll. Moment Furtado saw the jeep, he was extremely jittery. They asked him where they are from. One of them blurted out that he is just come from Mumbai, which was a foreign territory then and lot freedom fighters operated from Mumbai. They searched him and found the paper with my address.

Monteiro’s PIDE had the notoriety of searching any home at random and if anyone found as a suspect, then subject him to 3rd degree  torture.

I  along with other two were picked up and subjected to third degree torture for full 4 weeks. They would repeat the same sequence of physical torture every day between 6pm to 8 pm. By third day we could neither walk nor talk. We could neither eat nor drink with our own hands. They would hit exactly on the swollen parts of the body. Every day, we would faint and become unconscious with sheer pain.

I could experience myself the pain and torture underwent by Freedom Fighters like  Rajanikant Kenkre and others who succumbed to torture in custody.

Slowly with time torture levels diminished and once a week home food was allowed. And thus we started continuing our communication with our group members  outside the  jail’’.

“Come , I will show you what kind of torture we had to undergo”.

He took me to the room – lifted his shirt from behind his back. The full back had only burning scald marks. I asked him how it all happened. His reply brought tears to my eyes.

“On the 3rd day of the arrest, they made me lie down flat on tummy, tied hands and feet to a wooden plank, poured alcohol on the whole back and allowed it to burn!!”

When asked as to how he could communicate with outside world with such high level of security at Aguada Jail, he told me the trick:

‘We were served cooked rice. We would take a match stick and use rice to write our message on a paper. Obviously the message could not be read by anyone. The paper would then be subjected to iodine vapours which would turn starch based rice print into bluish black colour’’

But how could they get iodine in the jail?

“We would ask for tincture of iodine to apply on wounds and would use it on the paper messages, which  would have rice based messages printed on them’’.

After spending almost a year in the most dreaded prison cell of Aguada, Goa was finally liberated on 19 December 1961. The Indian military came to Aguada jail, segregated us from other criminals, and brought all the jailmates to Mandovi Hotel. I along with other freedom fighters stayed there for one night. But by next day we were all left to fend for ourselves with no money in pocket. Somehow, with my good luck, I managed to get a free lift and reach Kakoda the next day’’.

Yes, I could see in his eyes that day, a tinge of sadness, at the approach towards Freedom Fighters by the Government officials.

At 79, Subhash bhai breathed his last on 2 February at GMC Hospital at Bambolim.

We will all miss you. You personified grit, determination and above all an amazing level of Pride of Participation in Goa's Freedom Movement.

May your soul rest in everlasting peace.

(The author is the Goa State Coordinator Association for Democratic Reforms, a Goan co-ordinating his work from Mumbai. He can be contacted at [email protected] or +919820353159)





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Many thanks to Bhaskar Assoldenkar for providing this information hitherto not known. Since I was staying in Curchorem I knew Subhashbab as a respected individual, a lawyer and a regular rail commuter. He is not known as a person boasting that he participated in freedom struggle. Nor was he ever felicitated. Compare this with today's activist without activities. They are in continuous state of crying and shouting and are pampered by govt. My pranam to late Subhashbab.

 
Madhav Bastodker , Ponda

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