Category Archives: About Kolkata / West Bengal

Singur movement ‘historic win’, to be part of school syllabus: West Bengal minister

The minister also said that by March 15 the government would complete the entire process of employing 72,000 teachers in primary, upper-primary, Madhyamik and Higher Secondary schools.

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee addressing a rally at Singur in 2011. (Express archive)

The iconic Singur movement would be introduced in the history syllabus of schools run by the West Bengal government from this year, West Bengal education minister Partha Chatterjee today said.

The minister, who described the Singur movement as a “historic win” for the farmers, told a question-answer session in the Assembly that a chapter detailing the agitation would be included in the history syllabus of class eight.
Later, speaking to reporters, Chatterjee said, “It’s a historic win for the farmers. Along with the Singur movement, the Tebhaga movement and Krishak Andolan will also feature in the syllabus and students must know that this movement is one of the milestones in the country’s history.”

Chatterjee said that distribution of the books had already been started. After the Supreme Court verdict allowing redistribution of Singur land among farmers, the state education department had sent the proposal to the syllabus committee for approval of the inclusion of Singur movement in the Madhyamik school syllabus.

The minister also said that by March 15 the government would complete the entire process of employing 72,000 teachers in primary, upper-primary, Madhyamik and Higher Secondary schools.

He requested ‘opponents’ not to move court creating hurdles in the process of employment of teachers and said that his department was going through a verification process at present.

source: / The Indian Express / Home> Education / by PTI / Kolkata – February 13th, 2017

CM dials Delhi after House nod to ‘Bengal’

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

Kolkata :

After pushing through the name-change resolution in the assembly by a brute 189-31 majority, the Mamata Banerjee government on Monday lobbed the ball in the Centre’s court, asking it to fast-track the proposal to rechristen the state as Bengal (in English) and Bangla (in Bengali and Hindi).

Minutes after the passage of the government-sponsored resolution, the chief minister spoke to Union home minister Rajnath Singh and urged him to introduce a constitutional amendment at the earliest.

The road ahead could be treacherous as BJP and Left voted against the resolution on Monday and Congress remained ambivalent -it staged a walkout. I will request the Centre to pursue the matter so that it can be placed in Parliament.We want it to be done as early as possible,” Mamata said. She also criticised state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh for saying he would not allow the bill to be passed. “I will see how he (Ghosh) can stop it. I will speak to the Union home minister. Who is he to stop it?” Mamata thundered.

“Those who are opposing the name change just for the sake of politics should be ashamed. It is a historic blunder and history will not forgive them. It doesn’t matter who opposed it.The West Bengal assembly passed it,” the CM said.

While the debate in the assembly on Monday started on predictable lines, Trinamool Congress almost outwitted the opposition by keeping only `Bangla’ in the resolution. This was the name that had been adopted by the Left Front government and supported by the Congress in 1999. The split in the Opposition was immediate, with Congress harping on a referendum on the issue and staging a walkout.

“I have no problem with the name. It can be `Banga’, `Bangla’, `Paschim Banga’, anything.But how can a state have two names, one in Bengali and another in English. I am Sujan Chakraborty . So will I be called `Goodman Chakraborty’ or Sovondeb Chatterjee be called `Goodlooking God Chatterjee’.This is ridiculous. There should be only one name. Bengal or Bangla – whatever it might be,” said CPM’s Sujan Chakraborty .

Mamata replied, “We are in favour of Bangla as it goes with the culture, language and tradition of the state, but there is only one problem. ‘Bangla’ resonates with ‘Bangladesh’ and it will create a problem in the international arena and so we have decided to write ‘Bangla’ putting ‘Bengal’ in bracket. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said `Bangla’ is better than ‘Banga’, we endorsed your proposal.What is the problem then? Outside India, we are known as people from Bengal.”

source: / The Times of India / News Home> City> Kolkata / TNN / August 30th, 2016

A window on history – Remains of Portuguese days


Memory can be extraordinarily flexible. As the Portuguese coast recedes and our ship edges into Spanish waters, Évora’s reticence about the communist upsurge in the surrounding region called Alentejo reminds me of the stonewall I encountered in Hyderabad trying to talk of the Telangana revolt. Most people assumed I meant the agitation for a separate state. Few even remembered the earlier armed rising linked to the 1948 Calcutta Conference which also resulted in Malaya’s prolonged and bloody Emergency.

“In the Alentejo, you travel naturally with and to History,” writes a local chronicler. It didn’t know a revolution that never was like West Bengal where revolution means speeches, and revolutionaries fatten in office for decade after decade. Alentejo’s was a revolution that failed like Telangana’s. But without the violence. It also suffered from a confusion of aims. Both mixed the local with the global. The immediate impetus in Telangana was opposition to the Nizam of Hyderabad’s regime. However, the Calcutta Conference spoke of a wider ideological purpose. In fact, many believe the insurrection petered out because Moscow’s rapprochement with New Delhi prompted the Comintern to abandon the conference’s ostensible hosts, the World Federation of Democratic Youth and the International Union of Students.

The peasantry around Évora where we spent several delightful days also felt betrayed. Évora is a charming medieval walled town whose university students in black medallion-studded cloaks over their frock coats sing and dance in the cobbled central square, the Praça do Giraldo, chasing away horrible memories of the burnings that took place there during the Inquisition. Founded in 1559, the university closed down in 1759, when the authoritarian prime minister of the day turned out the Jesuits. It didn’t reopen until 1973. Évora was under Muslim rule for 400 years. They came to help a local contender for power and stayed to consolidate their own rule.

The real contradiction was between radical young officers of the Movimento das Forças Armadas and peasant and student protesters clamouring for reform in 1974. The officers overthrew Portugal’s long dictatorship in a last-ditch attempt to pre-empt more drastic change. The protesters in the streets who gave them carnations which they put into the barrels of their guns – hence the name Carnation Revolution – hoped for a drastic social and political transformation. The organizations of workers and young people that sprouted all over the Alentejo resembled the proletarian councils (soviets) associated with Russia’s October Revolution.

Ordinary soldiers weary of war also set up their own committees to demand democratic rights and an end to Lisbon’s imperialist wars. If national liberation movements could rock the foundations of colonial rule in the so-called “overseas provinces” of Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and São Tomé, they asked, why should the metropole remain under the corporatist yoke? Landless labourers who toiled on the great estates called latifundio seized the fields they farmed. According to government estimates, about 2,200,000 acres were occupied. Some 1,000 estates were collectivized.

Something like the Spanish Civil War seems to have been fought out in miniature but with roles reversed. Claiming that fascism had to be defeated, Portugal’s reformist Socialist Party and Stalinist Communist Party sprang to support the MFA and the junta it had installed. Social historians believe they destroyed the chance of a socialist revolution. Lisbon promulgated the Land Reform Review Law in 1977. The collectives were dissolved. The original owners repossessed the latifundio. Portugal’s aristocracy has retained its wealth through centuries of upheavals. Some of the mansions and manor houses have been in the same family for generations. Hoardings in the vineyards along the road from Évora to Lisbon proudly proclaim the ownership of families like the Fonsecas. No lingering memory of the 1974 uprising disturbs Évora’s tranquillity.

The official justification is that the Alentejo collective farms could not be modernized. In the mid-1980s, agricultural productivity was half that of the levels in Greece and Spain and a quarter of the European average. Land holdings were polarized between small and fragmented family farms in the north and inefficiently large collectives in the south. Even Bangladeshi immigrants who had managed to acquire Portuguese work permits fled to more prosperous economies. Decollectivization was said to be the only hope.

I learnt more about Évora and its unexpected links with Bengal from Trilokesh Mukherjee, my graphic artist friend who lived in the Dordogne in France for many years. Now he seems to spend more time in Oxford and South Wales but remains a storehouse of the minutiae of Indo-European culture. Trilokesh told me Évora was the birthplace of Manuel da Assumpção, an Augustinian monk who spent many years near Dhaka and is credited with writing and printing the first dictionary and grammar of the Bengali language, Vocabulario em idioma bengalla e portugueza. “The Portuguese even cast some Tamil and Malayalam types. But they never could cast Bengali types.” It’s a matter of everlasting regret to Trilokesh that this final triumph eluded the Portuguese. “The first book to be printed in Bengali was printed in Lisbon though the writer, translator and the compiler came from Évora,” he wrote. Alas, it was set in Latin type.

Évora’s state library treasures another historic document, the manuscript of Brahman-Roman-Kyathalik-Samvada: an argument on Law between a Roman Catholic and a Brahmin by the Bengali Dom Antonio de Rozario. Dom Antonio’s life is shrouded in mystery. No one knows his Bengali name. He was apparently a princeling of Bhusana, which some place near Dhaka and others near Jessore. According to one version, Mug pirates took him to Arakan as their prisoner. Another has it he was sold into slavery in Goa. Both agree that another Portuguese Augustinian priest was his saviour and that he converted to Christianity.

The reinvented Dom Antonio is believed to have converted 30,000 Hindus in and around his estate, thereby arousing the wrath of the Jesuits in Goa who sent a senior priest to investigate. He confirmed Dom Antonio’s proselytizing success but added the converts had little knowledge of Christianity and had been paid to be baptized. It must be added before ghar wapsi fanatics reach for their purifying water that this was the competing camp’s verdict. No rivalry is more relentlessly bitter than that between the pious who are convinced of their monopoly of the truth.

Religion and language are the two main links. Vasco da Gama wasn’t quite the pirate in priest’s clothing that Bharatiya Janata Party loyalists made out on the 400th anniversary of his landing at Calicut, but he did have a strong religious motivation. Another Portuguese sailor, Luís de Camões, called Portugal’s Shakespeare, immortalized his achievement in the epic poem, The Lusiads. If Calcutta had Anthony Feringhee (Hensman Anthony), Dhaka’s Christians revere Sadhu Antoni (St Anthony of Padua). Some credit the Portuguese with creating Bengal’s first modern city in Hooghly. Others hold their imports of tobacco, potato and guava changed Bengali taste for all time.

With so many connections, it was exciting to stumble upon a Bengali gift to Portuguese (or so I imagined) when my wife was allotted the janela seat on the train to Sintra. I emailed a friend in Calcutta who passed it on to Aditi Roy Ghatak who messaged me from Macau, where she was holidaying, to say the former Portuguese colony had given her a janela on Portugal. I now learn that far from being Bengali, janla is an import like potato, guavas or tobacco. Derived from the vulgar Latin januella, the Portuguese janela travelled east with those first Europeans to inspire the Sinhalese janelaya and Tamil cannal. Our own janla is like almirah or kameez. Borrowing within reason is all right providing it doesn’t prompt Mamata Banerjee to follow the late P.N. Oak and claim that Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower are really Bengali creations.

source: / The Telegraph,Calcutta,India / Front Page> Opinion> Story / by Sunanda K. Datta-Ray / Saturday – June 04th, 2016

On the street where you live

An advertisement in the PM Bagchi Directory Panjika proclaiming its superiority to other almanacs as pundits of all centres of learning depended on it
An advertisement in the PM Bagchi Directory Panjika proclaiming its superiority to other almanacs as pundits of all centres of learning depended on it

The last entry of the Calcutta Street Directory of 1915 published by P.M. Bagchi & Company Private Limited is on Halliday Street named after Sir Frederick James Halliday, KCB, the first lieutenant governor of Bengal (1854-1859).

The street was swept aside when the Calcutta Improvement Trust (set up in 1911) began the construction of Central Avenue, later renamed Chittaranjan Avenue. What only remains of this street is Motilal Seal’s Free College, whose headmaster in 1915 was Jagabandhu Ghosh, BA, according to the “directory”. This entry provides the names and sometimes the professions of the residents of each building on this thoroughfare, as it does in the case of all the other streets and lanes of the city of Calcutta listed in the “directory”. Its function, as scholar Gautam Bhadra pointed out at the launch of the tremendously value-added version of the original last Wednesday, was to “direct”.

Originally an appendage of the almanac or panjika published by P.M. Bagchi, the street directory in Bengali, unlike Thacker Spink & Company’s older one in English of mostly “white” neighbourhoods, covers the “native” areas too, and is part of the urban ethos, said Bhadra.

However, he pointed out that the first such “directory” was Bhabanicharan Bandyopadhyay’s satire published in 1823 titled Kolikata Kamalalaya where city slickers point out to country bumpkins the city landmarks. Marketing Bengali almanacs was a highly competitive business, and P.M. Bagchi had undertaken this huge survey of the city. Playwright and humorist Amritalal Basu had written in Kautuk Jautuk that sadly, Bengalis were losing their hold over Calcutta. But Basu was wrong, said Bhadra, for the city never belonged to Bengalis alone. This street directory presents a layered and complete picture of those living in the city. He congratulated Jayanta Bagchi, grandson of Kishorimohan Bagchi and current director of the firm, for bringing back to life this century-old street directory, adding valuable material to it. The book carries a wealth of old advertisements which indicate prevailing popular tastes.

“Current histories on Calcutta are sterile and irrelevant,” said scholar Sukanta Chaudhuri, on the occasion. There is hardly any material on the city’s growth and development, its present and future and public utilities. However, this street directory, unlike websites, telephone directories and Yellow Pages, presented a total picture.

Scholar Samik Bandyopadhyay, who is one of the two editors of the street directory, said when one goes through the book one gets a clear idea of community building. It initially projects a macro history, and a micro history thereafter.

The other editor, urban historian Debasis Bose, has written the preface which presents a history of P.M. Bagchi and that of other such directories. He traced the rag-to-riches story of the entrepreneur, Kishorimohan Bagchi, who had established the firm in 1888 and became a resident of Masjidbari Street in Darjipara, where he specialised in making rubber stamps, stamp pads, various kinds of inks, syrups, glue and toiletries.

The brand was so much in demand, fakes swamped the market. So he got the inimitable labels printed in Germany. Kishorimohan named the firm after his father, Peary Mohan, who had once disowned him for he feared his son would turn out to be a loser.

In mid-19th century, people could not think of beginning the day without consulting an almanac or panjika. But to give his products a cachet, Kishorimohan imported two printing presses from England. Besides churning out typical Battala fare, he also brought out Harisadhan Mulhopadhyay’s popular history of Calcutta in novel form titled Kolikata Ekaler O Sekaler. Kishorimohan died at the age of 55 in 1923.

During the days of the East India Company, the pundits of Bhatpara, Nabadwip and other centres of learning, on an invitation from Maharaja Krishnachandra, put their heads together and standardised the dates of all festivals. Almanacs began to be printed probably at the beginning of the 19th century. To make them even more popular, invaluable information on postal and legal fees and suchlike, began to be added as these tomes became weightier. Thacker Spink’s almanac dominated the scene for 80 years.

Among Bengalis, Ramanath Das was the first to publish an almanac with a treasure trove of information needed all the time. When Kishorimohan first published the street directory priced at one and half rupee (against Rs 24 for the Thacker Spink one), a review read: “A Bengali Directory with a Bengali Almanac on the model of Messrs Thacker, Spink and Co’s work on the same line. This is perhaps the first attempt of its kind that has been made by a native of Bengal.”

But Kishorimohan did not ape the English. His team of field workers fanned out all over the city to gather information and nothing was untouchable for them. Even the names of the denizens of Sonagachhi and other red-light areas are mentioned here. Sadly we have no inkling about the identity of these field workers.

In those days, when there was no compulsion for being politically-correct, there was no reason for concealing regional chauvinism, and derisive nicknames for settlers from our neighbouring states in eastern India were freely used. Many neighbourhoods were named after the caste which perhaps dominated that area. Take for instance Chasha Dhobapara (now Girish Park north) from No. 146 Baranasi Ghosh Street. It was intersected by Brahmanpara Lane. Nothing escaped the attention of those who did the field work – thus vacant plots, ponds, slums…everything was indicated along with the address.

There are interesting nuggets on the history of Calcutta. There are several entries on the Banaji family, the first Parsi family to settle down in Calcutta – Parsi Church Street, where Rustomji Cowasjee Banaji established the first fire temple of the city in 1839, Parsibagan Lane near Maniktala, Parsibagan Street. Falgun Das Lane, which intersects Sankharitolla Street, was named after a man from Odisha who made a fortune by supplying coolies to ships.

What we know as Loudon Street was actually Loudoun. The wife of Lord Hastings was in her own right the Countess of Loudoun. The “u” was dropped at some point of time. An entry recounts how electric lights were introduced in the Kalighat temple (Kalighat First Lane). At No. 15 Gobinda Sarkar Lane near Banchharam Akrur Lane was a Philharmonic Orchestra, and a Bengali circus company belonging to Nabagopal Mitra operated from Canal West Road. Asutosh Mukherjee’s slum at 1-6 Kankulia Road included paddy fields, and the man owned other properties on the road. Was this Mukherjee our ” Banglar Bagh”

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / by Soumitra Das / Friday – September 04th, 2015

Ready to become India – Celebratory canopies in enclaves on eve of country merger

Preparations at Mashaldanga, the Bangladeshi enclave, for Friday’s transfer of territory. Picture by Main Uddin Chisti
Preparations at Mashaldanga, the Bangladeshi enclave, for Friday’s transfer of territory. Picture by Main Uddin Chisti

Dinhata :

The people of Mashaldanga built the road themselves with mud and covered it with bamboo cane. A big gate draped in blue cloth stands at the start of the road which leads to a colourful canopy.

The road did not cost much but the pandal did – Rs 2 lakh. Yet the people of Mashaldanga, the biggest Bangladeshi enclave in India, paid for it out of their pockets because on Friday this is where they will celebrate their coming into being.

On July 31 midnight, as Bangladesh and India exchange territories, the borders of the enclaves will dissolve.

It will mean that Mashaldanga and 50 other Bangladeshi enclaves in India will become Indian territory. Similarly the 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh will become Bangladesh territory.

For the people of Mashaldanga it will mean having a country in the real sense for the first time in their lives.

For 67 years since Independence, the people in the enclaves have been overlooked by both the countries. They have been denied everything that a state can give its citizens, starting with identity.

From Saturday morning, for the first time 14,000 people on the Indian side and 41,000 people in Bangladesh will become citizens of the respective countries.

Enclave residents were given a chance to choose their country. No one from the Indian side – the Bangladeshi enclaves are mostly in Cooch Behar and a few in Jalpaiguri – is crossing over.

In total, 979 people are coming over from the four districts in Bangladesh with enclaves – Kurigram, Lalmanirhat, Nilkhamari and Panchagarh – said the superintendent of police of Kurigram, Mahammad Tabarukullah.

Mashaldanga illustrates perfectly what being denied a country is like.

Through the middle of the green fields of Madhya Mashaldanga, the part of the enclave where the celebrations are being held, run electricity lines.

Yet no house in Madhya Mashaldanga has electricity because it is in Bangladesh.

Through the middle of Mashaldanga runs a road, but not many step on it, because it leads into the outer world – India.

Only one house in Madhya Mashaldanga has electricity, because that house is in an Indian enclave within the Bangladeshi enclave.

This enclave, with its only house, since it is Indian territory, has electric lines reaching it, resting on a row of poles that cut through the green fields.

What applies to electricity also applies to jobs. No Mashaldanga resident has ever had one.

If the children go to school in Mashaldanga, they need to cook up the name of a father as no father here has identity proof.

Jainal Abdedin, a 23-year-old from Madhya Mashaldanga, who was at the forefront of the movement to exchange enclaves, is a third-year political science honours student at Deoanhat College in Dinhata. Even if he became a graduate, he would not be able to get a job, because he would need more identity proof than required so far.

He has been able to go through school and college using the name of another person, an Indian citizen, as his father. Because his father, like all other residents of Mashaldanga, has no papers.

“Mithye bolte bolte obhyesh hoye gechhe (I have got used to telling lies),” he says.

But may be that would change now. With him becoming an Indian citizen, he can think of having a job.

The enclave exchange has been achieved, says Diptiman Sengupta, the man behind the Bharat Bangladesh Enclave Exchange Coordination Committee, because of the will of the people. The organisation has led the movement for the exchange and Jainal is a member of this organisation. Jainal, with his friend Saddam Mian, also look after the social media presence of the movement.

Sengupta points out that the history of enclaves began in the displacement of people. From the 1880s, when land began to be organised in India by the British and be marked, the landowners of the areas in which the enclaves – chhitmahal in Bengali – lie, began to gift each other mauzas as stakes in card or chess games.

But that was undivided India, and the stakes got scattered over what would come up as borders between first, India and Pakistan, and then Bangladesh.

After Independence, depending on the ownership, these plots remained Indian land in Pakistan/Bangladesh or Pakistani/Bangladeshi land in India.

And all the countries forgot them, though there were agreements from time to time.

The first one was between Jawaharlal Nehru and Feroze Khan Noon, the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers in 1958. In 1947, the Land Boundary Agreement was signed by Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Many governments and working groups and decades later, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ratified the agreement on June 6, 2015, during his visit to Bangladesh.

“The government moved aggressively when it felt the will of the people,” says Sengupta. He thinks the exchange is a triumphant example of a history-making event that political parties could not interrupt.

The Indian authorities are making arrangements to receive the people from Balngladesh, who are expected after November 30.

Tota Mian, a Mashaldanga resident in his seventies, said today: ” Akhon swadhinata pailam (We have got independence, finally).”

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Front Page> North Bengal> Story / by Chandrima S. Bhattacharya and Main Uddin Chisti / Friday – July 31st, 2015

In six decades, Santhals have turned away from agriculture

The Santhal community is celebrating a festival at Bhalukshole village in Paschim Medinipur district of West Bengal. Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury
The Santhal community is celebrating a festival at Bhalukshole village in Paschim Medinipur district of West Bengal. Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

Study conducted by Anthropological Survey of India.

Research undertaken by the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) has pointed to a shift in the socio-economic and cultural life of tribal communities like the Santhals over the past few decades.

A recent study conducted by the AnSI at Kuotala village in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, has revealed that in six decades the economy of the village has shifted from agriculture to one of menial work. Most of the men from the village now work as daily labourers, rickshaw pullers, gardeners and caretakers at private residences. The women are engaged as maids in the various households in the region.

Interestingly, a seminal work on the Santhals of the village by Nabendu Datta Majumdar titled ‘The Santhal — A study in cultural change,’ based on the research he carried out in the 1950s, clearly states that the tribal society was primarily agrarian.

“The principal economic activities of the Santhals of Kuotala and adjoining villages are agriculture, hunting, fishing, rearing of domestic animals and day labour. Agriculture is the chief source of livelihood…” the book published in 1956 stated.

“However, now, the village economy has transformed with the rise in demand for cash in hand at the end of the day. Menial work in various developmental activities run by government or non-government organisations is being sought after by the villagers of Kuotala,” Shyamal Kumar Nandy, Research Associate, AnSI, Kolkata told The Hindu.

Along with the economic activities a change has also come about in the cultural and religious practices of the tribals. While Mr. Majumdar’s book clearly referred to a strict hierarchical order in the society, headed by a chief known as Manjhi, the latest research points to a weakening of the social structure among the Santhals.

“Some members of the community are not willing to hold the post of the Manjhi as they feel that they will have to devote a lot of time to community activities and not be able to make sufficient money,” Mr. Nandy said.

The researchers have come across an instance where the Jaherthan or the sacred grove of the Santhal community had to be shifted because of construction work carried out by the Visva Bharati, Kakuli Chakraborty, head of office, Eastern Regional Centre of (AnSI) told The Hindu.

Jaherthan — a cluster of trees — is considered by the Santhals to be the abode of their principal deities.

According to the publication of Mr. Majumdar, Kuotala dates back to 1865, long before the central university was set up, when a few immigrant Santhal families from the Santhal Parganas had settled there.

According to the book, in 1938, the land in and around Kuotala and the adjoining Santhal villages were purchased by Visva Bharati from the local zamindar of Surul and the Santhals automatically became the tenants of Visva Bharati.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> National> Other States / by Shiv Sahay Singh / Kolkata – February 05th, 2015

Trinamul forms Alipurduar zilla parishad

Mohon Sharma takes oath as Alipurduar zilla parishad member on Monday. Picture by Anirban Choudhury
Mohon Sharma takes oath as Alipurduar zilla parishad member on Monday. Picture by Anirban Choudhury

Alipurduar :

The first zilla parishad of the newly-created Alipurduar district was formed today with Mohon Sharma of the Trinamul Congress being elected as the sabhadhipati and Atul Subba as sahakari sabhadhipati.

In the 18-member zilla parishad, Sharma won 10 votes against the Left Front’s Satish Roy. An RSP member was absent from the election and Roy got seven votes.

Trinamul had just one member when Alipurduar zilla parishad was separated from Jalpaiguri zilla parishad. While the Left Front had 13 seats (10 for the CPM and three for the RSP), the Congress had three members each. The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha had a lone member in the rural body.

However, all the three Congress members, including Sharma and Subba, defected to Trinamul in July. Four members of the CPM and one from the RSP also joined Trinamul in August, taking the latter’s tally to nine in the zilla parishad.

Today, the lone Morcha member extended support to Trinamul, paving the way for Sharma’s election.

Sources said Trinamul couldn’t reach on a consensus on the choice of the sabhadhipati as most of those who had defected had been offered the post.

“Trinamul leader Mukul Roy was forced to come to Alipurduar yesterday to iron out differences. Roy talked to the party’s zilla parishad members till midnight yesterday and couldn’t finalise a name for the top post in the zilla parishad. This morning, he again spoke to zilla parishad members at a hotel here and Mohon Sharma was chosen for the sabhadhipati’s post. It was also decided that Subba would be the sahakari sabhadhipati,” said a source.

After the voting, Shukla Brahmma Ghosh, a CPM member in the zilla parishad, alleged that Trinamul could prove the majority because of horse-trading.

“We have lost because Trinamul purchased some Left and Congress members like cows and goats. Many of us could withstand Trinamul pressure and continue to be in the parent parties. We will remain in the Left Front till death and nobody will be able to change our stand because we are not cows or goats. An RSP member couldn’t come to oath-taking and voting today because she was threatened by Trinamul supporters,” said Ghosh.

Mukul Roy denied the charge that Trinamul had paid money to the Left Front and Congress members for their defection.

“They joined Trinamul after seeing the development works launched by the Mamata Banerjee government,” he said.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> North Bengal & Sikkim / by The Telegraph Correspondent / Tuesday – October 28th, 2014

Bengal just got older by 22000 yrs


Multi-disciplinary research led by a city-based archaeologist has confirmed the presence of humans in the Ayodhya hills of Purulia about 42,000 years ago, a finding that pushes Bengal’s archaeological calendar 22,000 years back.

Bishnupriya Basak, who teaches archaeology at Calcutta University, sealed the findings after more than 12 years of intensive exploration and excavation of 25 stone-age sites she had discovered between 1998 and 2000 while working with the Centre for Archaeological Studies & Training, Eastern India.

The breakthrough came when Basak, 47, returned to the forests of the Ayodhya hills in 2011 to build on her findings using a technique called Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) that establishes the antiquity of tools of a particular age.

Before Basak’s discovery, the earliest evidence of human presence in Bengal was at Sagardighi, in Murshidabad. The tools found there were dated to approximately 20,000 years ago.

“This is an extraordinary development and a breakthrough in the otherwise hazy chronology of eastern India. It marks a welcome trend in research. In this day and age, multi-disciplinary initiatives are indispensable,” said Gautam Sengupta, former director-general of the Archaeological Survey of India.

In the subcontinent, the earliest evidence of microlith-using cultures — hunter-gatherer populations that made and used the types of light stone implements found in the Ayodhya hills — is in Metakheri, Madhya Pradesh. They date back to 48,000 years ago.


Microlithic tools found at Jwalapuram, in Andhra Pradesh, are from 35,000 years ago and those discovered in Sri Lanka are from 25,000 years ago.

Basak’s discovery was reported recently in the fortnightly research journal Current Science (Vol. 107, No. 11687).

The 47-year-old had conducted part of her research under police protection in the midst of Maoist insurgency in the region, her bold quest yielding 4,000-odd microlithic tools from excavation sites at Mahadebbera and Kana alone. Mahadebbera is located 500 metres northwest of Ghatbera village, in the catchment area of the Kumari river. Kana is around the same distance northwest of Ghatbera.

“From 2007 to 2011, I couldn’t even go near the sites because Maoist insurgency had escalated. But I returned in 2011 and with the help of the police camping there, I managed to finish my work. It was very difficult and not something people expected of a woman, but I am well rewarded,” Basak told Metro.

The experts who collaborated with Basak include S.N. Rajguru, a veteran geo-archaeologist who formerly taught at Pune’s Deccan College, Pradeep Srivastava and Anil Kumar from the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, and Sujit Dasgupta, formerly of the Geological Survey of India.

Current Science states that the microlithic tools excavated from the colluvium-covered pediment surface in Kana are from “42,000 (plus or minus 4,000) years before the present” and “between 34,000 (plus or minus 3,000) and 25,000 years before the present in Mahadebbera”.

In the subcontinent, most microlithic sites are reported from alluvial context, sand dunes or rock shelters. There are very few late Pleistocene colluvial sites. Colluvium is the material that accumulates at the foot of the hill ranges — a mix of sediment, gravel and pebbles, all brought down the hill slope through natural gravitational flow. When they form a stable surface, as in the Ayodhya hills, they are a good location for prehistoric populations to settle.

According to geoarchaeologists, the Ayodhya discoveries hold the key to research in several fields, from environmental studies to palaeontology.

“The OSL technique we used helps date sediment samples in which the tools occur to a time they were last exposed to the sun before burial or sealed by later deposits. Our samples were collected from 0.50-1.85 metres below the surface in specially-made steel/iron cylindrical tubes, making sure no light entered the trench during the process. In most cases, we had a plastic black sheet covering the top of the trench and the samples were usually collected early morning or around dusk,” Basak said.

Metakheri had been dated using the OSL method while the tools found in Jwalapuram required dating through a technique called AMS radiocarbon dating. Since there was no presence of carbon in the Ayodhya samples, the OSL method was the only reliable option, Basak said.

The samples had been first sent for pre-treatment and chemical analysis to the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, where senior scientist Pradeep Srivastava dated them as belonging to the Late Pleistocene period, roughly in the bracket of “42,000-25,000 years before the present”. The rocks from which these tools had been made were identified by the Geological Survey of India as “chert and felsic tuff”.

At Sagardighi, a team led by the late Amal Roy had found microliths made of agate, chert, chalcedony and quartz. They were not scientifically dated, though. The antiquity of the tools was assumed to be 20,000 years ago on the basis of geological factors.

Subrata Chakraborty, professor of prehistory at Visva-Bharati, said accurate dating had long been a problem in Bengal because of inadequate infrastructure.

“There is no institutional set-up for accurate scientific dating in Bengal.”

The 4,000-odd Ayodhya microliths include blades and backed tools. Micro blades are small — maximum length up to 4cm — parallel-sided tools that are very sharp and suitable for cutting. Backed microliths are those that are further retouched and attached to bows, arrows and spears to hunt small animals and birds.

An intriguing facet of the discovery is that no trace of the raw material used in these tools was found in the near vicinity, suggesting that the early hunter-gatherers had travelled quite a distance to get their stones. Such instances are, of course, not uncommon even among living hunter-gatherers.

Geo-archaeologist Rajguru said the Ayodhya discoveries had opened a whole new chapter in Bengal’s history.

“We can, for instance, assert that Bengal was very much a part of the climatic changes during the last glacial period. So far it had been assumed that Bengal was always humid with plenty of rainfall. Now we have evidence that the whole of the Rahr region also experienced the dry climate that was caused by the period’s peak in glaciation. We also know that the sea level must have been lower by about 100 metres.”

Rajguru, who has been a mentor to Basak, added: “Let this instance of sustained perseverance in the face of all odds and collaboration of skills and expertise across boundaries be an example and encourage many others to follow suit.”

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source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta / Front Page> Calcutta> Story / by Sebanti Sarkar / Tuesday – October 21st, 2014

Toto language more endangered than tribe

Researchers and even the members of Toto community admit that the language is under threat and influence of others languages. File photo: Sushanta Patronobish / The Hindu
Researchers and even the members of Toto community admit that the language is under threat and influence of others languages. File photo: Sushanta Patronobish / The Hindu

Language of primitive tribe has no script and is under influence of Nepali and Bengali: researchers

When scientists of the Anthropological Survey of India (AnSI) set out to conduct a study on language of the primitive Toto tribe, whose population has dwindled to 1,536, they did not realise that the language is more endangered than the tribe itself.

During their study they recorded the vocabulary, folklore, and even some songs in Toto language, and realised that the language has no script.

For centuries, the language that belongs to the Tibeto-Burman group of Indian languages, has survived in the small community completely orally without much research, Asok Kumar Mukhopadhyay, research associate, Linguistics (AnSI), one of the prominent members of the research team, who visited the hamlet of Toto tribe, told The Hindu.

“Being a small community, we found that the Totos communicate among themselves in their own language, but the moment they leave their hamlet of Totopara in Madarihaat block of Alipurduar district, they prefer to not communicate in the language even among themselves,” Mr. Mukhopadhyay said.

Under threat
Researchers and even the members of Toto community admit that the language is under threat and influence of others languages, particularly Nepali and Bengali, is increasing day by day.

Interestingly, despite the language lacking a script, members of the community, whose literacy rate as per a sample survey carried out in 2003 was just 33.64 per cent, have penned books and poems in their language albeit in the Bengali script.

Dhaniram Toto, one of the members of the community, has written two books in Toto language over the past two years.

Mr. Toto claims his book, Lokeswar, is about the folk culture of Totos and his other book Uttar Banga Lokpath is about folk tales of the community.

“Since our language does not have a script, I have to take help of the Bengali script,” he says, adding that there is an urgent need to develop a script for the language.

Mr. Toto, who is employed in West Bengal’s Backward Class Welfare Department, says there are others in the community such as Satyajit Toto, who write in the language taking the help of scripts of other languages.

Keep it alive
Their aim is just to keep the language alive. “We carried out this study to keep record of the language. It may happen in a few decades that the language may get extinct. The study of the Toto language is essential to understand the overall cultural ambit of the primitive tribe,” said Kakali Chakraborty, head of office, Eastern Regional Centre of (AnSI).

Day labourers
Totos, one of the primitive Himalayan tribes in the country, usually work as day labourers and porters carrying oranges from Bhutan to the local market in north Bengal.

Despite the geographical isolation of Totopara, the members have started laying emphasis on education, resulting in about half a dozen of graduates, which includes girls. But the elders point out that despite a number of schools being present in the locality, there is no one to teach the children in their own language, and as a result, the children are losing touch with their culture.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kolkata / by Shiv Sahay Singh / Kolkata – August 01st, 2014

Rising tides pose a threat to sinking island in Sunderbans

Mousuni, one of the 52 inhabited islands of the archipelago, and a vulnerable climate change hotspot, is sinking at a rapid pace. File photo. / The Hindu
Mousuni, one of the 52 inhabited islands of the archipelago, and a vulnerable climate change hotspot, is sinking at a rapid pace. File photo. / The Hindu

Over 2,000 families affected, acres of farm land submerged

Large parts of Mousuni, a sinking island in the Sunderbans archipelago, have been submerged with tides rising because of the spring equinox.

“More than 2,000 families have been affected and hundreds of acres of agricultural land and several fisheries have been destroyed by the high tides,” Sheikh Ilias, panchayat pradhan of Mousuni told The Hindu on Tuesday.

Ilias said that he himself was standing in knee-deep water. Mousuni, one of the 52 inhabited islands of the archipelago, and a vulnerable climate change hotspot, is sinking at a rapid pace.

The island with a population of over 20,000 lies in the estuarine system and is open to the sea, said Tuhin Ghosh of the School of Oceanographic Studies, Jadavpur University. “As the sea level continues to rise, flooding will become a regular phenomenon,” Dr Ghosh said.

The 24-sq km island is the second most vulnerable island of the Sunderbans, next to Ghoramara island, whose population is about 5,000.

The panchayat pradhan claimed that damage to the island and the impact on the people is far more than it was during super cyclone Aila, which hit the Sunderbans in May 2009. “The embankments here have not been repaired since they were breached by Aila. About nine km of embankments has to repaired to prevent seawater flooding. The western part of the island is vulnerable to tides and regular flooding occurs, but this time the situation is grave,” said Ilias. He said the State government had provided foodgrains, but supply is not proportionate to the number of people affected. A UNDP report published in 2010 said that 15 per cent of the delta will be submerged by 2020.

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kolkata / by Shiv Sahay Singh / Kolkata – July 16th, 2014