Shaheed Minar

shaheed minar

Already in 1990 you had to get permission from the Chief of Police at Lal Bazaar to climb this monument. A friend, Kate, and I went to see him and he greeted us with an expansive ‘So you want to see a panoramic view of my city’ – his arms opened wide in an all encompassing gesture that only accentuated his ample girth and the standard issue metro police belt that held all in place. We climbed the stairs – pretty high, it does seem more than 48 meters – and, as we were smokers then, we lingered quite some time up top discussing politics, war, freedom movements, rallying colours and of course panoramas, before we came down. Its very good news the place will be opened for visits soon once more. Site also of some of the largest rallies I’ve ever attended.

Here is the Calcutta City tours rave about it:

http://kolkatacitytours.com/shaheed-minar-kolkata/

The 48 meter high Shaheed Minar, popularly called the “Monument” is a prominent landmark of Kolkata. Established in the year 1848, it was named Ochtorloney Monument to honour, Sir David Ochterlony who served in the Nepal War (1814 – 1816).  In 1969, this Ochterlony Monument received its new name ‘Shahid Minar’, which means “Martyr’s Tower” to honour the sacrifice of Indian freedom fighters. You have to climb 218 steps to reach the top of the monument from where you can savor a bird’s eye view of Kolkata.The architecture of Shaheed Minar shows a brilliant blend of Egyptian, Syrian and Turkish style of designing.

History of Shaheed Minar, Kolkata

It was founded in 1848, as Ochterlony Monument, to honour Major General Sir David Ochterlony’s (Commander of the British East India Company) triumph against the Gurkhas in the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1825. The architect J.P. Parker conceived the structure of this 48 meter high monument based on a blend of Egyptian and Syrian style with a dome having a striking resemblance with Turkish design. In 1969, the Ochterlony monument was rededicated to the freedom fighters of India – the martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the freedom movement of India and was renamed as “Shaheed Minar”, which in Bengali means “Martyr’s Tower.”

A winding flight of 218 steps takes visitors to the top of the tower from where one can have a panoramic view of the city. However, in 1997, a mishap occurred when a tourist jumped from the lower balcony of Shaheed Minar. From then, prior permission is needed from police to climb the monument. The last person to climb up the monument was the former Governor Gopal Krishna Gandhi along with his family.

Lately, the state government of West Bengal has taken initiative to open up the monument for both local public and tourists. The work of refurbishment has started in late 2011 and will be accomplished in two phases. After the completion of the work, both tourists and local people can climb up to the top of the monument. There are also plans to set up stalls in front of the monument. Initiative is also taken to clean the pathways and beautify them with flowering plants.

The vast field lying towards the south of Shahid Minar is popularly called the Shahid Minar Maidan or the Brigade Ground. The place hosts political rallies for several decades. The first political meeting on Shaheed Minar Maidan was headed by Rabindranath Tagore, where he condemned the assassination of a young man in Hilji by the British in 1931.

Quid pro Quo – Subversive Festival, Zagreb (2nd vid)

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My third talk in a series of three on capital was at the Subversive Festival in Zagreb. The second talk is here (Translating Capital in Context) and it makes sense to see the second talk first [the first one in Rijeka was not recorded, but was based on my text on Citizen Kane], not least because it will help explain why the conceit in this third talk has Marx relocated to India, which of course he was always deeply interested in, but he never went, only picking up bits of info, and some myths – eg the horror stories of Jagannath etc – from his wide-ranging and varied reading. I think it is justified to deploy Marx to Calcutta, at least in fantasy, though its true not even Engels took his father’s advice to go to Calcutta to start in business. The old boys were European bound, but this did not mean they did not seek out the revolution elsewhere.

What also should be mentioned (the parts here are – great job – edited and slightly reordered, and the opening by Bernard missed) is that in this talk I set out to look at three different moments. 1) the arrival of Clive in Calcutta after the ‘sham scandal’ of the Black Hole in 1756; 2) the first all-India war of Independence, the so-called ‘mutiny’ 100 years later and; 3) the quid pro quo return of originary capital to the site of the East India Company shipyard in London in present times, under the aegis of the Farrell’s development of Convoys’ Wharf, Deptford, for Hutchinson Whampoa.

I am slowly writing this out as a long, too long, chapter, so this version is pretty schematic, but you will get the drift of new work. Thanks for stopping by. Thanks also to the crew at Subversive, especially Karolina Hrga, and Bernard Koludrović who was chair.

Abstract:

“Marx writing on India is key to understanding Capital. My argument is that we can make sense of Marx today by examining his theoretical and journalistic work together, each informed by an emergent anthropology, by historical hermeneutics, by a critique of political economy and by attention to a global political contest that mattered more than philosophy. Marx reading history, already against the grain and without being able to make actual alliances, is nevertheless seeking allies in a revolutionary cause. Is it possible to observe Marx coming round to realise, after the shaping experience of the 1848-1852 European uprisings, the possibilities for the many different workers of the world to unite? I consider the sources Marx finds available, what he reads, and how his writing practice parses critical support as habitual politics, and how far subcontinental events, themes and allegories are a presence in the key moves of his masterwork Capital almost as if India were a refocused bromide for Europe, just as slavery is for wages. I will take up four cases – the ‘founding’ of Calcutta by Job Charnock (disputed); the story of Clive sacking Chandernagore and going on to defeat Suraj-ud-duala at Palashi/Plassey in 1757 in retaliation for the ‘Black Hole’ (did it exist?); Disraeli verbosely saying nothing about the so-called Indian ‘mutiny’ 1857 (‘the East as a career’); and the question of legalizing Opium in China and the advent of Matheson-Jardine Company after the East India Company comes to an end (‘quid pro quo’). All of this brings us back to the realities of global investment and regeneration in Europe today, as international capital returns to the port of London to redevelop the old East India Company shipyards in Deptford.”

15/5/2014, 21h, Cinema Europa, Zagreb, Croatia
John Hutnyk: Quid pro quo: the East as a career
7th Subversive festival: “Power and Freedom in the Time of Control”
Moderator: Bernard Koludrović

VC Gherao Kolkata

On the day that I received a copy of my chapter in the book, Television at Large in South Asia (see here) this news from Kolkata seemed highly apposite.

 

After Jadavpur, Calcutta University students gherao VC

Last Updated: Monday, September 23, 2013, 23:48

Kolkata: Close on the heels of gherao of the Jadavpur University vice chancellor by students for 51-hours, B-Tech students of a college of Calcutta University on Monday gheroed the varsity’s VC and pro-VC alleging that the authorities were not taking any steps for their placement. Calcutta University VC Suranjan Das and Pro-VC (academic) Dhrubajyoti Chatterjee continue to remain gheraoed at the Raja Bazar Science College campus of the university by B-Tech students till late in the night, university sources said. The B-Tech students first gheraoed the principal of the Raja Bazar Science College at 2.30 pm, the sources said.

Hearing the news of the gherao of the principal, Das sent the pro-vc (academic) to talk to the students but they gheraoed him as well. The VC, who reached the campus around 7 pm, was gheraoed too and gates were locked from outside. “Gherao is a democratic right. But this locking of door and gates from outside is not acceptable because if there is fire of any such incident then there may be serious loss,” the VC said over the phone from inside the college. The VC said “that there is a placement cell in the Raja Bazar Science College. However, there is no placement officer at present but a professor of the college is officiating additionally as the placement officer.” “If companies reject the candidates (send for placement) then why should the college authorities be blamed,” he added. The gherao of the VC, pro-VC (academic) and principal of the college was still continuing till 11 pm, the sources said. On September 20, engineering students of Jadavpur University lifted their 51-hour gherao of the vice- chancellor, pro vice-chancellor and registrar, demanding the revocation of the suspensions of two fourth-year students on ragging charges. PTI

First Published: Monday, September 23, 2013, 23:48

Black Hole Fantasy Again

I’m perversely pleased to see this old chestnut can never die. ‘Sham scandal’ Marx called it. Holwell was writing two years afterwards, and in the wake of Clive’s retaliatory massacre of Suraj-ud-daulah at Plassey. I will refrain from some sort of pun on the name Holwell, but notice that embedded journalists are not exactly a new fold in the fabric of imperialism. But for my take on Plassey, and the quotes from Marx, see here.

The Hindu of course does not go so far as to do more than hint at ‘disputed veracity’.

A survivor’s account of Calcutta’s Black Hole

Bangalorean has the article from ‘The Scots Magazine’

A rare copy of an 18th century publication that contains a first-person account of the imprisonment of British men, women and children in the infamous Black Hole of Calcutta (now Kolkata) is now in the possession of a Bangalore-based document collector. The Scots Magazine contains an account of the episode by one of its few survivors, J.Z. Holwell.

The February 1758 edition of The Scots Magazine carried a 10-page article titled ‘Holwell’s account of the sufferings in the Black Hole’, which recalled the events at a dungeon in Fort William on the night of June 20, 1756, following the defeat of the East India Company by the forces of Siraj-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal. Holwell, in his account, claimed that 123 of the 146 prisoners put in a crammed dungeon died. But, later, historians have disputed the veracity of his account.

“There are only four known copies of the February 1758 edition in the world,” collector Sunil Baboo, told The Hindu. “It cost me a fortune,” he said, unwilling to reveal the amount.

What is in Mr. Baboo’s collection is the 10-page portion of the magazine that is in good condition. “While two are in the U.K., the other is in the U.S. These three are fully bound in leather-and-marble covers,” he said.

This document collector recently got the part of the magazine from a U.S.-based collector.

“It took a little while to get the copy from him as I had to convince the collector to part with this little piece of history,” he said.

The dungeon, according to Holwell, was a cube of about 18 ft (324 sq. ft) with only two windows in which 146 prisoners were crammed. He recounted the travails of the prisoners in the extremely hot conditions and no fresh air, which left them exhausted and extremely thirsty. He wrote of their attempts to bribe the guards to help them and their efforts to break open the door, all of which came to nought. Finally, a few survivors were brought out of the dungeon on the orders of Siraj-ud-Daulah.

However, while publishing the entire account of Holwell — a letter written to his friend William Davis on February 28, 1757 on board a vessel while returning from East Indies (India) — The Scots Magazine also cautioned its readers about the account being a “little passionate in some places” and in others “somewhat diffused”.

Keywords: The Scot’s MagazineCalcutta Black HoleSunil Baboo

 

The marx quotes link again, here.