The Independence of Chandernagore





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The independence of India famously spelt the start of the unravelling of the British Empire through out the world.

However, almost forgotten nowadays is that less than two years later, in a small sleepy suburb of Calcutta, another even older chain of Empire had its first small link broken.

The citizens of Chandernagore overwhelmingly voted to leave their French and Tamil masters in Paris and Pondicherry. It was the first French territory to successfully free itself from France in the 20th century and in its own unusual way it finally joined West-Bengal.  



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Chandernagore during the War




          _____Pictures of 1940s Calcutta_________________________






          _____Contemporary Records of or about 1940s Calcutta___




Having conquered all France and occupied three-fifths of it, the Germans for the past two months have been in no hurry to indicate the nature of the final settlement they will impose on the biggest nation they have whipped to date. While they dictated new boundaries for the Balkans and slowly turned more & more heat on Great Britain, the Wiesbaden deliberations were deliberately prolonged and France was left to wait her fate.

France had to wait, but by last week it had become plain that France's colonies did not. The colonial parade to the defiant standard of General Charles de Gaulle* was in full swing.

> In Africa, where French West and Equatorial Africa had already gone over to De Gaulle, Morocco was in a state of revolt. Hundreds of Frenchmen were arrested by the Vichy-controlled Government, which still kept a shaky hand on the situation. Eighteen French airplanes were flown to Gibraltar by their rebellious crews.

> Governor Louis Bouvin of the five minuscule colonies of French India (Pondichéry, Karikal, Chandernagor, Mahé, Yanaon; total pop. 300,353) declared their loyalty to De Gaulle.

> French Indo-China was lost to Vichy, whether or not De Gaulle got it.

> Tiny Tahiti in the South Pacific repudiated Vichy. From Madagascar off the east coast of Africa came reports of rebellion.

> In the Western Hemisphere, in Martinique, Guadaloupe and French Guiana, where 80% of the officials were reported for De Gaulle, plebiscites were planned. In Martinique harbor lay the cruisers Emile Bertin and Jeanne d'Arc, the aircraft carrier Béarn with 130 U. S.-made airplanes aboard.

> De Gaullemen in Egypt muttered ominously that "30 resolute officers" could swing Syria to Britain and De Gaulle.

All this was one more headache to the hamstrung Government of Vichy. But there was a modicum of cold comfort in the fact that it had also become a headache for the Germans. Harried little Vice Premier Pierre Laval, summoned to Paris by German Ambassador Otto Abetz, returned to Vichy last fortnight and ordered General Maxime Weygand to Morocco to see what could be done. But last week General Weygand was still in Vichy, although no longer a member of the Pétain Cabinet.

Shrewd Pierre Laval did himself no harm in getting Weygand out of the Cabinet, for it has been known around Vichy for some time that General Weygand aspired to run the French State himself, muttering, "When will the old man [Pétain] stop sleeping with that charcoal dealer [Laval] from Châteldon?" Laval further improved his position by making himself Acting President of the Cabinet, relieving Octogenarian Henri Philippe Pétain of actual contact with the Government except at full Council meetings. Also out of the Cabinet went Adrien Marquet (Interior) and Jean Ybarnégaray (Youth & Family), two violent nationalists unloved by the Germans. Pierre Laval was now, for the moment at least, Vichy's one strong man.

Free (?) France. The job he has taken on is no enviable one. For one thing, the Capitol of France is the Hôtel Du Parc. at Vichy, the executive seat Room 73 on the third floor. Nobody has ever had much luck running a country from a hotel room, as Pierre Laval well knows. Furthermore, "Free France" (as Vichy calls the unoccupied two-fifths of the nation) is a land of want and hardship which cannot exist disconnected from the rest of France. Every week some common useful thing disappears from the lives of its people.

There are no more matches in unoccupied France, LIFE reports in an essay on Vichy this week. Matches came from Scandinavia and the Germans let no more through. Milk, butter and cheese are scarce or nonexistent, for the Germans rule the great northwestern dairy area.

No new stores of sugar from the occupied beet-sugar district around Lille are destined for Free France. Free France will eat none of this summer's harvest from the breadbasket of the northern plains. There is still tobacco in the Rhone Valley and Auvergne, but those shops in Provence that still have stocks also have queues outside, and in the Mediterranean departments few people any longer smoke. Gasoline in Free France is rationed to refugees going north, to a few indispensable services, and to officials.

The conquering Germans have requisitioned nothing from unoccupied France because, except for its huge wine industry, no important staples come from the unoccupied area. Mother Filloux still serves her internationally relished goose-liver pâté and fat-breasted pullets on her terrace at Lyon. Broiled trout are still to be had at the famed little Hôtel du Château at Randan, and crawfish at Robinson's, outside Vichy. The good & great cooks of France will see that she goes hungry palatably. But there are no more tarts in Vichy. Apple tarts have disappeared from the shops and there are no rooms for the ladies.

There are now three meatless days a week in Free France, but food rationing has not become universally effective. Alcoholic regulations are effective. The apéritif is outlawed. On three days a week no other spirits are served. France, whose world reputation for temperance was belied by her world's record of one saloon for every 80 men, women and children, is a much soberer country today.

Birth Pains. There are no Germans in unoccupied France and there is no French Army. Order is maintained by the local and national police. As yet there is singularly little expression of popular opinion. The French have been invaded or occupied in whole or in part 33 times in seven of their 19 centuries, but never with the paralyzing impact of the German Blitzkrieg last June.

No new State was ever launched in the modern world with so little convocation of popular opinion as L'Etat Français. There are no posters in unoccupied France, except those left by the withdrawing Germans stipulating the number of francs (20) exchangeable for a mark.

The Government radio works only sporadically.

Labor and industrial regulations are promised from Vichy every day, and last week some elementary decrees were issued, but until communications are reopened between the two zones there will be little need of regulations because there is now almost no industry on either side of the demarcation line. Industrial unemployment is almost universal.

Like French public opinion, Free France itself is paralyzed. The wisest, most effective and popular leadership the country might produce could not overcome the one great fact that France is stagnant and waiting. It is waiting for some national ethos to develop, some popular base on which a government can find a true foothold, whether the ethos is communicated from the top or bottom. It is waiting for the time when it can become not half a country but one country. Above all it is waiting—and the Germans are deliberately making it wait—for the end of the Battle of Britain.

Perhaps nine out of ten people on either side of the demarcation line want the British to win. The masses of French people believe the British to be their one hope of salvation.

The Vichy Government, on the other hand, while no fonder of the Germans than the littlest Frenchman is, believes the Germans are going to win the war. The quicker they win it, the better it will be for France. After that it will be up to France's rulers to make the best possible deal with the Germans.

The Guilt. Last week there were fresh signs that the Germans were making no easy deals. They submitted their bill for the upkeep of their Army of Occupation: $8,000,000 a day.* When a die-hard patriot of Nantes cut the cable line into the city, the Germans slapped a $100,000 fine on Nantes.

From Morocco onetime Minister of the Interior Georges Mandel last week flew to Vichy to surrender. He was clapped into bleak Château Chazeron with his fellow scapegoats, onetime Premiers Paul Reynaud and Edouard Daladier, former Generalissimo Maurice Gustave Gamelin.

Cagey little sword-nosed Mandel for years kept a dossier on the misdemeanors of all high personages in France, and the Riom War Guilt Court would like to have this even more than his person.

The four scapegoats soon had new company: Popular Frontist Premier Léon Blum. All were questioned by Prosecutor Gaston Cassagnau for hours every day, as was the prosecution's chief witness, appeaser and onetime Foreign Minister Georges Bonnet. Whether or not the Riom defendants were found guilty of starting the war, the question was: Could they be saddled with the blame for it before the Germans pinned it on all Frenchmen?

*His flag is the Cross of Lorraine, red, with two horizontal bars on a white field. Motto of De Gaulle's "Free Frenchmen": Honor & Country, Valor & Discipline. *Germany estimated the Allied bill for upkeep of their 1918-30 Armies of Occupation at $1,625,000,000.

(source: TIME Magazine, New York, Sep. 23, 1940)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Time Magazine)


London v. Bordeaux

Not every Frenchman — and no Englishman — accepted the Compiegne armistice terms. In London General Charles de Gaulle, the 50-year-old Under Secretary for War in Paul Reynaud's Cabinet, who for years had argued in vain for greatly expanded mechanization of the Army, appealed for continued resistance to the Nazis. "This capitulation," he said over the radio, "was signed before all means of resistance had been exhausted. This capitulation delivers into the hands of the enemy, who will use them against our Allies, our arms, our warships and our gold. . . . There is no longer on the soil of France an independent Government capable of upholding the interests of France and the French overseas." Acting on this premise, General de Gaulle set up a Provisional French Na tional Committee in London, dedicated to helping Britain to the end. Winston Churchill, who earlier in the week had said he would not deal in recriminations because he judged them "utterly futile and even harmful," supported General de Gaulle's stand. The tough old Briton expressed "grief and amazement" at the terms to which Bordeaux submitted. He urged all Frenchmen "outside the power of the enemy" to repudiate the armistice and fight on.

Premier Petain retorted that Winston Churchill was trying to divide France "at a moment when the country suffers. . . .

Mr. Churchill is the judge of the interests of his country, but he is not judge of ours."

Charles de Gaulle, who was made a colonel only three years ago, a general five weeks ago, was promptly demoted, discredited and threatened with court-martial by the Petain Government. But in the French Empire, Charles de Gaulle —whether General or just Monsieur—had quite a following.

The French Near East Army in Syria, Frenchmen in Indo-China, threatened by Japan (see p. 28}, in Shanghai, in Martinique and Guadeloupe in the West Indies, St. Pierre and Miquelon off Newfoundland, Chandernagor in India—large groups and tiny minorities alike—declared they would fight on beside Britain.

With this encouragement, Britain openly broke with Bordeaux. A BBC announcer said in French: "His Majesty's Government find that the terms of the armistice . . . reduce the Bordeaux Government to a state of complete subjection to the enemy and deprive it of all liberty and all right to represent free French citizens. The Government therefore now declare that they can no longer regard the Bordeaux Government as the government of an independent country." The de Gaulle committee was recognized as the true French Government.

At this the Bordeaux Government be came sensationally bitter. Minister of In formation Jean Prouvost read a statement in English: "We regret that certain mem bers of the British Government criticize us unjustly. We wish our English friends to respect our sadness and examine their own conscience." Before the war, asserted M. Prouvost, Britain had promised to send over 26 divisions; but when the test came, France kept men 48 years old under arms while Britain failed to mobilize 28-year-olds. Finally the French Minister went so far as to lump the Ally with the Enemy: "We ask [England] not to make London a nest of agitation by politicians and separatists. Our foreign policy will not be dictated by England, Germany, or Italy."

(source: TIME Magazine, New York, Jul. 1, 1940)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Time Magazine)




          _____Memories of 1940s Calcutta_________________________







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1947 Chandernagor Ville Libre




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          _____Memories of 1940s Calcutta_________________________







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19 June 1949 - Chandernagore Referendum




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          _____Contemporary Records of or about 1940s Calcutta___



The Last Imperialists

Kremlin propagandists have always enthusiastically endorsed the slogan "Asia for the Asians." Communism, they hoped, would fill the political vacuum left by departing European powers. Last week, however, in the five small city-states of India remaining under French control,* came a bland reversal of the party line. Local Communist leaders labeled the neighboring Indian government a "Fascist" oppressor, ordered party members to vote against union with India in plebiscites to be held this month. Instead, Communists must vote for continued French rule.

* Pondichéry, Chandernagor, Karikal, Mahe and Yanaon, all but Mahé on India's east coast.

(source: TIME Magazine, New York, Jul. 19, 1948)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Time Magazine)


The Referendum in the News

"The referendum at Chandernagore has naturally aroused a keen interest among the teeming millions of her neighbour. It is not in the nature of an isolated event, but represents phase in the struggle for national self-determination in South-East Asia."

The Nation, June 16, 1949


"To the many historical events we of this generation have witnessed will be added another on June 19, 1949, when the 'free town' of Chandernagore, 21 miles from Calcutta goes to the polls to decide whether it will continue to remain within the French Republic or will be reunited with India."

Amrita Bazar Patrika, June 16, 1949


"Thus after 250 years of French occupation, Chandernagore will be liberated through ballot boxes, and a new chapter will open where it will play its part fully as an integral limb of Mother India."

"The referendum in Chandernagore is the first of its kind held by the French Government to determine the future of the French occupied territories in India."

Amrita Bazar Patrika, June 20, 1949


"That the referendum in Chandernagore - first of the French Settlemens to vote on its future political status - would result in a large majority for merger with India was long considered almost certain. That does not detract from the occasion's importance, nor from the pleasure which it will naturally cause all over India."

The Statesman, June 21, 1949
(Source: Dr. Ajit Kumar Mukhopadhay & Kalyan Chakrabortty: ”Discover Chandandernagore”. Chandernagore: Giri-Doot, 1999)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Giri-Doot and the authors)






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02 May 1950 – De-facto transfer of Chandernagore to India




          _____Pictures of 1940s Calcutta_________________________






          _____Contemporary Records of or about 1940s Calcutta___


Statement of Service Transfer

"In accordance with the agreement concluded during the conference held in Calcutta on 18th April 1950, ratified later on by the Government of India and the Council of French Ministers on April, 28, 1950.


To-day, May 2, 1950, the Administrator G. H. Tailleur, Delegate of the Commissioner of the Republic for French India, Chandernagore has transferred his powers to Mr. B. K. Banerjee, Administrator appointed by the Government of India to replace him.


The inventory of furniture has been taken charge of without remarks.


It has been given to Mr. B. K. Banerjee the remaining records and the keys of the Treasury Cash-room."


(Sd.) G. H. Tailleur

Administrator-delegate retiring.


(Sd.) B. K. Banerji

Administrator in-coming

(Source: Dr. Ajit Kumar Mukhopadhay & Kalyan Chakrabortty: ”Discover Chandandernagore”. Chandernagore: Giri-Doot, 1999)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Giri-Doot and the authors)


Adresse présentée à Monsieur Tailleur, le dernier administrateur français

Adresse présentée à

Monsieur Tailleur,

le dernier administrateur français

et à

Madame Tailleur

à la veille du

Transfert de Chandernagor.


Madame, Monsieur,


Vous êtes les derniers représentants de cette grande nation, venue de l’Europe, foyer de la civilisation moderne, nation qui avait établi, durant des siècles, ses traditions à la partie orientale de l’Inde, centre de toutes les cultures. Au moment de la séparation, à l’heure présente, nos vous présentons nos sincères sentiments d’affection et de respect.

Madame, Monsieur, depuis votre arrivée ici, vous avez toujours eu une remarquable sympathie pour nos espoirs et aspirations et, par là, vous avez toujours cherché à lier votre patrie à la nôtre par un lien nouveau. Dans l’histoire séculaire de nos deux nations, l’une moderne, l’autre antique, commence à partir de ce jour, un nouveau chapitre qui ne sera plus désormais pollué par les amères et empoisonnantes relations d’administré et d’administrateur, qui chaque jour s’embellira par les douces relations amicales entre nos deux nations amies.

Madame, Monsieur, permettez-moi de vous souhaiter longue vie, bonne santé. Et je vous prie de transmettre à la France nos vœux de paix et de prospérité.


Vive l’Inde.

Vive Chandernagor

Bondé Mataram

Le Président du Conseil d’Administration de l’Assemblée Municipale

Debendranath Dache.


Debendranath Dache(Das), Le Président du Conseil d’Administration de l’Assemblée Municipale, Chandernagor  le 1 mai 1950
(Source: Jean-Claude Féray: and Georges Tailleur: Chandernagor ou le Lit de Dupleix. Montpellier, Collection Africa nostra, 1979)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Jean-Claude Féray)


Land of Peace

Jawaharlal Nehru, disciple of the nonviolent Gandhi, likes to scold everybody else (especially the Western nations) for their bellicose natures. Last week some of the stones he has been throwing were thrown back at Nehru's glass house.

Since India gained freedom in 1947, Nehru has repeatedly demanded an end to all colonial enclaves in the subcontinent. When his huffing, puffing and pleading did not blow the colonial walls down, armed Indian nationalists (often Communist-led) began to stir up revolts in the enclaves, and Nehru gave their activity the kind of silence that implies approval. France let three of its tiny colonies go (Chandernagor, Mahe and Yanaon), and last week the French Foreign Office let it be known that the last two, Pondicherry and Karikal, would be ceded to India within "the next few weeks." These small faraway colonies were no longer of strategic, economic or sentimental importance to France (TIME, April 12).

Portugal, however, felt passionately different about its numerous picturesque fragments on India's west coast. Goa, chief among them, is the symbol of a golden age of Portuguese conquest four centuries ago and important to Catholic Portuguese as the final resting place of St. Francis Xavier. Goa is also economi cally profitable: last year the port exported more than $11 million worth of manganese and iron ore. In Lisbon, Nehru's designs on Goa were greeted by obstinate fury. Lisbon's Diario de Noticias angrily denounced Nehru as a misguided forerunner of Communism. "The spectacular show staged by Indian imperialism ... is nothing but an episode ... of the subjugation of Asia to the sinister disintegrating forces of Russia," it went on. "Portugal will not let this sordid spoliation, which also affects the whole Christian West, be accomplished without denouncing it to the world by raising its voice and shedding its blood." India's nationalists served notice of a "peaceful" march on Goa in observance of India's Independence Day (Aug. 15). Portugal's scholarly strongman, President Salazar. countered by dispatching a frigate and more troops to reinforce his "Rome of the East."

At week's end, Nehru, so free with advice to others, got some advice for himself. In one form or another, nine nations expressed concern to India (among them the ex-colony of Brazil, supporting Mother Portugal). Typical was Britain's Foreign OSce's "earnest hope that there will be no resort to force or to methods bound to lead to the use of force."

(source: TIME Magazine, New York, Aug. 16, 1954)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Time Magazine)






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If there are any technical problems, factual inaccuracies or things you have to add,

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