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30 May in History: Goa became a state

Goa became India’s 25th state on 30th May 1987.

Background

  • After India achieved independence from the British in 1947, Goa, which was a Portuguese colony, remained a colony until 1961.
  • In 1961, the Indian Army, as per the wishes of most of the Goan population liberated it from Portuguese rule by force. Read more about the Indian army’s annexation of Goa.
  • The Portuguese government in Goa surrendered formally on 19th December 1961 ending more than 450 years of colonial rule in the state of Goa.
  • At that time, the then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru promised the people of Goa that the distinct identity of the state would be retained.
  • That was also about the time that many new states in India were formed along linguistic lines.
  • Initially, Goa was made a Union Territory within the Indian union.
  • On 16 January 1967, a referendum was held in Goa called the Goa Opinion Poll. Even though it was called a poll, it was a referendum and the results were binding on the government.
  • The referendum was for the people to decide whether Goa would merge with the neighbouring state of Maharashtra or it would remain as a UT.
  • It is notable because it was and till date is the only referendum to be held in independent India.
  • The people voted against the merger and remained a UT. It was only in 1987 that Goa was declared a full-fledged state in the Indian Union.
  • In 1963, Nehru had declared that Goa would remain a UT for ten years and then the future would be decided based on the wishes of the Goan people.
  • However, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), a political party which strongly favoured the merger with Maharashtra was not prepared to wait for ten years.
  • In fact, the MGP was the first ruling party in Goa which had come to power in the elections that were held after the Portuguese left.
  • The party saw its victory as a confirmation that Goans wanted to merge with Maharashtra.
  • The society was divided on the issue. The chief language of the people was Konkani. Most Konkanis were also bilingual and they spoke Marathi as well. Some people also felt Konkani to be a dialect of Marathi and they were in favour of the merger with the larger state of Maharashtra.
  • However, there were many others who felt that Konkani was a distinct language of its own and that the merger with Maharashtra would make the interests of the Konkani people secondary.
  • The other party in the state with the opposing stance was the United Goans Party (UGP).
  • Even though the MGP had come to power and according to them could easily pass a bill in the assembly which would merge Goa with Maharashtra, the UGP pressed for a referendum since it was an important decision and one that affected people directly. Therefore, instead of the people’s representatives voting for a decision (as would normally take place in a representative democracy like India), the people themselves voted in the referendum.
  • UGP leader Dr. Jack de Sequeira worked hard for the referendum. He also wanted expatriate Goans living in other parts of India and abroad to get a vote, but this was denied.
  • The question was voted in the Indian Parliament and passed by both Houses. The Goa, Daman and Diu (Opinion Poll) Act received presidential assent on 16th December 1966 and the referendum itself was held on 16th January 1967.
  • The people of Goa and Daman and Diu voted against the merger with Maharashtra. 54% of the people voted against the merger.
  • A resolution was passed in the Goa Assembly demanding full statehood in 1976. Goa finally became a state on 30th May 1987. Daman and Diu were separated and made a UT.

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