Sixty years after gaining independence from France, Chandernagore, the first French colony in India has again raised its voice against its former colonial master.
As Chandernagore residents prepare to celebrate the 60th anniversary of merger with India, they contend the French government skipped the town as it had stood up to the French to gain freedom.
The French government recently organised Bon Jour India, a variety of art and cultural shows across 18 cities in India to celebrate Indo-French friendship. While French officials spoke of turning Chandernagore into a tourist destination, Bon Jour India completely bypassed the town by the Hooghly river, around 30 km north of Kolkata.
Chandernagore was established as a French colony in 1673 when the French established a trading post on the west bank of the Hooghly. In 1688, it became a permanent French settlement.
French language and literature is taught in government-aided schools and colleges from class VII to graduation levels.
“Several events were organised at Kolkata, Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai, cities with hardly any French influence. Why didn’t they hold even a small event here?” asked Kalyan Chakraborty, convenor, Merger of Chandernagore With India Celebration Committee.
“If the French government was concerned about sponsorships at Chandernagore, it should have raised the matter with the locals,” Chakraborty said.
The rumble of grievances seems to have shaken up the French authorities, who now plan to hold Bon Jour India festivities at Chandernagore in November this year.
“Bonjour India will coincide with the ceremonies of the 60th anniversary of retrocession and consul general Jean Louis Rysto in Kolkata is working towards the organisation of these events,” said Philippe Martinet, counsellor for cooperation & culture at the French embassy in New Delhi in response to an e-mail sent by HT.
“They would involve fireworks and a participation of French artists in preparations for the Puja season. Rysto will be in Chandernagore this week to that effect,” informed Martinet.
The Treaty of Cession was signed between the Indian and French governments on February 2, 1952.