A Library Born Out Of A Protest In Kolkata

A heritage walk on October 16 (tomorrow) and installation of a heritage plaque will remind the city of the importance of The Federation Hall Society
Tying rakhis was one of the symbolic gestures of unity
Tying rakhis was one of the symbolic gestures of unity

Most people walking past the Federation Hall Society in central Kolkata rarely spare a second look at the building which has little to distinguish itself from its neighbours. Some are aware that it serves as a library. Now, hopefully, the installation of a plaque by the Heritage Commission of Bengal, will make it a recognisable landmark of the city.

The installation of the heritage plaque on October 16 (tomorrow) harks back to a tempestuous event which took place in Kolkata on the same day nearly 115 years ago.

Way back in 1905, the British government in India declared they were going to make &lsquoa territorial reorganisation&rsquo of the Bengal province. The province then consisted of a large area and included present day Assam, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar (all in India) and Bangladesh. Despite strong opposition from Indian nationalists and people of Bengal, the then Viceroy of India Lord Curzon was determined to go ahead with the plan. October 16 was to be the day when the plan was to be executed.

According to reports, on the appointed day, the city woke up to mass protests. People fasted on that day, took holy dips in the Ganga to escape the &lsquosin&rsquo of partition, and participated in rallies. Many eminent personalities too joined them. Poet Rabindranath Tagore penned a patriotic song and distributed rakhis among the crowd, urging everybody to tie it on each other&rsquos hands as a symbol of unity.

Prior to October 16, when the protests were building up, it was decided to adopt various measures to thwart the plan for partition. One was to build a community centre and a library where people would meet on a regular basis and which would serve as a symbol of a united Bengal. Sister Nivedita proposed the centre be named as &lsquoMilan Mandir&rsquo.

On the ill-fated day, protesting Calcuttans marched to a vacant plot where the foundation stone of the building was laid.

Bengal was reunited a few years later but the capital of British India was shifted to Delhi the same year. But the unification did not last as Bengal was again divided when India became independent.

In order to commemorate the laying of the foundation stone and to pay respect to the patriotic fervour, a citizen&rsquos group Purono Kolkatar Golpo (PKG) has decided to hold a heritage walk in the afternoon. The walk will start from Rajabazar Science College (around 2.30pm) and conclude at The Federation Hall Society. In between, participants will be taken past several historical buildings which crowd this area. The walk is open to all.

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