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The Print tries to whitewash the violent Goan inquisition by Portuguese invaders. Here is the truth that the publication tried to gloss over

The writer also portrayed the appropriation of Hindu deities to further predatory Christian evangelist practices as a noble gesture

On the occasion of India’s 74th Republic Day celebrations, propaganda news outlet ‘The Print’ published an article that attempted to gloss over the brutal Goan inquisition by Portuguese invaders.

The opinion piece, authored by one Anirudh Kanisetti, tried its best to portray the colonisers as highly accommodative of the natives. At the very onset, the author insinuated that ‘real history’ was somehow different and that Abrahamic religions were in fact willing to compromise with Indians.

He also cast aspersions on the valour of the natives and Hindu kings, who resisted foreign invasions. “We might like to believe that Indians only converted away from Hinduism by force after many acts of valiant ‘resistance’…It is completely isolated from real, complex historical dynamics,” he alleged.

By citing historian Kirti N. Chaudhuri, Anirudh Kanisetti then tried to contextualise the colonisation by claiming that there was a “dangerous vacuum in maritime networks” in the Indian Ocean.

Screengrab of the article by Anirudh Kanisetti on The Print

“It was at this crucial juncture that the Portuguese finally discovered how to bypass the gunpowder empires that controlled West Asian gateways to the Indian Ocean. Within mere decades, they implemented a leaner, meaner version of earlier grand strategic doctrines,” he wrote.

The Print columnist then went on to eulogise the strategies adopted by the Portuguese to colonise Goa. “Instead of periodic raids and tribute missions, they worked with permanent fortresses on land and moved warehouse fortresses to the seas — galleons”, he added.

The Print columnist also adored how the colonisers could demand tributes on their own accord and execute raids whenever it pleased them. “Situated in the estuary of the great river Mandovi, toward the centre of India’s West Coast, Goa was a natural target for Portuguese attention,” Anirudh Kanisetti suggested.

Like a true colonialism apologist, he claimed that a war-torn province (referring to the present-day State of Goa) was “fortified and transformed into a sprawling city, half-European and half-Indian” by the Portuguese.

Portuguese were different from other Europeans, suggested Anirudh Kanisetti

“As Portugal’s power grew, so did Goa’s. Within the century, Goa had become one of Asia’s largest cities, larger even than distant Lisbon, and was declared the seat of the Archbishopric of all Asia in 1557. The Portuguese were clear that they were here to stay,” he emphasised.

Later in his propaganda-laden piece, Anirudh Kanisetti claimed that the Portuguese were different from other Europeans, who believed that it was their right to rule and spread Christianity into the world.

He downplayed the brutal tactics, adopted by the invaders, and wrote, “In practice, Portuguese people made many compromises on Indian shores.” The Print columnist suggested that the invaders appeased the Brahmins by stalling the education of the socially backward Hindu communities.

“Brahmins and landowners, had much less to gain from conversion—often fleeing en masse when they faced discriminatory measures by the Portuguese and persecution from the Goa Inquisition. Their eventual conversion required changes in Portuguese approaches — the education of lower castes gradually ceased, thus retaining the older social order,” he said.

The Print columnist downplays predatory evangelical conversions

“Conversions were not always forceful. Professor Xavier writes that locals might have seen the Virgin Mary (for instance) as yet another local goddess,” The Print columnist goes on to downplay the atrocities committed by the Portuguese on the natives.

He also portrayed the appropriation of Hindu deities to further predatory Christian evangelist practices as a noble gesture. “The Christian Pelican, used as a metaphor for Jesus, is represented as an Indian hamsa or mayura bird,” he added.

“The Virgin Mary, carved in ivory imported from Portuguese holdings in Africa, is depicted with sari-like drapes with thick, Indian ornamented edges. Nagas are carved on wooden candlesticks that once decorated church altars,” Anirudh Kanisetti further eulogised the colonisers.

He concluded, “The infant Jesus, in a uniquely Indian variation, is depicted sitting and dozing, head resting on his palm in a motif likely derived from the sleeping Vishnu.”

The real history of the Portuguese Inquisition of Goa

The Portuguese inquisition of Goa started when Vasco Da Gama returned to Portugal after discovering the route to India via Africa’s Cape of Good Hope. Upon his return to Portugal in 1510, Gama told the Portuguese royals about the undiscovered route to India, which gave the Portuguese an opportunity to colonise the Western coast of India and particularly Goa.

Pope Nicholas V soon issued a diktat which gave the kingdom of Portugal a monopoly on forcing Christianity upon the locals of the newly discovered areas (and mainly India), along with the monopoly to trade on behalf of the Roman Catholic Empire in Asia. Soon after, the Portuguese sent troops to capture a portion of Goa and set up a colony in the coastal city.

In Goa, the Portuguese were angered by the locals following a religion (Hinduism) other than Christianity and ordered all temples within the colony to be closed; this marked the beginning of the bloody Goan inquisition that comprised gross human rights violations and mass executions of the local Hindu, Jew and Muslim populations.

In 1541, idol worship was forbidden in the Portuguese colony of Goa and over 350 temples were destroyed by the Portuguese soldiers. It had been officially declared that being a believer of any religion other than Roman Catholicism was forbidden for residents of Goa.

The infamous Francis Xaviers and Martin Alfonso were sent to Goa by King John III of Portugal in 1542 to initiate the process of converting Goan residents to Roman Catholicism. On their arrival in Goa, they were enraged by the New Christians of Goa secretly practising their previous religions (either Judaism, Hinduism, or Islam), while also upholding their Hindu values and traditions.

A disturbed Francis Xavier wrote to King John III of Portugal on 16th May 1546 to impose an inquisition on Goa in an attempt to ‘discipline’ the residents and make them follow Catholicism.

The inquisition banned apostasy and banned the sale of books in the Konkani, Marathi, Sanskrit, and Arabic languages. The use of Konkani was also forbidden in the colony of Goa.

Upon the imposition of the inquisition in Goa, life became comparable to hell for the local Hindu population, who were often on the receiving end of persecution and were targeted in particular by the sadistic Christian missionaries.

The Christian missionaries called the Hindus ‘uncultured’ and ‘savages’, who worshipped black idols ‘resembling demons’; they took it upon themselves to force Hindus into leaving their religion and succumbing to Christianity.

An inquisition office was thereby set up which aimed to discriminate against Hindus on all matters possible.

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