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Date debate clouds birthday

Even as several organisations celebrated the “birth” of Calcutta on Saturday, a committee of historians held its third meeting to determine whether August 24, 1690, is the date on which the city was “born”.

The committee, set up by a Calcutta High Court order on May 2, is also examining whether Job Charnock should be regarded as the “founder” of the city. The court’s directive follows a public interest litigation filed in August 2001 by the Saborno Roy Chowdhury Parivar Parishad, which contested the validity of the celebrations on the date.

Parishad assistant secretary Devarshi Roy Chowdhury said on Saturday: “Every year so much money is splurged on August 24 in commemorating the day. But all this is baseless.”

He added that texts in schools and colleges also mention this date as Calcutta’s birthday and associate Charnock with “creating” this historic city. “This is not true. We moved court so that a proper study is conducted and the correct information be given to students about the origin of Calcutta.”

The meeting was held at the Institute of Historical Studies. The committee, comprising historians Nemai Sadhan Bose, Arun Dasgupta, Barun De, Pradip Sinha and Sushil Choudhury, went through several letters and documents that it had received after a notification was published in various newspapers in May, seeking information on the city’s genesis.

According to sources, the committee has received some valuable letters mostly from people residing in Bengal in the one-month period that had been set for receiving responses. “Two old books with references to the region’s three villages have also been handed over to us,” they said.

The court has given the committee six months to complete its investigations and submit its report. Another meeting will be held in September.

“There are indications that the report will be completed before the October 31 deadline set by the court,” Roy Chowdhury said on Saturday.

Meanwhile, both the court and the state government have turned down a request by the Parishad’s legal representative Smarajit Roy Chowdhury who, on the suggestion of the committee members, had contested that the committee’s expenditure be borne by Calcutta High Court or the state government. Funds have so far been provided by the Parishad.

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