It’s official. Calcutta has neither birthday nor founder. The state government declared on Friday that it would not observe August 24 as the city’s birthday from now on. Job Charnock will no longer be hailed as the founder of Calcutta. And the script — from classrooms to the corridors of governance — will be rewritten.
State advocate-general Balai Ray informed a division bench of the high court on Friday that his government had “accepted” the report submitted by the five-historian committee, headed by former Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Nemai Sadhan Bose. The committee had said in its report that Calcutta had no specific birthday and so, no individual should be referred to as its founder.
The bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice J. Biswas, after “receiving the views” of the state, asked the government to act accordingly. Later, the advocate-general confirmed that the government would “henceforth not observe” August 24 as the city’s birthday and not accept Job Charnock as the city’s founder. “Changes in this regard will be made in government documents, school texts and official websites from next year,” he added.
The Sabarno Roy Chowdhury Parivar Parishad and nine citizens of Calcutta had filed a petition, demanding the formation of a committee to ascertain whether the city’s birthday could be observed on a specific date and whether Job Charnock could be named its sole founder. The Parishad contended that Calcutta went back more than 300 years and ancient documents proved that a village named Kolikata existed long before Charnock’s arrival.
On the basis of the petition, the high court constituted a committee of five members under Bose’s chairmanship. The committee submitted its report before the registrar-general of the high court on October 16, 2002. On January 31, 2003, when the case came up for hearing, it was revealed that the historians had unanimously observed that the modern form of Calcutta emanated from a development process started by zamindar Lakshmi Narayan Majumdar and followed by the Seths, Mullicks and others.
Ajit Panja and Smarajit Roy Chowdhury, counsels on behalf of the Parishad, had demanded that the state authorities act on the basis of the report. On Friday, they did just that.