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Carla Contratcor in Kolkata
Carla Contractor is a well known personality in Bristol. To the uninitiated she is an academic, historian and guardian of the tomb of Raja Rammohun Roy. Carla is one of the Trustees of the Arnos Vale cemetery - where Rammohun Roy was interred in 1843. Carla has led a tireless campaign to restore the mausoleum of Raja Rammohun Roy in Arnos Vale, Bristol. The woman who has made Rammohun passion and her dream.

Carla was in Kolkata as the guest of the Mayor of Kolkata Corporation - Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya. The Mayor turned up in Bristol during his recent visit to and promised to get funds for the tomb's repair.

The Mayor said, "We are indebted to this lady who has played an important role in preserving the heritage of the son of Bengal". According to Bhattacharya, the cost of repairing the mausoleum would be around Rs 70 to Rs 80 lakh. While the mayor conceded that the mausoleum has to be restored, he pointed out that the cost cannot be borne by a single party. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) will try to rope in the Central government, the state government and the external affairs ministry to provide funds for repair work. The Mayor was accompanied by the Municipal Commissioner, Alapon Bandopadhyay on this tour. The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (CMC) has started an escrow fund exclusively for the upkeep of heritage buildings. Carla believes that there should be three signatories with this amount of which Rajat Bagchi, Minister (Coordination) at the High Commission and Carla form the two trustees.

Carla was also instrumental in getting the statue of Rammohun Roy given by the Indian government to the city in memory of his life installed on the College Green. The statue, built by the famous Kolkata-based sculptor Niranjan Pradhan, was installed in 1997 on the 50th anniversary of India's independence during L.M. Singhvi's tenure as the Indian high commissioner. The statue was inspired by Roy's portrait done by Henry P. Briggs. The statue is 8.5 feet high, made of bronze and weighs approximately 900 kg. It cost 13,000.

However, installing the statue generated much controversy over the years, with some Bristol residents questioning why a non-Bristolian should be accorded such a privilege. It upset people who consider that the move was simply a symbolic act by politically correct councillors who felt guilty about the British Raj and who wanted to win over the small minority of Asian voters in Bristol.

George Croft of Mangotsfield wrote in the Bristol Evening Post, a prominent local daily: "The Raja means nothing at all to the majority of Bristolians; he did nothing for the city and his statue has no place in its present location."For those who wish to honour his memory properly, the best place for the statue would be at the cemetery itself, rather than in such a prominent place."

Some Bristol residents would like the statue to be replaced by one of actor Cary Grant or technocrat Isambard Kingdom Brunel who had closer links with Bristol.

However, a member of the committee that recommended that Rammohun Roy's statue be installed refuted the reasons and asked Croft to "read more about the Raja and his life's work for India and Britain". "He was an international figure, a builder of bridges between races and religions, an educational and social reformer, a fighter for women's rights and a man of courage. Bristol was surely right to honour such a man in this city where he died."

Joel Lewis of Horfield was angered by Croft's suggestion that the statue be moved to the Asian-dominated areas of Easton or Eastville where the Asian community could honour him.

Lewis asked: "Does Croft think that only the Asian community can really appreciate Roy's achievements? I find that incredibly patronising. Can only Black people appreciate the achievements of Martin Luther King? The suggestion to move the statue on these grounds smacks of cultural segregation."

Rammohun Roy's greatness blurs national boundaries, as per Carla and this helped her convince Bristol residents to support her venture. She took steps to restore the tomb when the owner of the cemetery decided to sell it out for real estate development. "I persuaded the mayor not to permit its sale and it was saved," she said. To her Rammohun is a courageous, wonderful and humanitarian man. He had a major impact on the women's rights and made pleas for religious tolerance and inter - faith respect which is not out of place today. He was a brilliant businessman, educationist and political pioneer - a man of letters and languages and somebody who commanded respect wherever he went. Throughout Indian and beyond people are still reaping the benefits of the social reforms that he pioneered. His new branch of Hinduism removed idolatry and child marriage amongst other key reforms.

Carla reckons that it will take 100,000 for the whole project. 55,000 will go towards the renovation of the tomb. Besides this they will create a small maintenance fund and support the integration of his life and work into the Arnos Vale Education Programme.

Breakdown
Restoration                       £55,000
Education Programme        £25,000 (£5,000 pa for five years)
Maintenance Endowment    £20,000

Vision
  • place the life and work of Raja Rammohun Roy at the centre of an education programme for schools and the public.
  • restore the chattri (tomb) and provide funding for its long term maintenance.
  • provide a central point at Arnos Vale for a growing collection of documents and artifacts relating to the Raja.
  • comtinue hosting the major annual commemoration and pilgrimage to the mausoleum each September.
Funding
We are seeking £100,000 to restore the Raja's tomb, create a small maintenance fund and support the integration of his life and work into the Arnos Vale Education Programme.

For Donations & Information contact:
Mrs Carla Contractor - Trustee
Arno's Vale Cemetery Trust
The West Lodge
Bath Road
Brislington
Bristol
BS4 3EW
Phone : +44 0117 971 9117
Fax  : +44 0117 971 5505
Email : people@arnosvale.org.uk
Web : http://www.arnosvale.org.uk
Arnos Vale Cemetry Trust Charity Registered No: 1089027