Vasco da Gama doubled the Cape of Good Hope (1497) and reached India. Other Western nations – the English, the Dutch, the French etc came to India and founded trading posts all along the sea coasts on India. The French Government formed, in May 1664, the French East India Company for trading with India.
In 1673 M Francois Martin, a representative of the French East India Company , built a business centre in Pondicherry. In 1688 he first came to Chandernagor and with a charter from Emperor Aurangzeb purchased three villages – Boro, Khalisani and Gondalpara – and established a trading outpost.
The name Chandernagor is first found in a leter written by Martin, Deslande and Pelle on 21 November 1696 to the Director of French East India Company. The French started building houses, godowns etc and to protect the town they built a moat around it and constructed the Fort of Orleans. Dupleix, as Governor, arrived in Chandernagor in 1731. Dupleix’s departure in 1742 for Pondicherry to assume the Governorship of French India marked the decline of Chandernagor.
During the revolutionary upsurge in Bengal in the early twentieth century, Chandernagor became the happy hunting ground of revolutionaries. As Chandernagor becomes the focal point of revolutionary activities, the British Government became conscious of undertaking some positive steps to ‘prevent Chandernagor becoming a spawning-bed for sedition-mongers’. However, the French authorities dithered to take any effective steps against the activities of the revolutionaries in Chandernagor.
When Swadeshi Movement was sweeping the country, especially in Bengal, the nationalists in Chandernagor demanded only financial autonomy. Political conciousness was not altogether absent among the people when they demanded electoral reform, the introduction of universal adult suffrage for men and women, the promulgation of laws giving freedom of speech, freedom of association and the introduction of compulsory primary education in French and in the mother tongue. When the Fourth Republic (1946-58) was formed in France, these political demands were placed before the National Assembly. Jawaharlal Nehru adopted a realistic attitude of solving the Franco-Indian problem after the attainment of Independence.
We all know the history of Chandernagor’s merger with India. It is necessary to correctly appraise the young generation of today of the story of Chandernagor’s freedom from the shackles of prolonged foreign rule. Chandernagor assumed the role of a guide in India’s struggle for independence. Chandernagor was the meeting ground of the votaries of freedom.
History of the freedom movement in Chandernagor forms an interesting study in modern Indian history as after the final exit of the British from the Indian Sub-Continent, Chandernagor was the first foreign settlement in India to be freed from the bondage of the French through peaceful means by holding a Referendum on June 19, 1949.
Freedom movement in Chandernagor received great impetus after the attainment of Indian independence on August 15, 1947. The “de facto” Transfer of Chandernagor took place on 2 May, 1950 and the last French Administrator, Tailieur, handed over the charge to the new Indian Administrator Mr B.K.Banerjee. Finally the “Treaty of Cession” was signed on 2 Feb 1951. On 11 April 1952, the French National Assembly ratified the Franco-Indian Treaty.
It is necessary to correctly appraise the young generation of today of the story of Chandernagor’s freedom from the shackles of prolonged French rule. The people of Chandernagor feel a moral obligation to celebrate the merger event.