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The Unsung Hero of 18th June 1946: Dr. Juliao Menezes

- Anzil Fernandes

Dr. Juliao Menezes

Photo Courtesy: Anzil Fernandes

On 18th June 1946 Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia defied the ban and censorship and launched a Civil Disobedience Movement and gave one of those sparks that led to ‘Beginning of the end of Portuguese Rule’ in Goa. But those who gathered the wood so that the spark would turn into fire have been long forgotten; unknowingly or unintentionally is best left to our imagination, one such unsung hero of was Dr. Juliao Menezes.

Salvacao Menezes and Zeferrino Piedade Menezes

Photo Courtesy: Anzil Fernandes

Dr. Juliao Menezes was born in Assolna, Goa on August 7, 1909 to Zeferrino Piedade Menezes and Salvacao Menezes. His father died at a very young age on the ship which he was working. He did his early schooling in Assolna and Panjim and after finishing Lyceum (Portuguese high school) he went to the Berlin University in late 1920s and completed his MD in Medicine (Dermatologist). While studying in Panjim he was greatly influenced by the patriotic writings and actions of Luis de Menezes Braganza and other rationalist writers. In Berlin he also took courses in Indian history - Indology. It was there that he met Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, who was studying Economics at the same University. He took active part in the Indian Students’ Union in Berlin, along with Dr. Lohia who was the secretary of the Union. It was later known as the unofficial Indian Embassy in Berlin during the regime of German National Socialism.

Once in the 1930s when Dr. Lohia and Dr Juliao attended the session of the League of Nations in Geneva, they both booed at Maharaja of Binkaner, a representative of India, who was talking about peace. They were both thrown out from the gallery and such was his indomitable spirit.

Photo Courtesy: Anzil Fernandes

Lohia completed his Ph. D and returned to India in 1933 but Juliao stayed back and completed his MD. He returned to Goa in 1938 and reactivated the Juvenile Club de Assolna to spread rationalist thinking and Nationalist activities. But those who were brought up to believe in the myth of colonial supremacy frowned upon his ideas of emancipation that he struggled to stimulate among the youth. His speeches at a reception were reported to the authorities and strict watch was kept on him. One day when the Piazza Cross at Assolna was desecrated, the village elders pointed a finger at him and on this pretext the authorities branded him as a communist. The fascist police raided the library of the Club Juvenile and sealed the club premises and the library. Later the moveable items in the club and library were auctioned by the Revenue Department (Fezenda) and a curfew was imposed in the Assolna market area.

It wasn’t easy for any individual in Goa in those days to make a dent in the public opinion that was controlled autocratically by the lackeys of the dictatorship. Goans of that time were brought up to be powerless, and as such, they were scared to make changes in their ways of thinking and break up the fetters that bound them. Frustrated, Dr. Juliao left for Bombay (Mumbai). There in 1939 he founded the Gomantak Praja Mandal, and in 1942 he launched a bilingual weekly Gomantak (Konkani and English) to liberate Goans from their servile mental attitudes.

He kept in touch with Dr. Lohia who was underground in Mumbai and often gave him shelter after the Indian National Congress (INC) and Mahatma Gandhi gave call for ‘Do or Die’ in August 1942. Dr. Lohia expressed his desire to hind in Goa but Dr. Menezes advised him not to do so as the British agents were active in Goa just as in Mumbai. Taking the advice of his friend, Dr. Lohia escaped to Nepal but was arrested by the police in 1943. After his release he was arrested once again when he arrived in Mumbai in 1944 and was taken to a notorious prison in Lahore. After his release from Lahore in 1946, he came to Mumbai and met Dr. Menezes who examined and told him that he needed rest. He offered to take him to his village Assolna, Goa. Dr. Lohia accepted the invitation and arrived at Dr. Juliao’s place in Assolna on June 10, 1946. The news of Lohia’s arrival spread among some Goans, but when Evagrio Jorge reported it with biographical notes of Lohia in O Heraldo the news spread all over Goa.

Photo Courtesy: Anzil Fernandes

Dr. Juliao’s place in Assolna became the meeting place for many Goan intellectuals and political activists of that time, who went there to consult with Lohia and Juliao. It was there that the movement for Goa’s civil liberties was born. In that respect, Juliao’s house in Assolna is Goa’s historical landmark.

Dr. Lohia decided to fight for the civil liberties of Goans. Till June 14, the two leaders met various important people from all walks of life at Dr. Menezes’ residence. On June 15 Dr. Menezes took Dr. Lohia to Mormugao at the invitation of the Nationalists and the next day they met in Panjim at Damodar Vidyalaya.

But the main climax of the movement for civil disobedience arrived on June 18, 1946 at Margao, as planned. Goans – men and women came in flocks to welcome Dr. Juliao Menezes and Dr. Lohia as they were entering Margao square in a horse carriage. Purushottam Kakodkar was given the responsibility of organising the meeting at Margao. The colonial administration which was caught off-guard failed to sub-due the enthusiastic crowd. Dr. Juliao and Dr. Lohia were arrested and then moved at the dead of the night to Panjim police station.

The news of their arrest spread throughout Goa, and the people demonstrated in most of the towns. In Margão, next morning, the citizens drove in procession, and in the evening, they gathered in front of the Câmara. Even though the troops sought to disperse the crowd, they squatted resolutely on the ground, shouting in unison at the top of their voices, which resounded throughout the town: Jai Hind!! Dr. Lohia ko chodd do! Dr. Juliao Menezes ko chodd do!

They were taken to Panjim and the next day evening Dr. Lohia was taken to the border at Collem and released. Dr. Menezes was released in Margao. Meanwhile Portuguese authorities and business communities spread rumours that the leaders got out of jail after tendering their apology to authorities. Soon Dr. Menezes left for Mumbai, but before leaving Goa he gave a message contradicting the rumours that they had not tendered any apology. His message was read by Mr. Evagrio George at the meeting held on June 20 in Margao.

Dr. Juliao Menezes returned to Bombay and continued the campaign for civil liberties through his paper Gomantak and published a booklet, Goa’s Freedom Struggle (1947) recounting the events that took place for the fight for civil liberties. He was also one of the founders of National Congress of Goa (NCG) and played a very active role.

The Government of Goa, Daman and Diu failed to recognize Dr. Juliao’s contribution to the cause when he was alive. Though he was honoured on the 18th June, 1986 after his death, he deserves to be remembered in a monumental way; his actions made many a Goan youth to shed fear and awe of the dictatorial rule they were brought up with. He passed away in Bombay on 2nd of July in 1980.

He died as bachelor, but according to his sister in law Irene Menezes, the wife of his brother Manelau Menezes, when Dr. Menezes came down to Goa from Berlin he had got a German girl along with him but his mother refused to accept her in the family. “His mother was very strict”, she recalls. And incidentally when Ben Antao asked Dr. Juliao as to why he did not marry, Dr. Juliao replied saying “You lose your freedom that way”. He had other five siblings and he was the second eldest. The other siblings were Argentina Almedia, Rubatina Saldhana, Roques Menezes (who was also a freedom fighter), Manelau Menezes and Alzira Almedia.

Photo Courtesy: Anzil Fernandes

Irene Menezes who is now 81 years old and unable walk admits that she did not witness the 18h June 1946 incident as she was in U.P with her husband who was working as the railway engineer for Indian Railways. But she remembers Dr. Juliao as a very intelligent, bold man who loved to share his things, she added.

Luke Menezes, nephew of Dr. Juliao Menezes (son of Manelau Menezes) laments that the government did not build any memorial to honour him. In fact in 2007, Luke Menezes wrote to the Chief Minister, Director of Archives and Archaeology, President of Freedom Fighter Association, Sarpanch of Assolna, the Secretary, Home Department and Local MLA Fellipe Neri Rodrigues agreeing to donate piece of land close to its ancestral house to put a small memorial. Unfortunately, he got nothing but empty promises. In 2010 two portraits of Dr. Juliao and Dr. Lohia each were installed at his residence.

Photo Courtesy: Anzil Fernandes

Lohia chowk which is situated near the market area is still waiting for face lift. Till yesterday evening (on the eve of Revolution Day) the Lohia chowk looked like a construction site (as it is evident from the picture). The inscription stone was covered with bricks but the inscription seemed very controversial. It read as:

Photo Courtesy: Anzil Fernandes

“Memorial to Dr. Juliao Menezes and Dr. Manohar Lohia, the heroes of 18th June 1946 Freedom Struggle of Goa, to all Freedom Fighters of A.A.C.V. Our tribute to 16 Chieftains massacred treacherously by Portuguese imperialist in Assolna Fortin 16th century, in the first ever War of Independence in Asia, on the soil of Assolna, Ambolim, Cuncolim, Velim and Vereda.

Dr. Menezes with his co-villagers formed revolutionary Club Juvenile de Assolna and Library to spread ideas of Freedom and Nationalist thinking. Dr. Menezes and Dr. Lohia both worked with Indian Students Union in Europe for Indian Freedom.

Dr. Lohia came to Assolna to take rest in Dr Menezes’ house on 10th June 1946, a turning point in the history of Goa last phase of freedom struggle.”

Photo Courtesy: Anzil Fernandes

The house of Dr. Juliao Menezes was built in 1922 and is a heritage by itself besides the legacy left behind by him. This historic landmark will be 90 years old next year and I must say the house is well maintained in its original form. Irene Menezes gives credit to his daughter in law Lalita Menezes for maintain the house with utmost care. I hope the government takes serious note about this and gives its best to preserve our culture and heritage.


Photo Courtesy: Anzil Fernandes


Sources:

http://www.colaco.net/1/BenJuliaoMenezes.htm

http://www.colaco.net/1/leitaoDrJuliao.htm

Posted on: 18-06-2011


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