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Global Correspondent Report on India
 

 

 

 

Aju Mukhopadhyay, IN

 

Little known Independence Day of India’s French Colony

 

India was given independence on 15 August 1947. Pondicherry, a part of India under the French was given independence on 1 November 1954. It is her de facto independence day. Pondicherry is by all measure, culturally and geographically, a part and parcel of India from the time she arose from the womb of the sea. So logically she too became free from the day almost the whole of India became free, at least a day after she should have been declared independent when her people wanted it. Hence comes the idea of de jure freedom or freedom by right. So the independence day of the then Pondicherry or today’s Puducherry is being celebrated on 16th of August though she celebrates India’s Independence Day too on 15th August as a part of it.

The independence movement of India, great with vast cultural and racial elements in it, had to be prolonged and complicated but Pondicherry’s movement for independence almost began from the date India became free as Algeria’s freedom movement began from the date Pondicherry became free.

French Indian people emerged with new excitement when Britain declared in July 1947 that political power would be transferred to India on 15 August 1947. In July 1947 French Indian National Congress sent a telegram to the French President Monsieur Ramadier and Mr. Subbiah, Chief of the French Indian Communist Party, went to Paris. Both claimed full sovereignty. French Governor, Francois Baron, declaring himself the first Commissaire of the republic, formed party to support the anti-merger groups, made many moves and attempts to thwart the merger of Pondicherry with India.

In Pondicherry they formed a Conseil du Gouvernment or governing council, consisting of six members. P. Counouma’s ashram group, member of the Conseil, realized the intention of the French. They demanded complete freedom and merger with India. Sri Aurobindo’s Speech broadcast through All India Radio recorded inter alia, “Another dream was for the resurgence and liberation of the peoples of Asia…. Asia has arisen; large parts are now quite free or are at this moment being liberated: its other still subject or partly subject parts are moving through whatever struggles towards freedom.”

The British left when the internal position of their country was precarious, when the Indian army was in a revolting mood, when India became their burdensome liability. After the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu and after the freedom of British India, France too could not hold on to their post for long.

By a decree on 7 November 1947 Chandernagore, a part of erstwhile Pondicherry, was declared ‘Ville Libre’ or free city. Eventually it was merged with Indian union. In Madras, on 9 October 1952 Jawaharlal Nehru declared that foreign settlements as in Goa and Pondicherry must become parts of India. “It is unfortunate for any one to imagine that bits of Portuguese and French empires can continue in India”, he said. The people became impatient.

Pondicherry, with all the three remaining coastal parts, merged with Indian Union on 1 November 1954. A popular Government took over the administration on 1 July 1963.

With love for the legacy of French rule, the people of Pondicherry still have a soft corner for the French. ‘Ville Blanche’ and ‘Ville Noire’- black and white towns still remain though the inhabitants have mostly changed and the dividing Grand Canal has no more flowing water in it. The Promenade or beach road, though the original beach has been lost, is a ground for Indo-French joint cultural shows. There are still some 8000 French citizens who look to France more than India with all French facilities while remaining Indian. They attract spouses without dowry just for the allurement of French citizenship. They elect their representative to the French parliament. Roads are still named Rue Francois Martin and Rue de la Marine which are changed as the white town limit is crossed. Many speak French. Lycee Francaise, Alliance Francaise and Sri Aurobindo Ashram with French as the medium of teaching further the cause of the continuance of French. French food still allures the Puducherrians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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