Operation Vijaya

The Invasion of Goa, also known as the Liberation of Goa or Portuguese-Indian War, codenamed Operation Vijay by the Government of India, was the Indian armed forces action that ended Portuguese rule in its Indian enclaves in 1961. The armed action – which involved air, sea and land strikes for over 36 hours, ended 451 years of Portuguese colonial rule in Goa.

Goa, Daman, Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli had been Portuguese colonies since the 16th century. After having won liberation from the British Empire in 1947, the Republic of India, under the leadership of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru entered into talks with the government of Portugal, led by dictator Oliveira Salazar, for the peaceful hand over of all colonial enclaves held by the Portuguese on the Indian subcontinent.

Diplomatic efforts towards this goal by the Indian government failed due to the anti-decolonization policies of the Portuguese government, leading to enmity between the two countries. India attempted to use its position in the Non-Aligned Movement to gain support for its demands, while Portugal, as a founding member of NATO attempted to seek support amongst western nations, as well as with India’s rivals, Pakistan and China.

In Goa, popular support had been built up against Portuguese colonial rule by civil leaders like Ram Manohar Lohia who advocated the use of non-violent Gandhian techniques to oppose the government[2]. A major popular protest against colonial rule on the 18th of June 1946 was suppressed by the Portuguese. Similarly, in 1954, the Portuguese used force to put down an attempt by non-violent Satyagrahi activists to march into Goa. A similar and simultaneous effort in Dadra and Nagar Haveli was successful, however, and it was incorporated into the Indian Union on July 21, 1954. The Portuguese followed their actions up with a purge of supporters of independence, many of whom were jailed. This action led to the closure of the Indian consulate in the city of Panjim in Goa in 1955 and the imposition of economic sanctions against Portuguese held territories.

In addition to non-violent protests, several armed groups such as the Azad Gomantak Dal (The Free Goa Party) and the United Front of Goans conducted guerilla operations against the Portuguese in Goa. These organisations – along with Indian volunteers – were also involved in the liberation of Dadra and Nagar Haveli from Portuguese rule in 1954.

In 1957, The Indian army deployed anti aircraft batteries near the Daman and Diu airfields and threatened to shoot down any aircraft that strayed into Indian airspace whilst taking off or landing at the newly built airports at these locations.

By October 1961, the decision was taken to use military force to oust the Portuguese from their Indian enclaves, and accordingly military resources were allocated for Operation Vijay.

Events preceding the hostilities

Attack on the Sabarmati

On 24 November 1961, the Sabarmati, a passenger boat passing between the Portuguese held island of Anjidiv and the Indian port of Kochi, was fired upon by Portuguese ground troops, resulting in injuries to the chief engineer of the boat, as well as the death of a passenger. The action was precipitated by Portuguese fears that the boat carried a military landing team intent on storming the island. A Portuguese investigation into the matter revealed that the boat had also been fired upon a week earlier—on 17 November—when it accidentally strayed into Portuguese waters. The incidents lent themselves to foster widespread public support in India for military action in Goa.

Indian military build-up

On receiving the go-ahead for military action and the mandate of the capture of all occupied territories for the Indian Government, Lt. Gen. Chaudhari of India’s Southern Army fielded the 17th Infantry Division and the 50th Para Brigade commanded by Major General K.P. Candeth . The assault on the enclave of Daman was assigned to the 1st Maratha Light Infantry while the operations in Diu were assigned to the 20th Rajput and 4th Madras battalions. Meanwhile, The Commander in Chief of India’s Western Air Command, Air Vice Marshal Erlic Pinto, was appointed as the commander of all air resources assigned to the operations in Goa. Air resources for the assault on Goa were concentrated in the bases at Pune and Sambre.

The Indian navy deployed two warships—the INS Rajput, an ‘R’ Class destroyer, and the INS Kirpan, a Blackwood class anti-submarine frigate— off the coast of Goa. The actual attack on Goa was delegated to four task groups: a Surface Action Group comprising five ships: Mysore, Trishul, Betwa, Beas and Cauvery; a Carrier Group of 5 ships: Delhi, Kuthar, Kirpan, Khukri and Rajput centred around the light aircraft carrier Vikrant; a Mine Sweeping Group consisting of mine sweepers including Karwar, Kakinada, Cannonore and Bimilipatan and a Support Group which consisted of the Dharini.

International efforts at peace

Portugal’s prime-minister, Oliveira Salazar, alarmed by India’s hinted threats at armed action against its presence in Goa, first asked the United Kingdom to mediate, then protested through Brazil and eventually asked the UN Security Council to intervene. Meanwhile on 6 December, Mexico offered the Indian Government its influence in Latin America to bring pressure on the Portuguese to relieve tensions.

Meanwhile, India’s defence minister, Krishna Menon, and head of India’s UN delegation stated in no uncertain terms that India had not “abjured the use of force” in Goa, and went on to link Goa to Angola, condemning Portugal’s anti decolonization policies in both cases. [10]. Indian forces were, at the time, serving in Congo as part of a UN operation and had been involved in the fighting.

American diplomatic initiatives to prevent an armed conflict in India had to balance its relationship with India, as well as its NATO alliance with Portugal, as well as dispel the idea that such initiatives were being made under pressure from the Portuguese Government, while avoiding any NATO involvement in the issue. The US government stopped short of suggesting self determination for the people of Goa, as this, they realized, would be needed to apply to all other Portuguese holdings worldwide, and would damage US–Portugal relations.

American ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith requested the Indian Government on several occasions to resolve the issue peacefully through mediation and consensus rather than armed conflict. Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru postponed the invasion of Goa and expressed his willingness to come to the negotiating table, on the condition that Portugal first announce its intentions to withdraw from Goa. This condition was however rejected by the Portuguese as contrary to the spirit of a negotiation.

President John F. Kennedy, in a message to Nehru, argued that if India used force against Goa, this, along with its military presence in Congo would make an otherwise Gandhian nation look belligerent.

On 8 December, C.S. Jha, India’s delegate at the United Nations Security Council expressed India’s disregard for international pressure by stating: “(The invasion of Goa) is a question of getting rid of the last vestiges of colonialism in India. That is a matter of faith with us. Whatever anyone else may think, Charter or no Charter, Council or no Council, that is our basic faith which we cannot afford to give up at any cost.”

On December 14, Acting U.N. Secretary-General U Thant addressed identical letters to Indian Prime Minister Nehru and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Salazar. He urged them to “ensure that the situation does not deteriorate to the extent that it might constitute a threat to peace and security,” and to enter into negotiations to seek a solution to the problem.

Eventually on the 10th of December, nine days prior to the invasion, Nehru stated to the press that “Continuance of Goa under Portuguese rule is an impossibility”. America’s response was to warn India that if and when India’s armed action in Goa was brought to the UN security council, it could expect no support from the US delegation.

The Portuguese Mandate

Portuguese Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar, sent the following message to Governor General Vassalo e Silva in Goa on 14th December, in which he ordered the Portuguese forces in Goa to fight till the last man.

Radio 816 / Lisbon 14-Dec.1961: You understand the bitterness with which I send you this message. It is horrible to think that this may mean total sacrifice, but I believe that sacrifice is the only way for us to keep up to the highest traditions and provide service to the future of the Nation. Do not expect the possibility of truce or of Portuguese prisoners, as there will be no surrender rendered because I feel that our soldiers and sailors can be either victorious or dead. These words could, by their seriousness, be directed only to a soldier of higher duties fully prepared to fulfill them. God will not allow you to be the last Governor of the State of India.

Portuguese military preparations

In accordance with Prime Minister Salazar’s instructions to resist the Indian invasion, the Portuguese administration in Goa prepared for war.

Four Portuguese Navy frigates—the Afonso de Albuquerque, the Bartolomeu Dias, the João de Lisboa and the Gonçalves Zarco—were deployed to patrol the waters of the three enclaves of Goa, Daman and Diu. These were each armed with four 120 mm guns capable of two shots per minute, and four automatic rapid firing guns. In addition to these frigates, there were five merchant navy ships in Goa, as well as several patrol boats (Lancha de Fiscalização). Eventually only the Afonso de Albuquerque saw action against Indian naval units, the other ships having fled before commencement of hostilities.

Portuguese ground defences consisted of approximately 3,300 European infantry troops and about 900 native soldiers, many of whom had little military training and were utilized primarily for security and anti-terrorist operations. In addition there were about 2,000 police officers. The strategy employed to resist Indian invasion was centred around the Plano Sentinela which called for the concentration of all defences in the port town of Mormugao, and the Plano de Barragens which envisaged the demolishing of all bridges and links to delay the invading army, as well as the mining of approach roads and beaches. These plans were however unviable due to the desperate shortage of mines and ammunition. The Portuguese air presence in Goa was limited to the presence of two transport aircraft belonging to the Portuguese international airline TAIP – Transportes Aéreos da Índia Portuguesa: a Lockheed Constellation and a DC-6 aircraft – in addition to other small aircraft. The Indians believed that the Portuguese had a squadron of F-86 Sabres stationed at Dabolim Airport—which later turned out to be false intelligence. Air defence was limited to a few obsolete anti aircraft guns manned by two artillery units who had been smuggled into Goa disguised as soccer teams. Time carried a report on the conflict where it mentioned that if Goa was attacked, Great Britain was duty bound by a 600 year old treaty to assist the Portuguese with “troops, archers, slingers, galleys sufficiently armed for war.” However, no offer was made by any nation to provide military assistance for the defence of Goa.

Portuguese civilian evacuation

The military buildup created panic amongst Europeans in Goa, who were desperate to evacuate their families before the commencement of hostilities. On 9 December, the vessel India arrived at Goa’s Mormugao port en route to Lisbon from Timor. Despite orders from the Portuguese government in Lisbon not to allow anyone to embark on this vessel, the Governor General of Goa, Manuel Vassalo e Silva, allowed 700 Portuguese civilians of European origin to board the ship and flee Goa. The ship had had capacity for only 380 passengers, and was filled to its limits, with refugees occupying even the ship’s toilets. On arranging this evacuation of women and children, Vassalo e Silva remarked to the press, “If necessary, we will die here.” Evacuation of civilians and military officials continued by air even after the commencement of Indian air strikes.

Indian reconnaissance operations

Indian reconnaissance operations had commenced on 1 December, when two Indian Leopard class frigates, the INS Betwa and the INS Beas, undertook linear patrolling of the Goan coast at a distance of 8 miles (13 km). By 8 December, the Indian Air Force had commenced baiting missions and fly-bys to lure out Portuguese air defences and fighters, but to no avail.

The Indian light aircraft carrier INS Vikrant was deployed 75 miles (121 km) off the coast of Goa to counter any air offensive from the Portuguese Air Force, as well as to deter any foreign military intervention.

Timeline

The air war

The mandate handed to Air Vice Marshal Erlic Pinto by the Indian Air Command was listed out as follows:

  1. The destruction of Goa’s lone airfield in Dabolim, without causing damage to the terminal building and other airport facilities.
  2. Destruction of the wireless station at Bambolim, Goa.
  3. Denial of airfields at Daman and Diu, which were, however, not to be attacked without prior permission.
  4. Support to advancing ground troops.

The Goa raids

A Canberra PR.9 taking off. The Indian Air Force used the small and lightweight Canberra bombers with devastating effect in Goa.

The first Indian raid was conducted on 18 December on the Dabolim Airfield and was in the form of 12 Canberra aircraft led by Wing Commander N.B. Menon. The raid resulted in the dropping of 63,000 pounds of explosives within minutes, rendering the runway unusable. In line with the mandate given by the Air Command, structures and facilities at the airfield were left undamaged.

The second Indian raid was conducted on the same target by eight Canberra aircraft led by Wing Commander Surinder Singh, which again left the airport’s terminal and other buildings untouched.

Two transport aircraft – a Lockheed Constellation and a DC-6 belonging to the Portuguese international airline TAIP – which were parked on the apron were supposed to be spared per the given mandate. However the Constellation suffered some damage during the raids, rendering it unusable.

A third Indian raid comprised six Hawker Hunters and was targeted at the wireless station at Bambolim which was successfully attacked with a combination of rockets and gun cannon ammunition.

On the night of the 18th December, the Portuguese used the undamaged TAIP DC-6 to evacuate the families of some government and military officials as well as the gold reserves of Goa’s Banco Nacional Ultramarino, in spite of the heavily damaged runway. The aircraft, piloted by TAP‘s Major Solano de Almeida, used the cover of night and a very low altitude to break through Indian aerial patrols and escape to Karachi, Pakistan.

The mandate to support ground troops was served by the No. 45 squadron of de Havilland Vampires which patrolled the sector but did not receive any requests into action. In an incident of friendly fire, two Vampires fired rockets into the positions of the 2nd Sikh Light Infantry injuring two soldiers, while elsewhere, an Indian Harvard was attacked by friendly ground troops and sustained nominal damage.

The Daman and Diu raids

In the Daman sector, Indian Mysteres flew 14 sorties, continuously harassing the positions of the Portuguese artillery.

Ex-“Black Archers” Toofani (MD450 Ouregan) on display at the Indian Air Force Museum, Palam, New Delhi. The 1953 french made Ouregans – also called Toofanis by the Indians – formed the backbone of the air strikes on Diu.

In the Diu Sector, the Indian commander in charge of air resources based at the Jamnagar base lost contact with his HQ, and ordered an all out attack on the airfield here in spite of the mandate prohibiting this unless prior permission was received. An initial raid at 1100 hours of four Toofani aircraft each armed with 1000 pounds of munitions, was called off after the leader mistook white sheets hanging near the airfield for surrender flags. A second raid of two Toofanis similarly armed attacked the air field runways at 1400 hours and this was followed closely by a third raid of four Toofanis which destroyed the control tower, wireless station and the meteorological station. As per prior plans, the Indian Air Command ordered a double wave attack of 16 Canberra aircraft from the Pune air base, but called this off because friendly ground troops were near the target areas. The Portuguese forces trapped in Diu tried to escape the siege in a fast patrol boat, but were intercepted by four Indian Vampire aircraft and sunk.

In the absence of any Portuguese air presence, Portuguese ground based antiaircraft units attempted to offer resistance to the Indian raids, but were overwhelmed and quickly silenced, leaving complete air superiority to the Indians.

In later years, commentators have maintained that India’s intense air strikes against the airfields were uncalled-for, since none of the targeted airports had any military capabilities and did not cater to any military aircraft. As such, the airfields were defenceless civilian targets. To this day, the Indian navy continues to control the Dabolim Airport, although this is now used as a civilian airport as well.

The naval war

The Storming of Anjediv Island

The Indian Naval Command assigned the task of securing the island of Anjediv to the INS Trishul and the INS Mysore. Under covering fire from the ships, Indian marines under the command of Lt. Arun Auditto stormed the island at 1425 hours on the 18th of December, and engaged the Portuguese defenders. The Portuguese ceased fire, and raised a white flag (it is believed in some quarters that the “white flag” was in fact bedsheets drying in the windows, which the Indian army mistook for a white flag of surrender), thus luring the Indian marines out of their cover, before opening fire again. Seven marines were killed in this action, and nineteen, including two officers, sustained injuries. The Portuguese defences were eventually overpowered after a fierce barrage of shells from the Indian ships and the island was secured by the Indians at 1400 hours on the next day.

Naval Battle at Mormugao harbour

On the morning of 18 December, the Portuguese frigate NRP Afonso de Albuquerque was anchored off Mormugao Harbour. Three other Portuguese frigates had already fled the waters before being challenged by the Indian Navy, leaving the Afonso as Goa’s sole naval defence. Besides engaging Indian naval units, the Afonso was also tasked with providing a coastal artillery battery for the defence of the harbour and adjoining beaches, as well as providing vital radio communications with Lisbon after on-shore radio facilities had been destroyed in Indian air-strikes.

At 0900 hours, three Indian frigates led by the INS Betwa took up position off the Harbour, awaiting orders to attack the Afonso and secure sea access to the port. At 1200 hours, upon receiving its clearance from HQ, the INS Betwa, accompanied by the INS Beas entered the harbour and opened fire on the Afonso with their 4.5” guns, which in turn returned fire with its 120 mm guns.

Besides being outnumbered by the Indians, the Afonso was also at a severe disadvantage since it was in a confined position that restricted its maneuverability, and also because its four 120 mm guns were capable of a mere two rounds a minute, as compared to the 60 rounds per minute cadence of the guns aboard the Indian frigates. A few minutes into the exchange of fire, the Afonso took a direct hit in its control tower, killing its radio officer and severely injuring its Commander, Captain António da Cunha Aragão, after which the First Officer Pinto da Cruz took command of the vessel.

At 1235, faced with the destruction of the ships propulsion system under continuous fire from the Indian frigates, a white flag of surrender was hoisted. The flag, however, coiled itself around the mast and as a result was not spotted by the Indians who continued their barrage. Eventually at 1250 hours, after having fired nearly 400 rounds at the Indians, and having taken severe damage, the order was given to initiate the abandonment of the ship. Under heavy fire, directed both at the ship as well as at the coast, the crew of the Afonso along with their injured commander made their way ashore, after which the commander was transferred by car to medical facilities at Panjim. The rest of the unit was taken prisoner by the Indians at 1300 hours the following day.

As a gesture of goodwill, the commanders of the INS Betwa and the INS Beas later visited Captain Aragão as he lay recuperating in bed at Panjim.

The Afonso lay grounded at the beach near Dona Paula, until 1962 when it was towed to Bombay and sold for scrap. Parts of the ship were recovered and are on display at the Naval Museum in Bombay.

The Action at Diu

At 0400 hours, a Portuguese patrol boat Vega encountered an Indian cruiser around 12 miles (19 km) off the coast of Diu, and was attacked with heavy machine gun fire. Taking no casualties and minimal damage, the boat managed to withdraw to the port at Diu.

At 0700 hours, news was received that the Indian invasion had commenced, and the commander of the Vega, 2nd Lt Carmo Oliveira was ordered to sail out and fight till the last round of ammunition. At 0730 hours the crew of the Vega spotted two Indian aircraft on patrol missions and opened fire on them with the 20 mm gun on board the boat. In retaliation the Indian aircraft attacked the Vega twice, killing the captain and the gunner and forcing the rest of the crew to abandon the boat and swim ashore, where they were later taken prisoner.

Action at Daman

Like the Vega in Diu, the patrol boat Antares at Daman under the command of 2nd Lt. Abreu Brito was ordered to sail out and fight the imminent Indian invasion. The boat stayed in position from 0700 hours on 18 December and remained a mute witness to repeated air strikes followed by ground invasion until 1920 hours when it lost all communications with land.

With all information pointing to total occupation of all Portuguese enclaves in India, Lt. Brito attempted to save his crew and boat by escaping to Karachi in Pakistan. The boat traversed 530 miles (850 km), escaping detection by Indian forces to arrive at Karachi at 2000 hours on 20 December.

The Ground War

The target of the Indian ground attack in Goa was the securing of the capital town of Panjim as well as the harbour of Mormugao and the airport at Dabolim, and was a task assigned to the 17th Infantry Division under Major Gen. KP Candeth, and the 50 Para Brigade – one of the Indian army’s most elite airborne units – under Brigadier Sagat Singh.

The attack on Goa: the northern prong

Although the 50 Para Brigade – also called the Pegasus Brigade – was charged with merely assisting the main thrust conducted by the 17th Infantry, its units moved rapidly across minefields, roadblocks and four riverine obstacles to be the first to reach Panjim.

On the morning of 18 December, the 50 Para Brigade moved into Goa in three columns.

  1. The eastern column comprised the 2nd Para Maratha advanced via the town of Ponda in central Goa.
  2. The central column consisting of the 1st Para Punjab advanced via the village of Banastari.
  3. The western column – the main thrust of the attack – comprised the 2nd Sikh Light Infantry as well as an armored division which crossed the border at 0630 hours in the morning and advanced along Tivim.

The western column, facing no resistance, reached the town of Betim at 1700 hours, just a 500 metre wide river crossing away from Panjim, the capital town. In the absence of orders, the units set camp at Betim and proceeded to secure areas up and down the riverfront.

Indian troops are greeted by crowds of Goans as they march through the streets of Panjim, shortly after the Portuguese retreat.

The order to cross the river was received on the morning of the 19th of December, upon which two rifle companies advanced on Panjim at 0730 hours and secured the town without facing any resistance. On orders from Brigadier Sagat Singh, the troops entering Panjim removed their steel helmets and donned the Parachute Regiment’s maroon berets. As the men marched into the town, they were welcomed as liberators by the locals.

The advance from the east

Meanwhile, in the east, the 63rd Indian Infantry Brigade advanced in two columns. The right column comprising the 2nd Bihar and the left column consisting of the 3rd Sikh linked up at the border town of Mollem and then advanced upon the town of Ponda taking separate routes. By night fall, the 2nd Bihar had reached the town of Candeapur, while the 3rd Sikh had reached Darbondara. Although neither column had encountered any resistance, their further progress was hampered because all bridges spanning the river had been destroyed.

The rear battalion comprised the 4th Sikh Infantry, which reached Candeapur in the small hours of the 19th of December, and not to be bogged down by the absence of the bridge, waded across the river in chest high water, to reach Margao – the administrative centre of Southern Goa – by 1200 hours. From here, the column advanced on the harbour of Mormugao. En route to this target, the column encountered armed resistance from a unit of the Portuguese Army at the village of Verna, where it was joined by the 2nd Bihar. The 500 strong Portuguese unit at Verna surrendered at 1530 hours after a fierce resistance, and the 4th Sikh then proceeded to Mormugao and Dabolim Airport, where the main body of the Portuguese army awaited the Indians.
A decoy attack was staged south of Margao by the 4th Rajput company to mislead the Portuguese. This column overcame minefields, roadblocks and demolished bridges, and eventually went on to help secure the town of Margao.

The expected defence of Mormugao never occurred, and the Portuguese troops holed up at the harbour surrendered without a fight in a formal ceremony at 2030 hours on December the 19th.

The attack on Daman

The advance on the enclave of Daman was conducted by the 1st Maratha Light Infantry in a pre dawn operation on the 18th of December. By 1700 hours, in the absence of any resistance, the Indians had managed to occupy most of the territory, with the exception of the airfield where the Portuguese were making their last stand.

The Indians assaulted the airfield the next morning upon which the Portuguese surrendered at 1100 hours without a fight. Approximately 600 Portuguese soldiers were taken prisoner.

The attack on Diu

Diu was attacked on 18 December from the north west along Kob Forte by two companies of the 20th Rajput and from the north east along Amdepur by the Rajput B Company with the capture of the Diu Airfield being the primary objective.

Whereas the 20th Rajput was bogged down in their assault by the well entrenched machine gun positions of the Portuguese, the B Company was able to advance under heavy artillery cover and take the town of Gogal. The constant barrage of artillery fire as well as continuous air strikes eventually led to the surrender of the Portuguese garrison later that day. The Indians suffered 4 dead and 14 wounded, while the Portuguese suffered 10 dead and 2 wounded.

On 19 December, the 4th Madras C Company landed on the island of Panikot off Diu and accepted the surrender of a small troop of 13 Portuguese soldiers there.

Portuguese surrender

The Indian Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Pran Thapar (far right) with deposed Governor General of Portuguese India Manuel António Vassalo e Silva (seated centre) at a POW facility in Vasco Da Gama, Goa

By the evening 19 December, most of Goa had been taken over by advancing Indian infantry forces, and a large party of more than two thousand Portuguese soldiers had taken position at the port town of Vasco Da Gama. Per the Portuguese strategy code named ‘Plano Sentinela’ the defending forces were to make their last stand at the harbour, holding out against the Indians until Portuguese naval reinforcements could arrive. Orders delivered from the Portuguese President called for a scorched earth policy – that Goa was to be destroyed before it was given up to the Indians. Commentators have argued that Salazar wanted to sacrifice his troops in Goa, in order to attract international condemnation of India’s invasion of Goa.

Despite these , Governor General Manuel António Vassalo e Silva took stock of the numerical superiority of the Indian troops, as well as the food and ammunition supplies in stock and took the decision to offer surrender. He later described his orders to destroy Goa as “um sacrificio inútil” (a useless sacrifice).

In a communication to all Portuguese forces under his command, he stated, “Having considered the defence of the Peninsula of Mormugao… from aerial, naval and ground fire of the enemy and … having considered the difference between the forces and the resources… the situation does not allow myself to proceed with the fight without great sacrifice of the lives of the inhabitants of Vasco da Gama, I have decided with … my patriotism well present, to get in touch with the enemy … I order all my forces to cease-fire.”

The official Portuguese surrender was conducted in a formal ceremony held at 2030 hours on the 19th of December when Governor General Manuel António Vassalo e Silva signed the instrument of surrender bringing to an end 451 years of Portuguese Rule in Goa. In all, approximately 3,306 Portuguese servicemen surrendered and were taken prisoner by the Indians.

Brigadier Sagat Singh of India’s Maroon Beret Parachute regiment accepts the surrender of Portuguese forces at a military camp in Bambolim.

Upon the surrender of the Portuguese governor general, Goa, Daman and Diu was declared a federally administered Union Territory placed directly under the President of India, and Maj. Gen. K. P. Candeth was appointed as its military governor.

OPERATION VIJAY


© Stories of Heroism, Dr. B.C. Chakravorty, edited by Dr. U.P. Thapliyal, Government of India, Ministry of Defence, History Division.


The Portuguese refusal to transfer her Indian settlements of Goa, Daman, Diu and Anjidiv Islands to the Indian Republic, led to Operation Vijay in 1961. They had ruthlessly suppressed a peaceful Satyagraha launched to liberate these territories in 1955. In 1961, they even fired on some Indian coastal steamers and fishing boats near Anjidiv Island. India, therefore, decided to use force to liberate the Portuguese pockets on her soil.

Goa Operations

On 11 December 1961, 17 Inf Div and attached troops were ordered to advance into Goa to capture Panjim and Marmagao. The main thrust on Panjim was to be made by 50 Ind Para Bde Group from the north. Another thrust was to be carried by 63 Inf. Bde from the east. A deceptive thrust, in company strength, was to be made from the south along the Majali-Canacona-Margao axis.

The Eastern Thrust

On December 18th, the 50 Para Bde Group moved into Goa in three columns. The western column (the 2 Sikh LI Group) marched on the Dodamarg-Tivim-Betim-Panjim axis, the central column (1 Para Punjab) on the Benastarim-Panjim axis and the eastern column (2 Para Maratha) on the Dodamarg-Usgao-Ponda axis. The first 2 competed in the race for Panjim. The western column led by armour moved out at 0630 hrs. The armour reached Betim shortly after 1700 hrs without encountering any opposition. The 2 Sikh LI joined it by 2100 hrs, crossing over mines and demolished bridges en-route. Panjim now lay only 549 metres away. But in the absence of orders from above, the unit stayed at Betim for the night. The same night Major Sidhu of the 7 Cavalry was killed when Portuguese guards fired on an unsuspecting Indian rescue party at Aguada Fort.

On December 19th, the 2nd Sikh LI received permission to cross over to Panjim and the two rifle companies landed there at 0735 hrs. The race to Panjim was won. The central column of 1 Para Punjab crossed the border at 0600 hrs. Up to Bicholim it moved as the eastern column but from there it turned on the Banastarim-Panjim axis. It reached Banastarim at 1730 hrs but was held up there on account of the broken bridge. On December 18th, the water obstacle was negotiated and the column reached Panjim by 0830 hrs, 55 minutes after the Sikhs. The eastern most column (2 Para Maratha) moved on the northern route on the Sanquelim-Usgao-Ponda axis. It reached Ponda at 1345 hours and brought order to the town. The eastern column conducted patrolling in the Ponda-Banastarim sector and established contact with the rear elements of 1 Para on December 19th.

The Northern Thrust

The 63 Indian Inf. Bde. moved into Goa from Anmond in two columns. The right column (2 Bihar) moved through a track whereas the left column (3 Sikh) moved down the existing road. Both columns linked up at Mollem and then moved on to Ponda taking separate routes. 3 Sikh could not go beyond Darbandora on December 18th. 2 Bihar went further to settle at Candeapar for the night. Meanwhile the 4 Sikh, the rear battalion, reached Candeapar river crossing at midnight. At 0600 hrs on December 19th, 4 Sikh crossed Candeapar by wading through chest high water and by mid-day rolled into Margao. It then marched on to Dabolim through Verna where a number of Portuguese surrendered at 1530 hrs. Finally it moved to Vasco Da Gama where the Portuguese formally surrendered at 2030 hrs. With the 4 Sikh in the lead, 2 Bihar also pressed on in the direction of Margao. But finding the Sikhs well set on the outskirts of the town it advanced on Verna. The enemy stronghold was attacked on both flanks and their resistance collapsed.

The swift action of 2 Bihar at Verna enabled the 4 Sikh to press on to Dabolim and Marmagao unhindered. The 3 Sikh was put on reserve on December 19th. From here it marched on to Margao and beyond in two columns. Some 400 Portuguese soldiers surrendered before it on December 20th. A diversionary move was made from south along the Majali-Canacon-Margao axis, in company (4 Rajput) strength. It was meant to mislead the Portuguese about the direction of the main Indian thrust. The southern column marched up to Margao overcoming road blocks, mines & broken bridges and helped in restoring order there. The 17 Division ended more than four centuries of Portuguese rule over Goa in just 40 hours. The IAF also played a useful role as its Canberra aircraft, twice bombed the Dabolim airfield whereas Hunters bombed Bombolim Wireless Station.

Daman Operations

Operations in Daman were conducted by the 1 Maratha LI. It launched an attack on Nani Daman from the north after neutralising the Flying Control Tower and Post-175 in a pre-dawn sweep. By 1700 hrs, the two companies had reached the Garden area south of the airfield. The battalion settled in this area for the night. At 1100 hrs on December 19th, the Portuguese made a surrender in Daman without giving any fight. In this push forward, artillery and air support played an effective role. The Army captured 600 soldiers and some guns & mortars in Daman. The Army suffered 1 JCO and 3 ORs killed and 1 JCO and 13 ORs wounded in the Daman operations. Portuguese suffered 10 killed and 2 wounded.

Diu Operations

Diu was the smallest Portuguese possession in India. A two-pronged attack was made on Diu-one from the north-west and the other from the north-east. The north-western thrust on Kob-Forte-Do Passo-De Covo axis was made by two companies of 20 Rajput, to establish a bridge-head and to capture the airfield. But the Rajput effort was frustrated by the well sited MMG and LMG fire across the creek. The Rajputs (B Coy) where, however, successful in their thrust on the Ahmdepur-Gogal axis. They replaced the 4 Madras and successfully attacked Gogla at 1600 hours. The enemy resistance was overcome with heavy pounding of guns. Portuguese garrison showed a white flag and surrendered. In Diu operations the IAF gave very useful support to the Rajputs. Toofani aircraft gave much needed support by bombarding the citadel and the control tower at the airfield on December 18th. On December 19th, the 4 Madras (C Coy) occupied the Island of Panikota and captured 13 Portuguese soldiers.

Anjidiv Island

Anjidiv lies to the south of Goa. The task of capturing this Island was entrusted to the INS Mysore and the INS Trishul. While the INS Mysore was to provide covering fire, the INS Trishul was to land a party on the Island. The assault party called ‘Rustum’ landed there successfully at 0715 hrs on December 18th. Another party followed at 0746 hrs. At this stage, the Portuguese hoisted a white flag near beach Lima. But this was a deceptive move and the Portuguese soon started firing on the second Indian party nearing the beach. The Army suffered some casualties in this treacherous attack. INS Trishul and the INS Mysore thoroughly shelled the enemy strong points to break the resistance. As a result of this pressure, many Portuguese surrendered on December 18th. More prisoners were taken over on December 19th. At 1425 hrs on December 19th, the Indian Flag was hoisted at Anjidiv.


Copyright © BHARAT RAKSHAK. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of BHARAT RAKSHAK is prohibited.

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