Udayavni Special

When an independent country existed within independent India for 8 years


Harsha Rao, Apr 28, 2020, 12:51 PM IST

On January 26, 2020, Republic Day, the Government of India merged two Union Territories. The four separate parts of the Territory lie in the south of Gujrat and between the borders of Gujrat and Maharashtra.

This newly created Union Territory was not renamed, instead all their names were strung together in what can be called as the longest named part of India – the “Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.”

Earlier, Dadra and Nagar Haveli were separate from Daman and Diu.

The combined area of the new Territory is a little more than 600 square kilometres. Small might be territorial size, however, that was definitely not the case with their geopolitical history – especially that of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, which occurred, or rather, started in 1954.

All four of these (and Goa) were part of Portuguese India (Estado Português da Índia) and had stayed with them even after the British left in 1947.

The Portuguese were the first to arrive in India (Vasco da Gama) and were the last to leave it.

The Portuguese acquired Nagar Haveli on 10 June 1783. The Maratha Empire transferred it to them as compensation for damaging their frigate ‘Santana’ under a Friendship Treaty signed on 17 December 1779.

The Treaty gave them revenue rights of about 72 villages in Nagar Haveli. Later, in 1785, the Portuguese purchased Dadra.

When the British defeated the Marathas in 1818, ending their more than 175-year rule, the Portuguese annexed all these territories as part of their empire in India. They governed all their territories through an appointed viceroy from the capital at Panjim (Goa).

In 1947, Union of India (and then the Republic of India, from January 26, 1952), demanded the Portuguese to accede their territories to India or risk a conflict.

Locally, however, small political groups had already decided to make the risk of conflict a reality.

Three organisations – United Front of Goans (UFG), Azad Gomantak Dal (AGD) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – had chalked out the plan of the conflict. They were to invade Dadra and Nagar Haveli and liberate it.

On July 22, 1954, 15 members of UFG under the command of their leader Francis Mascerenhas and Waman Desai crossed into Dadra. They attacked a police station with three policemen in it, captured it, hoisted the Indian flag and declared Free Dadra.

A week later, on July 28, 30-35 members of AGD swam across the flooded Daman Ganga river bordering Nagar Haveli, captured six policemen at Naroli village. On 1 August they reached Pipariya village and captured 5 police officers there and next day reached Silvassa, the capital of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and raided the police headquarters.

The liberation of Dadra and Nagar Haveli was complete.

However, all this was done by civilians and not by the official army of the country. This created a legal limbo. Internationally, Dadra and Nagar Haveli were still recognised as part of Portuguese India.

Portugal immediately complained to the International Court of Justice, which in its “Case Concerning Right of Passage Over Indian Territory” stated that Portugal had sovereign rights over Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

The liberators soon declared Dadra and Nagar Haveli an independent country – the “Free Dadra and Nagar Haveli” (Mukta Dadra ani Nagar Haveli). They formed a government – “Varishtha Panchayat of Free Dadra and Nagar Haveli” – to govern the territory and adopted the Indian national flag and anthem as their country’s flag and national anthem.

R V Mudras was appointed as the first “Administrator of Free Dadra and Nagar Haveli,” the head of the government.

So, a fully-fledged country started operating smack within the boundaries of the Republic of India.

The negotiations between India and Portugal were stalled and reached an impasse over the issue. During this whole while, the Varishtha Panchayat issued its own postage and revenue stamps and also consisted of a very small volunteer army mostly personnel from the Indian police.

Finally, change came in June 1961. The Varishtha Panchayat seeing the failure of India’s diplomatic efforts with Portugal, voted to accede to the Republic of India.

K G Badlani, a civil servant from India, was appointed the “Prime Minister of Free Dadra and Nagar Haveli” by the Varishta Panchayat on August 11, 1962 to sign the accession treaty with India.

Badlani was the Prime Minister for only a day and ceased to be so after Dadra and Nagar Haveli became part of India after the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution of India.

Five months later on December 11, 1961, India decided to invade the remaining territories of Portuguese Goa, Daman and Diu with a force of 30,000 in “Operation Vijay.”

After over 36 hours of land, air and sea strikes, the Portuguese armed forces of about 3000 fighting a suicidal battle on land and sea, were defeated.

450 years of Portuguese rule in India ended in less than 2 days.

After their surrender, Portugal resorted to terrorism. A series of bombings were executed on June 20, 1964 in Goa. Internationally too, most countries of western Europe and the United States condemned India for the forceful takeover.

However, Portugal paid a price for its hostility. Inspired by Indian action, almost every territory of Portuguese Africa initiated insurrection against Portugal starting the Portuguese Colonial War (1961-75). At the end of it, all Portuguese territories in Africa – Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique – had gained independence.

Portugal finally changed.

On April 25, 1974, a military coup in Portugal started the Carnation Revolution. The coup overthrew the Estado Novo regime that had come to power in the country through a coup in 1928 and which had collaborated with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

The Revolution’s leaders turned Portugal into a democracy and in a treaty signed with India on December 31, 1974, recognised Indian sovereignty over Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli.

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