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Kolkata says NO to Bandh

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By Arnab Mitra

Yesterday, there was hardly anybody supporting the 12-hour strike called by the Congress party in West Bengal against the recent death of a Chatra Parishad worker, Krishna Prasad Jana – a BA 3rd year student of Sajanikanta Mahavidyalaya, in West Midnapore District.

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There were some minor disturbances reported in pockets of West Bengal, where Congress Party has a stronghold like Murshidabad, Malda, Sabang and other areas of North Bengal.

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In Behrampore, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury opened his shirt in protest against the lathi charge by police to his men. The style of the protest attracted a scathing criticism from all corners of the society including his own party members.

Image India Express
Image India Express

Life in Kolkata was normal like any other day. In the morning, there were some disturbances reported in the areas of Howrah Maidan, Sealdah, and Burrabazar, raising the question – did people support the strike?

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‘Livelihood Creation in India’ : The Socio-economic well being of Women through West Bengal’s Murshidabad Handlooms

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Women weaving , Wikimedia

Murshidabad, Jan 20, 2017: Handloom weaves have breathed a new lease of life in vulnerable women in West Bengal’s Murshidabad who would otherwise be at the risk of being trafficked thanks to a livelihood-creation project taken up by Harvard University’s South Asia Initiative (SAI) in collaboration with Tata Trusts.

Freeset Fabrics, an NGO working in Murshidabad, was selected by SAI as one of the six social enterprises that were given grants and support for rural livelihood creation in the Indian crafts sector.

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This is part of an 18-month project named ‘Livelihood Creation in India’.

“Our objective of supporting the NGO is livelihood creation in poor rural communities of Murshidabad for vulnerable women who would otherwise be at risk of trafficking into prostitution, bonded labour or migration,” said Shashank Shah, Project Director and Fellow Harvard University SAI.

The other five social enterprises that also received grants are Women Weave from Madhya Pradesh, Kumaun Grameen Udyog (KGU) from Uttarakhand, Craftizen Foundation from Karnataka, Chitrika from Andhra Pradesh and Raah Foundation from Maharashtra.

They have chosen handloom textiles to build on a tradition that was once thriving in this area but which has declined over recent decades, Shah added.

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The core theme of the project focuses on three key areas: rural livelihood creation through emphasis on the handicrafts and handloom sectors, educational, social and economic empowerment of women and science and technology-based social entrepreneurship.

“As part of this program, budding social entrepreneurs and crafts enterprises in India applied for social innovation grants totaling Rs 50 lakh, to stimulate interventions and scale up existing initiatives that can lead to greater impact in select geographies,” a statement said. (IANS)

 

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Sheherwalis: The Bankers of Bengal who faded into oblivion after Partition

The Sheherwalis culture began after Manikchand became the first banker of Murshidabad and acquired the title of ‘jagat seth’ meaning banker of the world

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A Jain Temple in Murshidabad. Image Source: Panoramio.com
  • Sheherwalis first came to settle in the fertile land of Bengal about 300 years back
  • The community played a significant role in establishment of the first jute mill in the region and leaded major business organizations across Bengal
  • The architecture of the 14 Jain temples in Murshidabad, constructed by the members of the community, also points to the community’s rich cultural heritage

While it was about 300 years back that the Sheherwalis first came to settle in the fertile land of Bengal, they have certainly left an indelible mark on its culture and tradition.

It all started when Manikchand, a rich Jain merchant migrated from the barren deserts of Rajasthan and encouraged Murshid Quli Khan, who later became the first Nawab of Bengal, to leave Dhaka and find a city with his name on the banks of the Hoogly.

Thereafter, the village of Maksudabad was transformed into a city named Murshidabad in 1717. After which, Manikchand became the Nawab’s personal banker.

The Sheherwalis culture began after Manikchand became the first banker of Murshidabad and acquired the title of ‘jagat seth’ meaning banker of the world, reported The Hindu.

Though the Nawabs of Murshidabad did not enjoy a long history and suffered a major blow with the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the culture of Sheherwalis continued to flourish.

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Manikchand also invited a number of  Jain families to settle in Murshidabad, and in the nearby  twin cities of Azimganj and Ziaganjj. And this is how, the Nahars, Dudhorias, Dugars, Nowlakhas, Singhis and Kotharis among other such communities settled in the area.

An opulent dinner in a Sheherwali home. Image source: Special Arrangement by The Hindu
An opulent dinner in a Sheherwali home. Image source: Special Arrangement by The Hindu

These new settlers also started adopting the native ways of living, including food, attire, customs and language and added to evolving a community different from the Marwaris.

Pradip Chopra, a Kolkata-based entrepreneur noted that Sheherwalis were discreet investors and so made a lot of money. Over a period of time, they came to be known as one among the wealthiest sections of Bengal.

Chopra further said, the Sheherwalis used to live in huge mansions, which were often designed by architects from England and France. In fact, the architecture of the 14 temples constructed by the Jain community in Murshidabad reflects the rich cultural heritage of the community.

“They were essentially bankers who introduced a system of doing transaction with hundis, or promissory notes, instead of actual money. It should be remembered that the entire revenue from Bengal, the most prosperous province during the time, was sent to the Mughal emperor through such hundis and was worth 20 million silver coins. Manikchand made a lot of money in the process,” he added.

The Sheherwali were also the chief moneylenders of the region. According to a document, they also gave money to the Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, who used to finance companies from France, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Britain, as well as some Indian Nawabs.

The community played a significant role in the establishment of the first jute mill in the region and leaded major business organizations across Bengal.

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Over the years, they emerged as one of the wealthiest communities of Bengal. The architecture of the 14 Jain temples in Murshidabad, constructed by the members of the community, also points to the community’s rich cultural heritage.

Apart from the industries, Sheherwalis immensely contributed to philanthropic works like funding the establishment of colleges and hospitals in Murshidabad.

Another interesting aspect of Sheherwalis culture is the influence of Bengali cuisine on their vegetarian food. Their use of ‘paanch phoron’ and adoption of ‘pitha’ are some of the examples of the community’s affinity for Bengali food.

Bengal immensely influenced Sheherwalis’ attire as well. The men simply wore kurta and dhoti along with a pagri (headgear) resembling that of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and pump shoes instead of their traditional Rajasthani attire.

The women switched to sarees but had their own unique style of draping it.

Though this community in East Pakistan (present Bangladesh) became disoriented and scattered after Partition, they are now struggling to orient the younger generation with their rich cultural past.

-prepared by Bulbul Sharma, a staff-writer at NewsGram. Twitter handle: iBulbul_

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Sacrilege of Sikh holy book: Shutdown in Punjab areas

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Police out side open markets during Punjab Band in Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar on Wednesday, September 30 2015. Express photo by Jasbir Malhi

Chandigarh: Commercial and other establishments in some places in Punjab remained shut on Thursday following a bandh call given by some Sikh organisations to protest against the desecration of the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, and the violence on Wednesday that left two people dead and several others injured.

Sources said that the effect of the shutdown could be seen in Faridkot, Muktsar and some parts of Moga districts.

Sikh organisations protesting the desecration of the Sikh holy book and the subsequent violence in some places this week called the bandh (shutdown).

At least two people were killed and nearly 70 injured, including police officials, on Wednesday in bloody clashes between police and Sikhs protesting against the desecration of the Sikh holy book, near Kotkapura town in Punjab’s Faridkot district, 230 km from here.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal ordered a judicial probe into the desecration of the Sikh holy book and the violence later.

Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal on Wednesday announced a Rs 1 crore reward to anyone giving information about those involved in the desecration of Guru Granth Sahib at Bargari village in Faridkot district.

(IANS)