Saviour of rajbati

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 29.08.10

Kamal Kumar Basu, the former mayor of Calcutta, turned 93 last Sunday. To mark the occasion, a book titled Kamal Kumar Basur Paribarik Prekshapat on the history of his family by Calcutta historian Debasis Bose was released by Barun De, the chairman of the state heritage commission.

The venue was Basu’s home on Balaram Ghosh Street, where Mohun Bagan Athletic Club was founded. Former Supreme Court judge Umesh Chandra Bandopadhyay and former West Bengal governor Shyamal Kumar Sen stressed that Basu, who has been ill for some time, could take credit for constructing the Salt Lake stadium and for saving Sobhabazar Rajbati, once described as the “native Town Hall”, from destruction. And much else.

Ashok Mitra, former finance minister, said he came to Calcutta from the mufossils in 1930. When Mitra was in college he gradually became sympathetic towards the Leftist movement, at a time when people looked askance at the Communists. Even at that time, Kamal Kumar Basu, the grandson of barrister Bhupendra Nath Basu, a Congress president, did not have an iota of scepticism about the Communist Party.

Mitra said although Kamal Basu came from a prosperous family, his sympathies were for the poor. He was always unflinchingly loyal to the party, even during the Chinese aggression, when Basu fought a legal battle on behalf of comrades who had been detained. When the Salt Lake stadium was being built he used to make on-the-spot supervisions.

Barun De said north Calcutta had achieved progress by keeping traditions alive and maintaining equilibrium at the same time. He praised Debasis Bose’s talent as a historian of Bengal. The author was absent.

Bose’s slim book published by Sutanuti Boimela Committee gives a detailed, lively and delightfully anecdotal account (a seven-footer, it was said in jest, used to light his cigarette from the gas streetlight) of the histories of Kamal Basu’s family, tracing lineage on both the distaff and spear or sword sides of the families.

The links can be puzzling but the family trees make things clear.