Harvesting from History

By Prabhakar Timble
17 July 2012 08:04 IST

Though not a student or an ardent follower of History, I have understood with the passage of years that History written or sponsored by the ruling political masters in any part of the globe is distorted and slanted. The real story in History becomes one-sided due to the bias of power and weight of authority.  What writers’ pen to please the political masters should not be stacked in the store-house of knowledge commonly referred to as History. All matters of the past cannot be elevated to the status of scientific History unless the same is tested and corroborated by scholars of History.

Separate history from fiction

Writers, thinkers and orators who are wedded to cadre-based organisations, pre-set ideology and to whom religion and caste comes first cannot contribute to scientific History. Followers of any organised cult, dogma, creed and belief tend to look at events and evidence with prejudice and bias. Their interpretation of historical events and personalities is basically to steer their public causes and dogma.  As a result, they would like to record and forcefully espouse selective events and happenings isolating from the macro picture. Hence, mis-interpretations and lies are circulated in the society as historical truths through books, media, theatre and films. If the political rulers of the day are part of the same dogma and ideology, the same falsehoods, fiction and mis-representation would find the way in school curriculum, textbooks and campaigns funded through public sponsorships. Legends, mythology and myths may be regarded by the general public as our rich history and heritage when the same are continuously bombarded in their minds.. Even a person of the eminence and stature of Dr. Raghunath Mashelkar and the learned group of scientists, technocrats and educationists could not project anything different on the cover page of the Vision and Road Map 2035 document than the legend that Goa is the Parshuram Kshetra created by the seven arrows of the sixth reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. So much is the weight and impact of the unscientific baggage of the past despite the invention of the God damned “Higgs boson”.

The classic example is how the Maratha warrior Shivaji and the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb are projected in school textbooks and further the body language of the teachers in the classrooms projecting Shivaji as a hero and the Muslim ruler as the villain. Finally, our youth in their formative years instead of learning and appreciating the history of the respective periods, grow up with skewed attitudes with strong anger, hatred and suspicion against other communities coupled with a false pride of the self and one’s community.

Till a year back all I knew of Bhagat Singh was that he was a revolutionary and worshipper of violence as a method in the struggle for independence. This is because our history texts do not speak a word more than this. A reading of his book----“Why I am an atheist” gives a totally different insight into this great son of India, who in the earlier years was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and later took a different path due to the impact of certain political events. Bhagat Singh was no fanatic of religion and argued with full reason about the non-existence of God. Probably, this is less known. Otherwise, one cannot explain how religious and culture zealots swear in his name and work to erase the very edifice that he stood for.

Jesuits and sixteen Chieftains

Being born in Assolna, in my childhood days I was told the story of what is now termed as the “Cuncolim Chieftains Revolt” of 1583 which finally resulted in the shocking and inhuman massacre of 16 chieftains in a treacherous way in the Assolna Fort by the Portuguese. This was preceded by the equally merciless killing of five Jesuit priests at Cuncolim by the Chieftains. It is recorded that Fr. Berno was horribly mutilated, Fr. Pacheco assassinated with a spear, Fr. Anthony Francis shot with arrows and his head split open with a sword. It is told that Br. Aranha, wounded fell down into the thick crop of a rice-field. Later, he was tied to a tree and was shot to death with arrows.

In 2003, a memorial to the slain chieftains was constructed in Cuncolim. Probably, it is from this moment that a movement with the demand to consider the July 1853 assassinations as the first movement against foreign rule in India has commenced. There is also a memorial built in memory of the five slain Jesuit priests.

Mr. Shantaram Naik made a demand to the Central Government to recognise the 1835 uprising as the first revolt in India against foreign rule. The Cuncolim Chieftains Committee (CCC) has also appealed to the Goa government. The matter has been raised in the Assembly by MLA Vishnu Surya Wagh exhorting government to respect the feelings of Cuncolcars. It is claimed that “Cuncolkars fought a war against the Portuguese for Swaraj and Swadharma”.

I am not competent to comment on whether this was a war for Swaraj or a religious revolt or one for guarding the rights and ownership of properties. There have been couple of revolts in different parts of Goa against the Portuguese not amounting to struggle for freedom or war against colonialism. In fact, in many cases there has been negotiation for the patronage of the colonial rulers to main status quo in land and property relations. Dr. Teotonio R. de Souza in a historical re-assessment of the Cuncolim martyrs has observed… “The bazaar economy of Cuncolim depended upon its temple and religious celebrations. Due to this, there was an angry reaction of the dominant Hindu class to the destruction of its temples by the Portuguese government and to the attempts of the Jesuits who sought to establish Christianity in Cuncolim and its satellite villages of Assolna, Veroda, Velim and Ambelim in 1583. The demolition of local temples implied deprivation of religious and cultural traditions that sustained an established social structure and its underlying economic base.”

Lessons & Dilemma

The lessons for me from the two memorials in my neighbouring village of Cuncolim standing testimony to the massacre of 1853 are:

(1)  Organised religion bonded with business and political power (whether foreign or Indian) foments hatred, mob frenzy and bloodshed. Riots and demolitions of places of worship from beginning till now corroborate.

(2) Even admitting that Chieftains fought for Swaraj, the fall out is assertion of caste pride and keeping the caste rift and conflict burning. The tension between “Gaonkars” and “non-Gaonkars” is almost perennial in the village.

(3) The dominant classes, particularly the owners of land and the rulers tend to use religion and caste for vested interests even confusing common people to kill and die for religious and caste honour.

(4) Eschew hatred against Portuguese, Christians and missionaries. A wounded past should not put scars on future.

The assassination of 16 chieftains on 15th July, 1853 was brutal, inhuman and wicked. It is equally heartless and merciless to keep the embers burning ‘ad infinitum’ to roast the “non-Gaonkars” and even excavate the tombs of the dead (as done in 1982) proclaiming the “Kshatriya” domination and supremacy. Was it a war against Portuguese for ‘swaraj’ and ‘swadharma’?  Is it a game now of caste ascendency?  This is a dilemma which only Cuncolcars can and should solve. The present generation is expected to be progressive and move beyond the ‘dharma’ of caste!

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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Mr.Francisbab of Margao has CORRECTLY ASSESSED the write up of Mr Timlo. He stresses on the deaths of Portuguese Padres but does NOT furnish the details of our own NIZ GOEMCAR GOANCARS ~ MARTYRDOM ! ..and further BELITTLES their role as a property/money/wealth dispute . PL FURNISH THE PROOFS ! It is clearly written down by eminent Goan and Portuguese researchers and historians that these martyrs were clearly ditched ,deceived ,and invited to that fort and WITHOUT ANY INVESTIGATION WERE BUTCHERED BY THE INVADERS ! and YET Timlo has an audacity to differ with giants like T.B. Cunha,Menezes Braganca, Rebeiro,Gerson de Cunha,Saldanha, Dr. Pissurlecar,and many Portuguese authors and historians . ..and to TOP it all,Timlo says ,`I AM NOT A HISTORIAN `! and he attempts to write on this sensitive subject. Bst wishes to Francisbab Pereira ,Margao.

- Lina Vaz, salcette | 19 th July 2012 13:34


Prof Timlo

You cannot write on past events and its effect today without studying the history. You quote from T. De Souza which clearly states the tension the locals of Cuncolim faced with the onslaught of Jesuit padres with cross and sword. You will do well to read a book by Dr. Pratima Kamat which details the build up to these tensions. Yet, till 2002 there was only memorial built for the slain padres. You vividly tell how each one of them was killed but no mention of the Gaonkars. This is distortion. Just like the irrelevant mention of Sivaji and Aurangzeib. The former worked and ensured towards ending the cruel regime but died untimely. History extols Sivaji though many time he looted for running his fiefdom but not his cruel son. Akbar is hailed not Aurangzeib. What is wrong in that? Every European city has motifs after Greek and Roman gods. Later pagan symbols get destroyed by Christianity spreading and replaced by Jesus, Aposteles and later day saints. Many todays events shaped and based on these mythological figures or holy men. So what is worng in myth of Goa created by Parsurama arrow. This narrow view make me feel you are the ones trying to drive wedge in the peaceful fabric of communal harmony. Thankfully, you don’t mention saffron in your noting.

- francis pereira, margao | 18 th July 2012 16:54


if i remember correctly 1st reballion against portuguese was pinto reballion which was started by goan catholic priests. Most prominant rebel was abe faria the inventor of hypnotism and his statue is in front of old secretariat panaji. Stop playing politics with history. Portuguese were foreigners, they were white we were black.

And most importantly christ was not a white man.

- peter, margao | 17 th July 2012 21:21


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