President Ram Nath Kovind became the first President to visit Goa on the state’s Liberation Day as he inaugurated a cultural event to mark the beginning of Goa’s 60th year of liberation from 451 years of colonial Portuguese rule.
The President’s schedule saw his first stop at Azad Maidan, where he laid a wreath at the martyr’s memorial — before he was escorted to the main venue at Dayanand Bandodkar grounds by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Ayush Minister Shripad Naik. He said he felt privileged that he could personally attend and wish the citizens in Goa amid several events being held online due to the pandemic.
The President’s visit was marred by police vans clearing protesters across the state — children and youth dressed in Save Mollem T Shirts have been opposing infrastructure projects crossing the Western Ghats. Youngsters, who had reached the church square at Panaji to “express their gratitude to the martyrs of Goa on Liberation day”, were ferried to the outskirts.
The clearing of the streets didn’t go unnoticed by the President too, who said, “When I entered the state, especially near the markets, It all felt empty, today it looked a lot empty. I understand this could have been a security need, I am though happy to note that though the crowd inside this ground is very little, you are representative of the people.”
The event saw the Chief Minister speak of the preparation of a vision document for the state for the next 60 years.
Remembering the freedom fighters who fought the Portuguese, Leader of the Opposition Digambar Kamat said, “Whenever people have risen up, the government of the day has had to bow down to their wishes. History shows us that the liberation movement, the opinion poll, the Konkani language agitation, the regional plan, history is replete with such examples.”
President Kovind spoke of the journey of 60 years as he highlighted the sacrifices made by different communities, and groups of people over decades towards liberation. “No one individual or institution can claim ownership of this journey…the journey of development, and where Goa is today is also thanks to the contribution of many successive governments. I would add Digambar Kamat, who just spoke, is also one such contributor,” he reminded the audience.
In the next one year, the Goa government is hoping to celebrate the liberation with events planned across the state and the country with an appeal to the Centre to release Rs 100 crore for the extravaganza.
Meanwhile, the protesters were taken to Ponda, 30 km from the capital, and held in the police compounds till late evening. According to a person who was detained, “There were minors too in the bus and we were not told what the reason was. We all had gathered to silently sit at the church and had informed the church officials… police inside the bus had no name tags and even now we are not told what we might have done wrong. we have been protesting against the infrastructure but today we were there for a silent sit-out which was not allowed.”
Ponda police and other seniors refused to comment when called.
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