From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Chandernagore
Mains level : Colonization of India
The Registry Building, a two-storey structure at Chandernagore built in 1875 and a symbol of French settlement of the colonial town, has been awaiting restoration for a long time.
French in India
- France was the last of the major European maritime powers of the 17th century to enter the East India trade.
- The French settlement in India began in 1673 with the purchase of land at Chandernagore from the Mughal Governor of Bengal.
- The next year they acquired Pondicherry from the Sultan of Bijapur. Both became the centers of maritime commercial activities of the French in India.
- Joseph Francois Dupleix who was initially appointed as Intendent of Chandernagore in 1731, sowed the seeds of colonization.
- The village, which hitherto was engaged in maritime commerce along with Pondicherry, got fortified by him.
Significance of Chandernagore
- Chandernagore, though a part of French colonies in India, was unique in many ways.
- It was very active in spearheading the freedom movement against the British. Due to its close proximity to Calcutta, it became a safe haven for freedom fighters of all hues.
- Even Aurobindo Ghosh who was one of the accused in the Alipore Bomb case of 1909, was acquitted unconditionally and after a short stay at Chandernagore moved to Pondicherry.
- Since the partition of Bengal in 1905, Chandernagore was in the thick of activities of freedom fighters against the British and produced several martyrs including Kanailal Dutt.
Merger into India
- As the British decided to hand over powers to the people of India by August 15, 1947, the people living under French rule in Pondicherry, Chandernagore, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam were eager to join their homeland.
- But the French were yet to learn their lessons. They tried all the tricks in the book to avert this.
- Facing the onslaught from the people under their rule and the British and Indian rulers, the French declared Chandernagore as free city in 1947.
- In June 1948, they conducted a referendum in which an overwhelming majority of 97 per cent people opted for a merger with India.
- After so many legal hurdles, it became a part of India on October 2, 1955.
Back2Basics: European Colonies in India