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Indian born of Chinese origin — Kolkata’s Chinatown is stuck between Covid and Galwan


Kolkata: They’ve been nicknamed ‘corona’, nobody comes to their restaurants as much and they seem to have entered an unspoken agreement to stay out of most people’s way.

This is how life has been for some weeks now for the 5,000-strong community in Kolkata’s Chinatown, the country’s only Chinese settlement.

The early settlers of the community came to India around 70 years ago. But nearly three generations have since been born and raised here.

Nevertheless, since the violent Galwan Valley clash between India and China 10 days ago, members of the community have mostly stayed indoors, jittery and scared of public anger turning against them.

“We are voters here and most of us were born and brought up here. But there are some uneducated bunch of hooligans, who do not know history and culture … call us names. They shout slogans when they see us and ask us to go back,” said 65-year-old Chinatown resident, Lee Yao Sien, who runs two tanneries. Freddy Liao, a restaurant owner, posted on Facebook: “Indian-Chinese people have been living in India for generations and we are more attached with Indian people,” as he appealed to people to not treat them differently.

Chinatown, a neighbourhood located on the eastern fringe of Kolkata, is home to authentic Chinese cuisine and was once the hub of eastern India’s best Chinese leather products. Over 40 Chinese restaurants, many small eateries and Chinese speciality sauce factories now dot the locality while exclusive leather processing units, including around 350 tanneries, were relocated to the Calcutta Leather Complex (CLC) in Bantala area, South 24 Parganas district.

Tannery owners also claimed that shipment of Chinese materials were being blocked by the customs department, though officials denied the claim.

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