What became known as Salazar’s “annus horribilis” had begun with the splendour of violence and war in Angola and would not end without another setback, one of the most traumatic and of greatest political implications.
In December 18, 1961, Operation Vijay overthrew the Portuguese State of India. Indian Union forces occupy and control Goa, Daman and Diu and in just 36 hours ended a 446-year occupation. In front of the approximately 40,000 military personnel of the Indian Union, there was little more left to General Vassalo e Silva, governor-general of the Portuguese State of India, who did not sign the unconditional surrender of portuguese forces, sparsely and poorly armed, composed by about 3,500 troops. Considering only “victorious or dead soldiers and sailors”, Salazar had ordered Vassalo e Silva to fight to the death. Disobeying these orders, Vassal o e Silva spared the lives of many of his military.
The Portuguese soldiers will be imprisoned by the Indian Union and, in retaliation, abandoned to their fate by Salazar in concentration camps without the minimum conditions for four months. And not even the assurance of the Indian prime minister, Nehru, that he would free them without conditions, sensitized or demoving Salazar who insisted on the exemplary penalty of the outlawed military.
Lost India, Portugal plunged into a long war to keep the African colonies. The spectrum of defeat in India will, however, hover until the end of the dictatorship. Recalling what happened in India, the military fighting in Africa, in the face of the drag of the conflict, would refuse to be the scapegoat and bear a military defeat, for a problem that was political.
Image: Navelim Military Field, December 1961, “Visão História”, December 2011