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Saturday, 23 December, 2000, 15:05 GMT
Calcutta's rebirth as Kolkata confirmed
Calcutta scene
Calcutta's new name reflects its Bengali history
The Indian Government has backed plans for the city of Calcutta to be readopt its pre-colonial Bengali name - Kolkata.

Supporters of the change say the change will help preserve the city's Bengali indentity.

The state government in West Bengal agreed unanimously last year to push for the change in name, and to rename the state itself Bangla.

Calcutta is the third of the country's four main cities to reject its colonial title: Bombay has become Mumbai and Madras is now Chennai.

Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa based her missionary work in the city
Only the Indian capital, Delhi, has retained its British name.

"The Government of India have, after careful consideration, accepted the proposal of the state government of West Bengal to change the name of the city of Calcutta to Kolkata," a statement said.

The demand for the renaming of Calcutta and West Bengal first erupted at the Bengali Language Demands Committee, attended by scores of Bengal's best writers, poets and cultural personalities.

They argued that the changes would preserve the distinct Bengali identity of the city and the state, and protect the Bengali language from the growing influence of Hindi.

Opinion divided

But other Bengalis say Calcutta's multicultural identity is its greatest asset - and warn that children in multi-racial India cannot afford to neglect English and Hindi in favour of Bengali.

When the state government voted for the move, opinion was deeply divided in the city.

An opinion poll in the Calcutta Telegraph last July showed 52% saying the renaming was not necessary, 38% saying it was, and the rest were undecided.

Calcutta, the capital of British-ruled India until 1911, was the home of missionary Mother Teresa, who died in 1997.

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