Chinese in Kolkata Vanishing ?

Never mind the two centuries of reclusive existence. Crisis requires the Chinese to open up and engage with the outside world or disappear without trace.

Faced with the biggest challenge since uncertainty gripped the community on two previous occasions (arrests during 1962 Sino-India conflict and the order to shift tanneries to Bantala in 2001 rattled the community), Kolkata’s Chinese are on the brink of fading out due to largescale migration in recent years.

“We must engage in the political process to chalk out a development plan for Tangra. If Tangra continues to languish in squalor, the next generation will desert the place and the once-thriving Chinese community will be left impoverished,” said South Tangra Chinese Youth Club secretary Chen Khoi Kui.

Indian Chinese Association for Culture, Welfare & Development president Paul Chung, too, believes the development of a Chinatown is critical to stem the flight to foreign shores. “Why will young boys and girls remain in Kolkata if they have no hope of a better future? The youth are disillusioned because in the Chinese family system, the young ones are not encouraged to speak. To stop migration, opportunities have to be created,” he said.

The sharp decline in the Chinese community is clearly visible in Tangra’s Pei May Chinese School. A decade ago, the school had over 1,000 Chinese students on its rolls. Now, it has just 60. Across the city, the population has shrunk from around 10,000 a decade ago to 4,500-odd now.

Khoi Kui fears the situation will worsen unless the community takes urgent steps to remedy the situation. “We have to come out in the open and express their aspirations to be understood by others. Interaction with non-Chinese has always been restricted to business transactions. It has rarely transcended into daily life. That must happen now so that the community can join hands with government and civic body to chalk out a holistic development of Chinatown,” he said.

The problem, however, is that the community is a divided house with no clear leader. That is a major stumbling block to taking major decisions. Mistrust, egos and differences scuttle initiatives.

“What good will two gates do,” asked Huan Bao Tannery Owners’ Council president Robert Lee to the state tourism department proposal to set up gates with typical Chinese architecture at the entry points to Tangra so that the place gets a distinctly Chinese flavour and character.

Chang, who distanced himself from the effort to resurrect Tangra after an initiative to set up road signs in Mandarin was viewed suspiciously by a section of the community, hopes the community will be able to overcome the pettiness and suspicion before the situation turns desperate.

courtesy: Times of India


  1. Lung says:

    It’s SHAMEFUL for the tiny Indian Chinese community remaining in Kolkata to be so divided among themselves. This is indeed very SAD.

    Given the division, nothing will change or ever change unless those who aspire on leadership to sit down calmly, talk and compromise on differences.

    United we stand, divided we fall. Let’s catch the boat before we miss it.

  2. Bill says:

    This is indeed a sad situation. The community should join hands rather than fight each other. The leadership of the older generation should encourage the younger generation to take up the baton for the revival of Tangra. It is after all the latter that will benefit from this. Tangra is the remaining area which remind us all of the Chinese community that once was. The Teretti Bazaar area is almost un-recognizable from its heydays. As Lung above noted, let’s catch the boat before it sails off into the sunset.

  3. Yvette says:

    The article spelt out the truth and nothing but the truth…..
    While it serves as a WAKE UP call for those who had a stake at or participated in the division, it is depressing to see back-stabbing and inhouse-fighting amongst the clan.
    How will a small community gain strength to prosper and become stronger than before when there is no unity, let alone goal congruence within its stronghold ?
    This is utterly SAD !!!!!!

  4. ycl1688 says:

    It has been the tradition in chinese community, first the communists fighting the KMT, then the clan wars, now what ? How many years it take to learn one word ‘United we stand’.