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The wanted insurgent who became chief of the Goa police

Author: TNN
Publication: The Times of India
Date: June 7, 2015
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/The-wanted-insurgent-who-became-chief-of-the-Goa-police/articleshow/47570118.cms

Who in his sane mind would think to jump into the toxic waters of the Campal Creek these days? Back in the early '50s, one could fish in its clear, free flowing waters. "It's what we did as children, often catching a big bite," Prabhakar Sinari says. It was a memory that would serve him well in the most crucial moment of his life.

 A few weeks short of four years in high security incarceration under the Portuguese regime, Sinari would make a second bid at escape in 1951. The first attempt, two years earlier, had been frustrated by the unexpected presence of a band of Mozambican soldiers washing their clothes at the base of the Reis Magos Fort. The botched breakout — a daring jump over the walls of the prison-fort — left him injured and eventually cost the life of his escape accomplice, Simao.

 Beaten unconscious for his defiance in saluting the Portuguese flag, (the poor conditions in the Reis Magos lockup had already left him with a bad case of night blindness) Sinari was brought in a precarious state to the prison ward of the Escola Medica (Goa Medical College) in Campal in October, 1951. Not yet 19, all he could think of was how to escape.

 Surrounded at last by Goan doctors and local policemen sympathetic to the freedom cause, the GMC lockup held the best chance of getaway. With hospital care and improved food, recovery was quick, and so was his decision to plot another breakout.

 "The other prisoner in the ward, Deu Upaskar, knew that the Portuguese cabo guarding us had a weakness for drink. He had no trouble procuring some." With their chief guard thus 'neutralized', Sinari and Upaskar decided it was now or never.

 Soon after the last meal at 5.30pm on October 16, they bolted towards the hospital lab, Sinari taking one route, Upaskar the other. But the guards had their sights set only on the �most wanted, dead or alive' escapee.

 "One of the cabos managed to grab my hospital shirt. I wriggled out of his grasp, leaving my shirt in his hands and kept running. The attempt had caused quite a commotion and I heard two or three rounds fired in the air. But it didn't deter me one bit; my focus was entirely on getting away."

 In a flash, he had made for the boundary wall of GMC (where the Inox parking lot stands today), on the periphery of which flows the nullah.

 Expecting their fugitive to use the Mandovi shore, the Portuguese launched a massive hunt along this part of beach. But Sinari clung to the underside of the small bridge (much larger in those days, he recalls), emerging to the riverfront under cover of darkness. Creeping back to the nullah, he partly waded, partly swam through the creek from Campal to Taleigao. At one point, he even flagged down a car on the Taleigao road, only to discover its occupants were colonial officers in white uniforms. He stepped back quickly into the shadows, and spent the night hiding in the Taleigao lake waters in the company of leeches feeding off his shirtless body.

 "I could hear the sound of Harley-Davidsons (used by the Portuguese police) as the hunt intensified, but I wasn't afraid of death. Just the feeling of being free gave me a sense of utter defiance."

 And so he remained till dawn, emerging from behind Santa Cruz Church. Feet cut and bleeding, the next eight days were spent hidden in haystacks in the Chimbel fields, looked after by a family tenant Gopi Ghatwal, and treated with medicines surreptitiously supplied by a Dr Kuchadkar.

 With Ghatwal as guide, he made it by canoe to Sirigao, the two later risking leopards to begin the 40-odd km trek through jungle to Banda in Maharashtra.

 "No sooner had we crossed the border near Maneri (in Maharashtra), I sat myself down on a stone and poured the choicest abuses at the Portuguese," to the utter astonishment of the guard on the Goa side who had not the faintest clue as to who he was.

 It was as if a dam had burst. The deep welter of rage against the colonizer for humiliation inflicted would find expression in the persistent armed insurrection of the Azad Gomantak Dal (AGD), formed in 1953 with Vishwanath Lawande and others in which Sinari too became a driving force. The AGD's tactical hits on Portuguese positions in the border areas kept the regime — the assassin Agente Casmiro Monteiro included — on edge till the final takeover of Goa by India end-1961.

 But the former Goa police chief's formative awakening came much earlier, when barely 14 and in Class VIII in Escola Moderna (known later as Progress high school). It begins one rainy afternoon in Panaji. Ram Manohar Lohia's June 1946 defiant address in Margao had left a deep impression on many, not least on a Dr Manpath, a teacher in Sinari's school. A month later, he led a silent protest with schoolchildren around Panaji. They'd barely reached Cafe Bhonsale when a handful of Portuguese police arrived. They began to pelt the students with their leather belts and knocked the teacher down, trampling him mercilessly with their boots on the muddied, wet road.

 The incident, seared in Sinari's mind, proved the turning point. "It had such a dramatic effect on me, I just couldn't forget the brutality of it. Till that point I had looked at them merely as foreigners." Now he understood the extent of repression inflicted by the colonizers. The growing rage would propel him to a group of other like-minded youngsters who saw armed resistance as the most effective way to force the Portuguese out. Among them were Narayan Naik, Mukhund Dhakankar, Dattraya Deshpande, Vishwanath Lawande, Babla Singbal, Raghuvir Kamat, Jaywant Kenkre and others.

 Their first planned attack on the Fazenda (treasury office), Mapusa, on July 21,1947, set the pace. The building was torched, and the sentry gunned down by Narayan Naik. "I saw a second guard come running down the stairs, his rifle aimed at Lawande." Sinari, not yet 15, aimed his .22 revolver and brought the guard down.

 Various other less successful attacks followed. A more daring daylight attempt to intercept and rob the Banco Nacional Ultramarino van carrying cash from Mapusa to Panaji on December 4, 1947, was foiled and seven of them were arrested, Sinari himself on December 7.

 Sentenced to 18 years (deemed a lesser conviction because he was a minor) Sinari believes he would have definitely been deported to one of the African colonies to serve time had he not escaped. The four years he spent behind bars made him an object of curiosity. Many Portuguese officials who wanted a look at the apprehended 'terrorist', would be astonished to discover "mais este e um garoto" (but he's only a boy).

 The angry young man would go on to become the first Goan Inspector General of Police, serve in RAW (looking after Indira Gandhi's security on her foreign trips) and come to accept that reconciliation with Goan collaborators was the only way forward post Liberation.

Now 82, Sinari still cuts an impressive figure, sitting in his home in Caranzalem, where he lives with his wife. Around the building are hundreds of new apartments that have sprung up. Here is the new Goa. How many of them know anything of what has passed?
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