BY PRAJAL SAKHARDANDE
This year Goa celebrates the birth centenary of Purushottam Kakodkar, a figure who is shrouded in controversies. Born on May 18, 1913 he remains a pivotal figure in Goa’s pre-liberation and post-liberation history.
Affectionately known as ‘bhau’, he prevented Goa from being merged with Maharashtra, when top political brass of the state like Yashwantrao Chawan and Vasantrao Naik had the ambition merging Goa with Maharashtra. Bhau sensed this quite early and being close to the Nehru family lobbied hard since the time of Nehru for an Opinion Poll. The Poll eventually came to happen due to his convincing prowess and intervention at the centre during the time of Indira Gandhi, in 1967.
I had interviewed Purushottambab way back in 1993 at his residence at Maganlal Sadan, Panaji. In his opinion, the credit for the entire course of the historic 18th June Movement that saw a movement against Salazarist dictatorship being launched in 1946 cannot be given to Ram Manohar Lohia alone as there were other leaders in the movement too.
Ravindrabab Kelekar was very critical of Kakodkar’s role in the freedom struggle in his Konkani book ‘Panthasth’. Kakodkarbab had many critics as he remained shrouded in controversies, which also included his attempt at becoming a sanyasi. His role in Goa’s history is manifold. He was a Gandhian freedom fighter, a social worker, an activist, a staunch protagonist for Konkani and a political figure who went on to contest the first assembly elections in liberated Goa. Although he lost having contested on a Congress ticket, he went on to don the mantle of MP. Bhau championed for a separate Goa after her liberation and envisioned Goa as a separate independent identity, unique to India.
Purushottam had also participated in the Quit India Movement of August 1942 and had stayed at the Gandhi Sevagram Ashram at Wardha. He was one of the few Goans who had a close encounter with Gandhi and also told me of Gandhiji’s vow of silence.
Spurred on by Gandhian ideology, Kakodkar founded the Goa Seva Sangh in Margao in 1943 along with Pramilabai Zambaulikar, Vinayak Mayekar, Nikubab Karapurkar and others. The Goa Seva Sangh inculcated Gandhian values in Goa. Purushottam along with Vasant Kare met Lohia in June 1946 at Juliao Menezes’ house in Assolna. Kakodkar appraised Lohia of the situation prevailing in Goa under the dictatorial regime of Salazar. The seeds of the 18th June struggle for civil liberties were sown at this meeting.
Kakodkar served a jail term for his involvement in Goa’s freedom struggle and was deported to the Portuguese jail. Bhau was the founder president of the Goa Konkani Academi established in 1984 and the Konkani movement owes much to Bhau.