History that hangs fire - Nandakumar neglect

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  • Published 9.11.05

The history of the city that the British established being a little more than 300 years old, Calcutta cannot boast as many historical sites as some other Indian cities. Yet, even the most important sites here are either forgotten or lie in utter neglect.

Such is the fate of the site where Maharaja Nandakumar was hanged during Warren Hastings? rule. The well, which, according to some historians, was specially dug for the execution of Nandakumar on August 5, 1775, is at Hastings, near Vidyasagar Setu. The site is surrounded by a boundary wall but there is no memorial or plaque to mark the execution.

?I have been trying since the 1960s to convince the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and the state government to set up a proper memorial but it has remained unsuccessful,? said Chittapriya Mitra, a former state government employee, who has done extensive research on Nandakumar?s life and has written a book on it.

?We have plans to beautify the place and set up a memorial, but the issue is controversial. The spot is near my ward office,? said Faiyaz Ahmed Khan, councillor of ward 75 and member, mayor-in-council in charge of information and culture department of the CMC.

?Historians hold contrary views on the issue and so we need an authentic voice,? Khan opined. Yet tourists, both foreign and domestic, want to visit the site.

Nisith Ranjan Ray, former curator of the Victoria Memorial Hall, had written to Mitra about the problem he faced when confronted with queries from visitors about the historical site. ?I have received inquiries, specially from visitors and tourists in the city and from abroad, who expressed their keen desire to see the site where the Maharaja was executed. I feel it is proper that steps should be taken by the authorities concerned to mark the spot, on or near the crossroads to the north of the Kidderpore bridge, providing it with a properly-worded epitaph so that our own people as well as others may visualise a site of historical importance relating to an individual in whom they continued to have an abiding interest,? wrote Ray to Mitra.

Though the government remains silent on the issue, Mitra plans to approach the chief minister on this score shortly.