Thursday 20 June 2024

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The Lion of Goa


Bandodkar proved his mantle within a short time by displaying his unique qualities of diplomacy, statesmanship as well as real politik. In the first general election after liberation (which he did not contest) he pitched ordinary farmers and peasants against the rich and mighty landlords and mine owners set up as candidates by the Congress Party.

Bhausaheb Bandodkar

Goa had its own Lion.  A man as courageous, magnificent and regal as the Lion itself.  Yes. I am referring to "Bhau" aka Bhausaheb aka Dayanand Balkrishna Bandodkar whom destiny unexpectedly catapulted into the position of a leader of an emerging democratic territory within the Union of India.  Was he qualified for the high post?  A peep into his life and the circumstances prevailing around him might provide an answer.

He was born in a poor family and before he could complete his primary education destiny snatched his father away from him.  Balkrishna, his father, shot himself dead, reportedly in frustration for not being able to pay his debts.  Dayanand thereafter had to chart his destiny on his own early in life.  He ran small establishments, dabbled in timber trade and as he grew up picked up a partnership in a mining lease.  
That was a turning point and he soon found himself the owner of an expanding mining enterprise. It brought in money and recognition to the young entrepreneur.

As a youngster living in the temple precincts of Mahalaxmi at Panaji, leadership came to him naturally.  He had a good physique and a temperament which would brook no insults to self or his peers.  There are stories galore which speak of him as a counter bully to the mixed race student gangs playing havoc with the timid, native and particularly moffusil youngsters studying in the Portuguese Lyceum School in the City of Panaji.  He loved sports, especially cricket and was lavish in spending on players, their teams and their tournaments.  Naturally at a young age he was the uncrowned youth leader.

Dayanand had also developed love for Shikaar.  He would go on hunting expeditions in the deep jungles of Sattari, Sanguem, Quepem and elsewhere.  These soujurns  developed in him a keen love for forests and animal life.  He developed close contacts with the forest dwellers like the Dhangars, Kunbis and Velips.  He camped amongst them and helped them financially and otherwise whenever he found them in distress. He had suffered poverty.  

He could, therefore empathize with the poor in the hills and villages.  It became a habit with him to push unnoticed a little cash into the hands of the poor, weak and the meek.  He helped build or repair a temple here and a chapel there, many a time voluntarily.  Once he was attending a funeral in Mapusa and noticed the dilapidated compound wall around the crematorium.  Silently he had it repaired and restored.

He had missed on formal education.  He compensated it by helping students in need.  His house in Panaji was a free hostel for the students.  On his outings he would always carry with him boxes of sweets and writing and reading material for school going children.  Unannounced he would step in any school on his way, befriend the teachers and spend time with the tiny tots, charming them with his teaching skills.  He would regale the students with kiddish puzzles and heap upon them his praises and prizes of sweets and reading and writing material.  

I am a witness to one such incident way back in the year 1954 or 1955.  I was then a tiny tot in the second or third standard and distinctly remember receiving from his hands fistful of sweets and books and pencils as a prize for correctly answering his tricky questions about the number of crows left on a tree after one of them was shot dead by a hunter and the weight difference between a maund of iron and a large bag full of a maund of cotton.  This memory lingers with me till this day and I am tempted to ask a question to the great rich people of today.  How many of you would go on such trips of philanthropic pleasure?

Dayanand was thus a household name in many parts of Goa much before Goa achieved liberation.

As he grew up he also imbibed in him the spirit of nationalism.  Early in age he had realized that Portuguese Rule in Goa was an anachronism upon the free spirit of Goans.  He rejoiced and revelled in the Independence of India.  The reformists from the neighboring Maharashtra who fought alongside the Freedom Fighters were leading a movement for the emancipation of the weak and the downtrodden.  The trinity of Subhashchandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi became his idols.  Mahatma Phule, Babasaheb Ambedkar and Shahu Chhatrapati of Kolhapur had ingrained in him an everlasting love for the masses.  
Winds of change sweeping the neighboring countryside which heralded the  rights of the toiling serfs of the zamindars and the slogan of decentralization of Power had already caught his fancy.  He was in contact with the Freedom Fighters of Goa.  All this and his qualities of bravery, philanthropy and reformist outlook had molded him into a leader.  

Personally however he had no inkling of his own leadership qualities until one day after liberation of Goa a group of activists gathered in the house of one Vithal Bablo Naik of Panaji turned to him in unison and requested him to be the leader of their nascent outfit christened as Maharashtrawadi Sanghatana (Organization of pro-Maharashtrawadis). Most of them like Dayanand himself were Congressmen (admirers or members of Indian National Congress then headed by the all time stalwart late Jawaharlal Nehru.)  

This group had come together in revolt against the leadership of the then Indian National Congress,Goa headed by Purushottam Kakodkar (Please see the blog "Purushottam but not Uttam Purush") with a distinct ideology of a separate status for Goa with Konkani as its official Language as against the majority (and predominantly Hindu) view that Goa is a part of the neighboring State of Maharastra on the premise that both shared Marathi as their language besides geographical, economic, cultural and religious affinity.  

Shivaji, the great warrior was their common historical hero and saints like St, Dnyaneshwar, St. Ramdas, St. Tukaram, St. Namdeo and others were a common spiritual heritage.  Dayanand was an ardent believer in their philosophy.  He accepted the leadership hesitatingly but soon found himself assimilated into its fold like fish to water.  Over the next less than a decade he won the hearts and votes of the people in such an exemplary show of political acumen and foresight that not only the elitist leaderships of the local congress was vanquished without a trace but the likes of Jawaharlal Nehru had to exclaim in disbelief "strange are the ways of the Goans (Goa ke log ajeeb haim)."

Once in power, Bandodkar unleashed a rapid program of land reforms and universalization of Education.  He laid the foundation of a resurgent Goa in all fields of development. Industry, Tourism, agriculture, irrigation, roads, bridges and every other sphere of developmental activity benefitted from his magic touch.  Tenants of agricultural lands and the Mundkars (people who had their dwellings in the properties of others) who cultivated the lands and lived in the houses of landowners without any right to protection of their livelihood or shelter got legal protection from eviction.  He promoted performing arts, dance, music and cultural activities. Literary movements thrived under his patronage.  Writers, poets, singers, dancers, sculptors and painters found in him a kind patron and protector.  

He was not only accessible to whoever came to his doorstep, but would himself approach his people in the remotest parts of the Territory and mingle with them with abandon.  He struck a chord with them like none before him. He became their affectionate elder brother or Bhau and the sobriquet stuck like glue.

Bandodkar proved his mantle within a short time by displaying his unique qualities of diplomacy, statesmanship as well as real politik.  In the first general election after liberation (which he did not contest) he pitched ordinary farmers and peasants against the rich and mighty landlords and mine owners set up as candidates by the Congress Party.  He picked up Kashinath Shetgaonkar, a farmer in a loin cloth from Morji literally from his paddy field and pitted him against Vasantrao Dempo, the doyen of the rich mines owning Dempo family and Vijay Kamulkar a tea-stall owner from Korgao against the mighty zamindar Rau Raje Deshprabhu of Pedne.  The two Lilliput's made their towering adversaries bite the dust in a battle of unequals.  

He enlisted as his candidates freedom fighters like P.P. Shirodkar and Gopal Apa Kamat, members of the Tribal gowda community like, Krishna    Bandodkar and Dulo Kuttikar.  He brought in Saraswat Brahmins like Atchut Usgaonkar and Vasant Joshi,  Scheduled Caste members like Shantaram Kambli, Bhandaris like Krishnanath Baburao Naik, Marathas like Pratasing Rane and Dattaram Dessai and Christians like Tony Fernandes and Anthony D'Souza.  He picked and chose his colleagues from all walks of life, rich and poor, upper caste and lower caste.  Hindus and Christians, educated and uneducated.  

All of them  brought to the common pool their expertise, experience, culture and ethos and weaved a fabric that could provide social  justice to every Goan.  The elite Goans who used to despise him for his so called low birth and lack of education soon realized his sterling qualities of head and heart and began rallying around him.

Bandodkar's party had sought the merger of Goa in Maharashtra.  The true democrat in him accepted the Central Govt.'s decision to hold Opinion Poll in 1967.  Bandodkar resigned his Cabinet to pave way for a free and fair Opinion Poll.  The result was against him.  The sportsman in him accepted the defeat without any rancor.  

The ensuing election saw him triumphantly return to the Assembly with an increased majority.  On the issue of language he had a clear stand. `Marathi is my mother tongue` he declared in the Assembly. At the same time he said "Konkani must develop" and provided all help for its development.  Perhaps to appease the Konkanicrats he did not enact the Official Language Act to declare Marathi as the official language inspite of the huge majority he enjoyed in the Assembly. In fact late Jack de Sequeira used to demand from 9th Jan., 1964, the first day of the First Legislative Assembly of Goa that the language issue be solved by enacting Official Language Act.   

Bhau even brushed aside, much to the chagrin of Marathi lovers, a private Members Bill moved by late Dattaram Chopdekar to recognize Marathi as the Official Language of Goa.  Bhau maintained close links of friendship even with his bitterest critics which included the likes of Dr. Jack de Sequeira.  Mr. Sharad Pawar in a recent speech at the Birth Centenary Celebrations of Mr. Bandodkar recollected how he was a witness one day to a bitter clash between the two stalwarts in the Assembly followed by their joint fishing expedition immediately after the incident.  Great hearts indeed.

Bhau breathed his last after a round of Table Tennis at his beloved Panaji Gymkhana, a popular hangout of the sports lovers.  He had built it after reclaiming the marsh along the Mandovi river.  

I recollect him playing cricket at this ground.  I recollect him preaching  Dnyaneshwari in the temple complex of Shantadurga at Dhargal.  

I recollect him addressing a mammoth meeting in honor of Telo Mascarenhas and Mohan Ranade after their release from the Portuguese jails years after liberation of Goa.  

I recollect him inspecting the cabbage fields of my uncle at Mandrem and I recollect among many other things, the way he lovingly patted me in my primary school and rewarded me with sweets and writing material when I correctly answered his puzzling question at that tiny age.  

And I wonder how on the morning he died my childhood friend Pinto cycled up to me and said "Rama, now you are the candidate in his place" and again I wonder how a few months later an exasperated leadership of MGP unable to find the right choice to fill the void, unexpectedly fielded me from his Mandrem Constituency to take on his mantle and to carry forward his legacy.....  

I am a poor substitute to this great man but I march on and on keeping him before me as a becon of light.

Though his political symbol was LION, he was the real Lion of Goa.  My tribute to his hallowed memory in this year of his Birth Centenary.....

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

A Salute to our ****HERO**** thanks for writing dis blog.

Sanketa Vilas Ghadi |

Goan Society in the 1960`s was quite different from Goan Society as it is now n the year 2012.

Goans are now much more educated and less servile.They have become Masters in their own right and are less inclined to be servants to the rich & poweful.Many feel more empowered than they were in teh 1960`s.

Many Goans do not hold D. Bandodkar in high esteem even though the scribes like to portray him as a great Goan.Bandodakr is viewed as a Merchant or Trader that tried to sell the unique heart & soul of Goa to Maharastra.

Ask any Goan today, if he would vote for Dynand Bandodkar merging Goa with Maharastra or for Jack de Sequeira keeping Goa as an independent State.?

The answer would be keeping Goa as an independent State.IN this context Dynand BAndodkar becomes an insignificant player in shaping Goa & Goans.

N.Fernandes |

This writer may sing hosannas to his hero Bhau but to all Niz Goenkars he will always be remembered as a traitor. Always ready to sell Goa to Maharashtra.If he has accepted the verdict of the Opinion Poll it was only because he was told that if he goes forward with the merger issue he will not be the Chief Minister of Goa nor Maharashtra. If there was any semblance of administration during his tenure it was due to strong opposition from Dr. Jack de Sequeira and the United Goans Party. Some of the problems he has created are still lingering in Goa. May be the language(Marathi) issue or the Land to the Tillar/Mundkar Act he copied from Maharashtra without taking into account the size of Goa and land holdings.

However hard you may try to paint the crow white it will always remain a crow.

A. Pinto |

I wonder how bhau mother tongue was marathi as he declared in assembly was he Maharastrian migrated to Goa like we have here today Kulkarnis etc whoose mother tongue is marathi being from belgaum which they try to impose on us.

Dilip Naik |

Bandodkar didnt succeed in selling my Goa to Maharashtrawadis. We Goans salute Dr. Jack de Sequeira and want to see a statue of Dr. Sequeira in place of bhau.

Drislon |

Mr. Pandit I don't know which Dempo was but one of Dempos fought election from mandrem or Pernem as per the information given to me by my father as he was the supporter of congress that time.

Nilesh Madhukar Shetgaonkar |

I wish a statue of the Father of our Goan Nation Dr. Jack de Sequera is also put up somewhere in Panjim to remind us how he and his like minded colleagues (Hindus + Catholics) unitedly saved Goa from merger into Maharashtra. Looks like this will only be my dream - Menino (Valpoi)

Menino G. P. T. Fernandes (Valpoi/UK) |

Mr. Pandit,

Dempo, Salgaonkar, Timblos never fight elections they win elections and control MLAs, ministers, and the chief minister.

Rudresh |

Mr Vasantrao Dempo did not fight an election. A check may be in order.

Anand Pandit |

Nice Blog something to read about Bhau.......I also offer my tribute for the great leader of Goa on his 100th Birth anniversary.....A Politician with a Difference.

Nilesh Shetgaonkar |

Bahusaheb brought forward young men from Bahujan Samaj, such as Khalap, Narvekar, Ravi Naik, Rane, etc. Then these people stabbed him, his principles, bahujan samaj, and MG party to hobnob with congress for petty alms. How convenient.

Jayant |

Thanks for enlightening on Bhausaheb Bandodkar work

Sanjay p Sawant Dessai |

Blogger's Profile


Ramakant Khalap

Adv Ramakant Khalap is former Chairman of the Goa State Law Commission. Being a veteran politician of Goa, he has served the political arena as the union law minister as well as Goa’s deputy chief minister and the opposition leader in the past. He also takes keen interest in literature and cultural activities while heading several institutions, especially in the field of Marathi literature.


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