Delhi’s Mini Bengal Turns Salt-And-Pepper 50


The coronavirus pandemic and the resultant confusion ensured that the golden jubilee of Chittaranjan Park, one of many greatest conglomeration of Bengalis outdoors Bengal, got here and went unnoticed.

Conceived within the mid-1950s by the late Mehr Chand Khanna, the then central minister for rehabilitation, as a house for displaced individuals and refugees from the then East Pakistan gainfully employed in Delhi with no different different housing property within the Indian Union, the colony got here into existence within the early 1970s however not earlier than a two-decade-long battle by its founding fathers.

The Partition of the nation in 1947 introduced in its wake innumerable miseries, the brunt of which was borne by the folks of Punjab and Bengal, the 2 states dismembered by the scalpel of Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the pinnacle of the Boundary Fee. Naturally, the Bengalis hailing from East Pakistan and residing and dealing in Delhi earlier than Partition and those that crossed over as refugees had been disadvantaged of their dwelling and fireplace in East Bengal.

These refugees and displaced individuals shaped the East Pakistan Displaced Individuals Affiliation (EPDP) within the 12 months 1954 with Shrimati Ila Pal Choudhury, MP and Shri SP Sen Varma, who later grew to become Chief Election Commissioner, on the helm and urged the central authorities to supply them with appropriate land the place they may cool down. After protracted negotiations, the federal government agreed to supply plots on a 99-year lease at a worth of Rs 30 per sq. yard to such bona fide people fulfilling sure circumstances on a barren hilly tract of land close to Kalkaji in South Delhi and the longer term Chittaranjan Park or C.R. Park was born.

It was then loosely known as EPDP Colony and consisted of 11 blocks (A to Ok) which contained roughly 2,150 plots of three sizes (160, 233 and 320 sq. yards). The colony was formally inaugurated 50 years in the past by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on December 29, 1970, on the B-Block Puja grounds the place the delivery centenary celebration of the good patriot and freedom fighter Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das was held.

Former municipal councillor Dr Ananda Mukherjee, now 84, recollects that his father-in-law P.Ok.Basu (retired chief engineer, AIR) constructed the primary home in April 1970 and their household grew to become the primary residents of the Colony. He recollects that at the moment, primary civic facilities had been non-existent, together with water provide, electrical energy, public transport, safety methods and markets. They needed to mild oil lamps within the night and water was equipped via tankers by the CPWD. Life was onerous added to which had been the existence of snakes and big lizard-monitors in a principally uninhabited tract of land mendacity barren for a whole bunch of years. Human predators had been additionally on the prowl and so they had been as soon as attacked by dacoits in the course of the evening which left the aged Basu with a damaged cranium and valuables taken away.

A nonagenarian resident of Chittaranjan Park since 50 years, Bani Roy, recollects that it took nearly 5 extra years for issues to cool down as extra homes got here up and so did the essential infrastructure services like markets, banks, put up workplace, DTC bus companies and the like. Many of the allottees had been central authorities staff with restricted means however due to the central authorities and the DDA chipping in with housing loans and “built-up homes’’ on simple compensation phrases respectively, the desires and aspirations of the displaced individuals got here to be fulfilled. In the meantime, in view of the rising demand, the federal government carved out 714 extra plots of smaller sizes to accommodate extra refugees throughout the colony which was now named Chittaranjan Park.

It’s troublesome to separate Bengalis from cultural, social and non secular actions. Therefore, Chittaranjan Park quickly grew to become the best hub of Bengali cultural actions within the capital. The Bangiya Samaj, established in 1971, opened the primary library within the Colony a 12 months later which was inaugurated by Dr Triguna Sen, former Union training minister. Likewise, the Purbosree Mahila Samiti, Kali Mandir Society, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Memorial Society, Bipin Chandra Pal Memorial Society and some youth golf equipment got here up through the mid-1970s and constructed their very own institutions and auditoriums. No marvel, these cultural centres quickly vibrant with music, dance, theatre, poetry-reading and so forth. A few of them established charitable well being centres to supply low-cost however environment friendly medical look after all.

Durga Puja began within the 12 months 1970 with a handful of residents which has now multiplied into 12 mega-pujas which individuals from throughout Delhi throng to go to yearly. These Durga Puja celebrations are famend for his or her elaborate pandals and wealthy cultural programmes the place one of the best artistes of Kolkata and Mumbai take part. The triple temple complicated, devoted to Mom Kali, Lord Shiva and Radha-Krishna, was accomplished across the early 1990s atop the small hillock which has grow to be the point of interest of the spiritual actions of the populace.

Chittaranjan Park additionally has its personal story of woes. Within the late 1980s through the peak of the Khalistan motion, terrorists gunned down at random at the least 12 harmless residents at numerous locations, together with at a Kali Puja pandal the place a cultural programme was in progress. This was extensively reported and condemned by the nationwide press.

Chittaranjan Park is a fantastically deliberate inexperienced neighbourhood with broad tree-lined roads, spacious playfields, a few faculties and, after all, tastefully constructed homes. Many of the residents are eminent authorities officers, students, company executives, legal professionals, journalists, medical professionals, architects, musicians, painters and businessmen. It’s dwelling to one of many metropolis’s predominant markets for freshwater fish, an integral a part of Bengali delicacies as additionally 4 large markets specialising in Bengali sweets (together with the all-time favorite “Mishti Doi”) and quite a few stalls promoting Kolkata-style avenue meals like “jhalmuri”, “ghugni”, “phuchka”, chops, cutlets, barbecue, rolls and biryani.

 

Well-known restaurant manufacturers, jewellery retailers and ethnic saree and garment shops have additionally opened store in recent times. One can even discover unique greens, usually most well-liked by Bengalis, transported to those markets all the best way from Kolkata together with a wide range of spices, herbs, cooking substances, snacks and namkeen, condiments and the like that are a necessary a part of the Bengali family. 

         One can discover a vary of Bengali sweets offered in CR Park.                     

Chittaranjan Park is now an prosperous and up-market locality which is a a lot sought-after vacation spot for property hunters, particularly after the true property increase. This has led to the progeny of the first-generation residents promoting off their property at astronomical costs or putting them by the hands of the ever present “developer”. Whereas this has resulted in Chittaranjan Park changing into extra cosmopolitan and pan-Indian in nature, it has additionally eroded a better a part of the unique Bengali ethos with which the place was related. As Amit Banerjee, a former banker and long-time resident opines, the camaraderie that existed among the many residents through the first few many years of the Colony’s existence has now dissipated to an incredible extent among the many current era with the character, composition and sentiments of the place having undergone a sea change. The civic facilities have additionally been totally stretched with the inflow of extra residents than was initially deliberate as increasingly homes are actually going underneath the bulldozer and a number of flats taking their place. Many senior residents discover themselves a susceptible lot with their kids having migrated overseas leaving them to fend for themselves.  

But, regardless of these drawbacks, Chittaranjan Park nonetheless stays a haven of peaceable residing with promise for a much-improved high quality of life within the years to come back.         

(Bhaskar Roy is a retired company govt who writes on historical past, tradition and spiritualism. The views are private and don’t essentially replicate that of Outlook journal.)


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