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India's Plan to Revive Sole Chinatown

Local authorities are backing a plan to restore the area and promote tourism there.

INDONESIA

Jumat, 03 Jan 2014 17:28 WIB

India's Plan to Revive Sole Chinatown

India, China town, Tiretti Bazaar, Tangra, Murali Krishnan Radio Australia

It’s bustling in the congested Tiretti Bazaar at the city's fringe which is widely known as the original Chinatown.

It is one of the few remaining places in India where one can buy authentic Chinese snacks and delicacies like steamed pork buns, dim sum, and fish balls.

Kolkata's Chinese community has been a key part of the city's cultural and social fabric for more than 200 years.

Many came as immigrants to India in the late 18th century driven by famine in central China.

A majority belongs to the Hakka community and found work in the port, set up leather tanneries and opened restaurants.

But when hostilities broke out between India and China in 1962, which also led to a brief war, the exodus began.

Things got only worse for the community in the late 90s when the Supreme Court moved the leather tanneries out of the city.

That left several disappointed, many unemployed and several tanneries were forced to shut down.

Aileen Lung is a fourth generation Chinese resident.

“A lot of money has been spent to start up a business all over again in the leather complex. Hence a lot of them have lost interest, lost a lot of money… so they have migrated abroad to Canada and Australia. The population has declined.”

Despite living here for many years distrust persists.

Many Chinese Indians remain wary of any official contact and seek little or no favors from the government to set up their enterprises.

Paul Chung, president of the Indian Chinese Association sums it up well.

“If the baby does not cry you won't get your food. So the Chinese don't cry. We don't hear of Chinese having demonstrations. Usually if something happens, we go to political parties… they pay lip service, they console you and that's that. When we think our rights are violated, we will stand up for it. We will use the same method as the democratic process does.”

Lang Lee, a youth, believes the Indian government should do much more to reach out to the Chinese community to stop a further exodus.

“No I don't think so They (Chinese) are all moving to greener pastures. The reason is that the government does not give us anything brighter. The government does not give us anything. The government does not give us a right to free space.”

But despite the disconnect, gloom could soon lead to hope and cheer for this community.

There is now talk of a revival of China Town.

Following representations by some eminent citizens and the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, a proposal was sent to restore and renovate Chinatown and promote tourism there.

The local government has also agreed to partner in the project.

Dominic Lee, a grocery shop owner is part of this enterprise .

“We are planning to revive old China town so that the present and future generations will stay back. First and foremost we have to create opportunities for the youth. We are in the process of collaborating with a Singapore firm, INTACH and we have approached the government also. Hopefully, very soon we will have a revived and thriving China town and the only one in India.”

Called the "Cha Project" or tea project, the endeavor is expected to help preserve Old Chinatown in Tiretti Bazaar and will also focus on developing the New Chinatown in Tangra.

Many within the community are hoping this project takes off.


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