Gandhi and the Goa Question
Just as Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj was written in the literary genre of a dialogue, a dialogue between a newspaper Editor and a Reader, I start with an image (fig. 1) that represents a dialogue between a press and its readers, only the setting is not colonial India but colonial Mozambique. It is a scene captured by the famous Mozambican photographer Ricardo Rangel of a group of mostly Portuguese men, including a few Goans and Mozambicans interspersed in the crowd in Lourenço Marques (present-day Maputo), clustered around a public placard, all of them intent on reading the sign’s visible proclamation — that Goa has been lost by the Portuguese and annexed by the Indian government. The date is December 18, 1961, and this visual moment reflects how Goa’s independence from Portugal after 450 years of colonial rule and integration into the newly formed Indian nation-state 14 years after its own colonial independence from Britain can be read more widely as a transnational Indian Ocean experience. It is one that simultaneously connects “slender threads across the ocean.”1
I start with this premise to suggest that if we read Gandhi’s invented idea of swaraj (self-rule) as a potentially deterritorialized concept, then perhaps we can apply it to the peculiarities of the inherently deterritorialized case of Portuguese India, Goa being a Portuguese colonial enclave, alongside Daman and Diu, with all three located amid the larger British India but integrally connected to Portuguese East Africa as well. Here it is important to contextualize Goa as just one of many suzerainties operating within colonial India’s complicated and sometimes overlapping juridical spaces, which included Princely States such as Hyderabad and Junagadh, tribal areas, and also additional European territories such as (French) Pondicherry. That each of these independent territories was integrated differently into the Indian nation-state (post 1947) by different means and at distinct historical moments only reinforces the analytic potential of thinking about swaraj beyond any geographical compulsions.2
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This article is written very much in a Gandhian spirit, wherein “self-rule” is reconfigured as a multilayered negotiation of place and context rather than as a universal principle. Thus rather than strictly place Gandhi in one historical (colonial) context, I use him and his key text to illuminate another (colonial) context. Also, what follows is very much an experimental intervention that is writing against a “Gandhi” viewed strictly through a lens of hagiography, nationalism, or spiritualism. I thank both Ritu Birla and Faisal Devji for their close reading and helpful comments in revising this text for publication.
- . Engseng Ho, The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 29.
- The case of Hyderabad is particularly revealing and serves as a counterpoint to the Goa case. It also serves as a marker of difference among distinct forms of integration in India’s postcolonial period that were complicated by relations between territories before independence. Before 1947, Hyderabad was under the suzerainty of the British Crown but was not part of British India. In 1947, at the time of Partition into the Indian Union and the new state of Pakistan, the British left the Princely States to decide their own future. At this time, the Nizam wished either to remain independent or to accede to Pakistan because of their religious commonalities. These terms, however, were unacceptable to the Indian Union, so government officials instead chose an economic blockade against the state of Hyderabad. It was during the Nizam’s continued intransigence that the Indian Union felt compelled to use military force. “Operation Polo,” as it was called, took place, and on September 17 the Nizam ceded and signed a treaty of accession to the Union of India. See Barbara Ramusack, The Indian Princes and Their States (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 220 – 25. Interestingly, the case of Junagadh also serves as a marker of difference from Goa’s integration and in turn suggests the need to delve deeper into historical relations between British India and these other enclaves to understand what happened during their subsequent decolonization and integration into the Indian Union. Last, the case of French India is relevant here because Gandhi himself made a comparison between the Portuguese and French cases, with the French quietly withdrawing from Pondicherry in 1954, whereas the Portuguese held on to Goa (and Daman and Diu) until 1961, which in turn made the Goa Question seem even more pressing in those intervening years, 1954 – 61.