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Here and There in the India That Isn't British

The War Illustrated, Volume 6, No. 131, Page 19, June 26, 1942.

In all the prolonged and widespread discussions concerning what is called the Indian problem, little has been heard of those territories in India which are neither British nor ruled by Indian princes, i.e. Portuguese India and French India. These are the subjects of the article that follows.

As everyone knows, India -the vast peninsula or subcontinent which has its crown in the towering peaks of the Himalayas and its foot in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean- is divided between British India and the India of the Princes i.e. those Indian states which have treaties of alliance with the British Crown. But there are also two other Indias, so far as political allegiances are concerned; there is a Portuguese India and a French.

Of these, the more important, both in area and population, is Portuguese India, which consists of Goa, with the islands of Angediva, São Jorge and Morcegos on the Malabar coast; Daman (Damão) on the gulf of Cambay, north of Bombay; and Diu, on the other side of the gulf, on the coast of Gujerat. All in all, these have an area of 1,537 square miles, with a population of some 600,000.

All are relics of the days when Portugal was the world's greatest commercial and colonizing power. Goa was captured in 1510 by the famous Portuguese captain, Affonso d'Albequerque. An attempt by the local king to eject the Portuguese was defeated, and Goa became the capital of the whole Portuguese Empire in the Orient.

The customs and constitutions of the native village communities were left practically untouched, save that the rite of suttee (widow-burning) was abolished, but on the native framework was erected an imposing edifice of military, commercial, and ecclesiastical power, so that "Golden Goa" rivalled in splendour the empire of the Moguls. Its great days were at the end of the sixteenth century and the opening of the seventeenth; then the appearance of the Dutch in the Indies led to Goa's gradual decline. When a hundred years later Clive set about establishing British power in India, Goa was well nigh deserted by all save priests and monks; its arsenal, its quays, its palaces and even many of its churches were in ruins, while its streets were overgrown with grass. And such it has remained for the most part, a city of ruins and ancient memories. In the most notable of its surviving churches, that of Bom Jesus, are enshrined the mortal remains -still in a fair state of preservation- St. Francis Xavier, the Apostle of the Indies, who died in 1522 in China, and was reburied in Goa two years later. The present-day capital of the colony is Panjim, or New Goa, which possesses a modern port as well as the usual complement of Government buildings. On the other side of the Mandavi estuary is Mormugão, which is linked by railway with the British Indian system.

Daman has been Portuguese since 1558 -the year in which our Queen Elizabeth came to the throne; attached to it are the territories of Dadara and Nagar Havili, which were occupied considerably later. The soil is fertile, and there are some fine teak forests; there are also some salt works and shipyards.

Diu comprises the island of that name and a small district (Gocola and Simbor) on the mainland. Once it was an important port, but the water is not deep enough for large ships and its trade is now decayed.

Now let us turn to French India. This consists of five separate colonies or provinces -Pondicherry, Chandernagore, Karikal, Mahé and Yanaon- which together cover an area of 196 square miles with a population of some 300,000; each province is divided into communes, with their own municipal institutions. Most important is Pondicherry, whose Governor is Governor-General of the French possessions in India; there is also an elected General Council, and the colony used to have its representatives in the French Senate and Chamber in Paris.

Those who remember their reading of Macauley's vivid pages will not need to be reminded of the rivalry between the French under Dupleix and the English under Clive; and Pondicherry (which was originally founded by French settlers in 1683) was Dupleix' base in his bid for a French empire in India. In 1748 Admiral Boscawen laid siege to it unsuccessfully, but Coote took it from Lally in 1761. Restored to France some years later, the British captured it again in 1778 and it fortifications were destroyed. Twice more it was restored to the French and captured by the British, but since 1816 it has remained in French possession, although it is entirely surrounded by British territory. The town of Pondicherry has some fine public buildings, cotton and bone mills, and in the adjoining countryside rice and grains are the chief crops.

Chandernagore is a pocket-handkerchief of a territory -it contains only three square miles with a population of under 40,000- on the Hooghly, some twenty miles above Calcutta. It became a French settlement in 1688, and in the Dupleix period enjoyed considerable importance. Like Pondicherry it has changed hands time and again, until in 1816 it became French for good. Today it is described as a quiet riverside town.

Karikal was captured by the French from the Rajah of Tangore in 1739, and after the usual vicissitudes, was restored to them by the British in 1817. It has an area of fifty-three square miles, and a population of about sixty thousand, who engage in commerce with Ceylon and (in normal times) with the Straits Settlements. Mahé (area 26 square miles, population 13,000) is the only French possession on the west coast of India. Like Pondicherry, it used to have its representative in the French Parliament, but economically it is in decay. As for Yanaon, there is little that can be said about it, save that it is five square miles in extent and has some 5,000 people.

Governor of French India is M. Louis Bonvin. On September 9, 1940 he announced his adhesion to General de Gaulle, who nominated him to the Council of Defence of the Free French Empire.


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