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Operation Vijay, 1961: The Last Straw


Independent India’s military history archives at least three armed force operations code-named “Vijay", of which two were fought against Pakistan in Kashmir in 1948 and 1999, discreetly. One, and rather peculiar than others, was Operation Vijay of 1961 drawn as an ultimate attempt to redeem Goa along with Daman & Diu from the centuries old Portuguese yoke. Although it was a brief operation of mere 36 hours that resulted in the liberation of Estado da Índia (Portuguese State of India, otherwise, Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli), it holds the legacy of being the first ever tripartite command plan, consisting of all three Services, carried out remarkably by the Indian Armed Forces. The Operation was decisive as it was assumed at its inception stage by the then General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Southern Command, General J.N. Chaudhuri, who drafted the Operation, and yet, then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was reluctant till the eleventh hour to resort to military operation against the notoriously stubborn Portuguese regime in Goa.

Left: Operation Archives

Right: Lieutenant General Chaudhuri Source: Bharat Rakshak

Following Vasco Da Gama's prodigious exploration to India via the sea route, the Portuguese started setting up the earliest colonies in India along the western coast in 1510. After more than 400 years of colonial lordship, Portugal still held on to its remaining Asian and African outposts including enclaves of Goa, Daman, Diu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli in the 1950s, contrary to the global trend of decolonization. While there already were rustles of revolt against the regime within the occupied territory of Goa before 1947, it was, however, largely overshadowed by bigger actors like the national freedom struggle, the ever more imposing cruelties by the colonial government in the form of muzzling the press, strict police brutalities, extensive imprisonment and detentions of any ‘free Goa’ campaigners, and, to some extent, the general expectation that Portugal and France would mimic Britain and leave the country after it acquired independence. As soon as India became a Republic, the rustles took the form of nationwide movement throughout early 1950s to ‘liberate Goa' especially, as the French too, planned to evacuate their colonies along the eastern coast of the subcontinent but the Portuguese hadn’t budged even an inch. Talks at the diplomatic and political level failed coupled with increasing brutalities against the Goan and Non-Goan dissenters by the police in Portugese territories left India with all but one option- Military Action.

By October 1961, the Armed Forces already had a tentative outline of the operation, though they weren’t mobilised yet. The unprovoked incidents of 17th November 1961, when shots were fired from the Portuguese held Anjidiv island that resulted in a death and a few others injured on board the Indian steamer Sabarmati, and within a week’s span, on 24th, a similar incident reported around the same area, culminated into, what was now, an inevitable military action by India. In a speech, following these incidents, PM Nehru expressed with much stress on India’s persistent advocacy of peaceful settlements about the Goa question even after 14 years of independence and that Portugal’s consistent apathy towards it had made Indians exasperated and finally ready to face any arising contingencies with apt reactions.

Left: Indian Army Source: Bharat Rakshak

Right: Portuguese Governor General Source: Bharat Rakshak

Military Action

The military was summoned and the D-Day, which was first set on 15th December, was twice postponed due to final attempts to parley with the Portuguese, but was ultimately set on 18th December. Operation Vijay finally commenced at zero hours on 17-18 December. Just at the light of dawn, a swarm of Canberras and Hunters of the Indian Air Force encompassed the skies of Goa targeting the only airport at Dabolim and the communication centre at Bambolim. Under Brigadier Sagat Singh, the 50th independent Parachute Brigade rose from the North East darting towards the capital city of Panaji to save crucial bridges before the defending army could destroy it. From the East, the 63rd and 48th Infantry Brigade advanced in a rather pincer-like move. The Navy proved to be instrumental against a surprisingly stronger resistance at the Anjidiv Island. INS Mysore essentially backed an amphibious assault on the Island. INS Delhi's majestic 6 inchers were vitally handy in an Infantry attack in Diu. By the evening of the same day, the Indian Armed Forces had captured most of the territory with minimal resistance. The strict orders by Salazar to the defending force in Goa was to either ‘prevail or perish', but Governor General of Portuguese Goa, Vassalo E Silva decided that to follow the orders against the mammoth Indian forces was not only unwise but even daft. The Portuguese troops were supposed to execute Sentinal Plan that required them to resist Indian armed forces for 8 days until Salazar could cumulate military help from other countries while the alternative plan was to entirely tear down the territories before leaving. Vassalo E Silva defied his President (due to which he was detained as soon as he reached Portugal), saving major bloodshed on both sides and on the evening of 19th December 1961 signed the instrument of surrender and handed over the last vestiges of the Portuguese colonies in the subcontinent to the Indian Union, while Major General K.P. Candeth raised the Indian National flag on the Goan soil. Additionally, Major General K.P. Candeth took over as the military governor of Goa and restored law and order in the land. And by 1987, Goa was granted statehood while Daman & Diu made up another Union Territory.

Left: Portuguese Surrender

Right: Portuguese prisoners of war: At the Indian Prison camp at Vasco de Gama, Goa in 1961. Source: The Hindu Photo Library

Although designing an integrated tri-services military operation is no tiny feat, GOC-in-C Southern Command, General J.N. Chaudhuri and Mj. General K.P. Candeth not only drafted it effortlessly but also, along with over 40,000 troops, executed it promptly and successfully. In retrospection, a few experts also credit the Portuguese troops' lack of resistance as a reason for swift military operation and minimal loss of men and material. Despite accumulating a mammoth force, the operation is almost always considered a minor operation, however, it still continues to be a precedent for more joint services operations yet to come.



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Keesing's Record of World Events (formerly Keesing's Contemporary Archives), Volume 8, March, 1962 India, Portugal, Indian, Portuguese Territories, India, Portuguese, Page 18623 © 1931-2006 Keesing's Worldwide, LLC - All Rights Reserved. Indian Occupation of Portuguese Territories in India. - Invasion of Goa, Daman, and Diu. - Incorporation in Indian Union.


Sushila Sawant Mendes Proceedings of the Indian History Congress Vol. 67 (2006-2007), pp. 549-555 (7 pages) Published By: Indian History Congress


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