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A Forgotten Hero of Goa Gafar Kareem’s Tryst with Liberation

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SHAIKH SHOAIB chronicles the participation of Gafar Nurmohmmad Kareem in the Goa liberation struggle, for which he was presented with a tamprapatra by then Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi, lest the posterity should forget this hero of Goa.

We entered Goa mounted on tanks of Indian Army from Dodamarg (North Goa bordering Maharashtra) into Mapusa,” expresses Gafar Nurmohammad Kareem remembering 19 December 1961, the day Goa attained Liberation.

Until 19 December 1961, Goa was under the colonial regime of the Portuguese, who had conquered Goa in 1510C.E. from Adil Shah of Bijapur. This was followed by the infamous Goa Inquisition in the mid 16th century and carried out for about 250 years. The Inquisition was established to punish apostate Christians – those who were converted to Catholicism, as well as their descendants – who were suspected of practising their ancestral religion in secret. The Inquisition also prosecuted non-converts who broke the prohibitions against the observances of Hindu or Muslim rites or interfered with the Portuguese attempts to convert non-Christians to Catholicism. Records indicate that during the first 100 years more than 4000 people were prosecuted. As a colony, Goans suffered a lot under the Portuguese.

To put an end to the unrelenting oppression by the Portuguese, Goans did not leave any stone unturned whenever an opportunity came their way. But Goa’s Liberation movement received momentum in the early 20th Century. T.B. Cunha spearheaded the movement followed by Ram Manohar Lohia, many others who had the fire of freedom burning within their inner-selves joined congregations for the Liberation struggle. During the two decades before Liberation, the movement in Goa was supported by the Indians and Indian Army. Records seldom mention any involvement of Muslims in the liberation struggle of Goa, nevertheless one among these youth who thronged their life into the freedom movement is Gafar Nurmohammad Kareem.

Born on 20 November 1936 in Mapusa town of North Goa District, Gafar Nurmohammad swung into the liberation movement in the early years of his youth at the age of 19. Youngest among the siblings born to a rich cloth merchant, didn’t hold-up the feet of this freedom fighter. He dropped out of education after secondary schooling.

Gafar Nurmohammad joined the Rancour Patriota (one of the groups that fought for Goa’s Liberation) and participated alongside freedom fighters Prabhakar Sinari, Kanhoba Naik and Krishnarao Rane and received training at the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) Camp at Sambra Village in Belgaum District of Karnataka. He was trained in bomb manufacturing. Gafar Nurmohammad was responsible for assembling the explosives smuggled into Goa from Maneri (a village across the border in Maharashtra) and then subsequently blowing them off at the planned destinations in Bardez Taluka.

One of the bombs that Gafar Nurmohammad planted and created disturbance and reiterated the voice of the freedom struggle was blown off near the Mapusa Municipality (Gafar Nurmohammad doesn’t remember the exact date). This explosion boosted the vigour of the companions of the Rancour Patriota as well as others. He would treasure the smuggled explosives in pits dug in his home, so that the police would not be able to trace them. During these times the pressures and fear of police was so much that no one dared do any activity against the authorities. To the extent that when Gafar Nurmohammad’s father was called to identify Gafar Nurmohammad, he disowned his son and denied his identification.

Gafar Nurmohammad would hire a bicycle and en-route the jungles to travel to Maneri to the Rancour Patriota camp. On one such occasion in 1959 while he was returning from Maneri, he was arrested with ammunitions at the Sal border. Gafar Nurmohammad was detained at Panaji for five months. He was locked into solitary cell no. 12 and underwent physical and mental torture. “During the same time Purshottam Kakodkar and Mohan Ranade were also locked up in Panaji prison,” he recollects. Gafar Nurmohammad was tried and sentenced to 16 months imprisonment. He spent 11 months in the famous Aguada Jail in Goa at the prison cell no. 4 along with 32 others.

Post Liberation Gafar Nurmohammad continued family business. He joined the Indian Army for a while but did not continue for long. After the short span he involved himself in business. During the Goa’s Opinion Poll, Gafar Nurmohammad supported Dr. Jack de Sequeira and toured Goa along with Laura D’Souza in garnering people’s support for a separate Union Territory. Goa Opinion Poll was a landmark decision by the Goans in which a popular vote was sought. A group under the banner of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party wished to merge Goa with Maharashtra and the other group under banner United Goans Party wanted a separate identity. The Opinion Poll decided a separate territory.

Gafar Nurmohammad Kareem on the 25th Anniversary of India’s Independence in 1972 was presented with a tamrapatra by then Prime Minister of India, Mrs. Indira Gandhi through the Governor of Goa, S. K. Banerji. Gafar Nurmohammad Kareem, now 76, cherishes moments of life spent in the freedom struggle. He at once negates some aspirations of the unsatisfied citizens who think that the Portuguese colonial rule was better. He reaffirms liberation brought better social life and over all development. And most important of all, ‘FREEDOM’. “We can live like HUMANS”, Gafar Nurmohammad states.



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