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The centuries-old link between China and West Bengal has come alive in this Lok Sabha election after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress decided to campaign in Chinese in several parts of Kolkata. The idea is to cater to nearly 2,000 voters in the Tangra area of South Kolkata constituency by communicating with them in their mother tongue.

Leaflets are being printed in Chinese along with graffiti walls in the city. "Vote for Trinamool Congress" slogan has suddenly appeared on various walls of the city in Chinese, not to the surprise of many locals. But this is certainly for the first time that any party has campaigned in a foreign language during the Lok Sabha polls.

China-praising slogans had earlier appeared in Bengali script in 1960-70 when the ultra-left leaders painted the walls of Kolkata with the slogan "Chiner chairman amader chairman" (China's chairman is our chairman)." The graffiti wall painting and canvassing style of campaigning are slowly returning to the city even in the age of social media and digitisation.

Local Trinamool Congress councillor Faiz Khan told Hindustan Times that they are planning to distribute leaflets in Chinese during various street corner meetings among the voters."If our candidate has time, we would also organise a street corner meeting, where our message will be delivered in the Chinese language. There are about 2,000 voters of Chinese origin in this part of Kolkata," he added.

The Chinese locals in the area said that they haven't heard of any party campaigning in Chinese before and this initiative is certainly going to send a strong message to the small community and foster the good cultural relationship between them and the rest of the population.

The Tangra area of South Kolkata also famously called China Town has its history rooted in the late 18th century when several businessmen from China came to Kolkata to set up sugar refining mills. Later, many Chinese nationals also established tanneries, eateries, dentistry, piggeries and laundries. 

Mamata Banerjee
In picture: Mamata BanerjeeReuters File Photo

The Chinese settlements also came at around the same time. The 1951 census estimated the Count of China population in Kolkata at around 5,710. Till recently, China Town hosted many tanneries, which were recently moved to the city outskirts following a Supreme Court order on the ensuing stench from these industries.