Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Goa: Terceira Corrente by Dr Francisco Colaço

Goa had, roughly speaking, three schools of thought in the late Portuguese era. The first was largely of Catholics and upper class Hindus who wanted the Portuguese to continue in Goa forever. They were ready to crawl when asked to bend. The second comprised of brave Hindus and a large number of Catholic freedom fighters who wanted Goa to merge with India. Some of these, who were activists, bore torture, jail and untold sufferings to further their cause of freedom. The third stream of thought wanted freedom from colonial rule but without merger with India.
One outstanding man belonged to the third group: the revered Adv Antonio Bruto da Costa. He was an autonomist. According to him, mere annexation or conquest didn’t imply a change of sovereignty. In a strong-worded letter to Jawaharlal Nehru he reminded him about his double-speak. On the one hand Nehru pledged to abide by the United Nations Charter and Geneva Convention in international fora; on the other, his action against Goa implied the contrary. In deep anguish he also wrote a stern letter to Portuguese President Mario Soares for slyly signing the Co-operation Treaty with India in 1974 without taking Goans into confidence.
Until his death he fought for his principles backed by powerful arguments, putting at risk his life and limb. How we miss people like him these days when, in the face of atrocities against the minorities, our mouths are almost gagged with fear. We miss him all the more since people perceive that we may be slowly inching toward a police state, a Salazar-like regime.
Sometime ago, Goa: Terceira Corrente, a book in Portuguese was brought to light by his son Adv Mario Bruto da Costa. It is a gem of a book, a befitting tribute to a father who loved his place of birth, as much as his dignity, honour and right to dissent. “It was now more than a quarter century that he died”, Mario says referring to his father, “time enough to bring to light, an anthology of his speeches, letters writings and forensic defences. These letters and speeches pertain to a particular period in our history. They may have not been placed in a chronological sequence but together they mirror a set of values and principles, a political profile, Bruto da Costa’s constant preoccupation with repudiating dictatorship and keeping open a citizen’s right to dissent.”
In 1930, when Salazar became the Prime Minister of Portugal, he was the architect of the Colonial Act, which affected Portuguese India, differentiating Goans from the metropolitan Portuguese people. Because of this humiliating law, Portuguese Goans lost a great deal of benefits. They became like third class citizens. Their pay became lower than those of the white officials. They did not have the perks that white Portuguese enjoyed overseas. Bruto da Costa with other stalwarts fought against the “famigerado” (infamous) Colonial Act until it was repealed in 1950.
In 1933, he was appointed Director of the Ultramar when he was only 31 years of age. Ultramar was the first independent newspaper to be published in the Portuguese India in 1859. With a heavy burden on his shoulders, Bruto da Costa was equal to the task that he inherited from his ancestors. Ultramar was suspended in 1937 because of the article he wrote “O Sinal dos Tempos” that criticized the happenings at the Assembleia Nacional. It reopened its doors after sometime but ceased to exist from 1941. The articles were mutilated and the red ink of censorship made them unrecognizable. It was no longer possible to maintain its Independence.
Antonio Bruto da Costa, shot to fame when, in self defence, after being slapped by the then Portuguese Governor of Goa, Quintanilha, he repealed this attack and with a blow and threw Quintanilha on the ground thereby paying him back in the same coin. Bruto da Costa was not someone to keep quiet in the face of uncalled for aggression, even if he would have to face grave consequences. All that Bruto da Costa had done (together with Dr Antonio Colaço) was to complain to the Overseas Minister Sarmento Rodrigues (then in Goa) about gross irregularities perpetrated against Goans by Quintanilha.
Mario’s book has several chapters with appropriate titles. Though not in chronological sequence, they mirror the indomitable bravery of Bruto da Costa. Adv Bruto da Costa was constantly being targeted by the colonial masters and was at the point of arrest and deportation twice after some courageous and decisive critical telegrams that he sent to Portugal.
For 21 years, Bruto da Costa lost irretrievably his eyesight -- Day and night merged imperceptibly in front of his eyes. Everything was darkness before him. Somebody else would have got depressed and given up on life. But Bruto da Costa accepted his blindness as a gift rather than a handicap and continued to fight until death for his principles and beliefs.
I knew him as a child. He was very fond of children and we were fond of him. I had the privilege of being his personal physician during his final illness. I admired his deep faith in God at all times and his capacity to surrender toward the will of God.
Bruto da Costa was really a great man, a hero.

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