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Last Updated: Friday, 16 May, 2003, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK
Court changes Calcutta's history
Calcutta skyline
Many people in Calcutta have welcomed the court's decision

Calcutta's High Court has ruled that the country's history books must be rewritten after deciding that the city was not, after all, founded by an Englishman.

Historians have widely accepted that the city was founded when Job Charnock landed there on 24 August, 1690.

However, the High Court ruled on Friday that the city had grown over a period of time and that no particular date could be fixed for its birth.

The judges decided that no one person could be said to be its founder.

The BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta says many of its citizens have welcomed the verdict, saying it is in keeping with historical realities.

Noted historian

Only 13 years ago, Calcutta celebrated its 300th birthday with little attempt to play down its colonial past.

History books recorded Charnock's landing and his purchase of three villages - Kalikata, Sutanuti and Govindpur - from landlord Sabarna Ray Choudhury, thus giving birth to Calcutta.

High Court in Calcutta
The court's verdict has been accepted by the West Bengal Government

However, in the late 1990s moves were made to change Calcutta to the pre-colonial Bengal name of Kolkata and the switch came into effect in January 2001.

Then, nearly two years ago, nine people - including descendants of the landlord, Sabarna Choudhury - filed a case in the High Court challenging Charnock's status as the founder of Calcutta and the day of his landing as the city's founding date.

The chief justice of the High Court, AK Mathur, set up a five-member committee headed by noted historian Nemai Sadhan Bose to examine the issue.

The committee submitted its report in November last year and on Friday the High Court accepted the committee's findings.

It directed authorities to make changes in history books and other documents accordingly.

The West Bengal Government has accepted the verdict.

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