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India: Regions where Bengali is spoken, including Kolkata

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 20 January 2011
Citation / Document Symbol IND103675.E
Related Document Inde : information sur les régions où le bengali est parlé, notamment à Kolkata
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, India: Regions where Bengali is spoken, including Kolkata, 20 January 2011, IND103675.E, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Bengali is one of the official languages of India (US 3 Jan. 2011; India 2001a). Statistics from India's 2001 census indicate that there are 83,369,769 people whose first language is Bengali, accounting for 8.11 percent of India's population (ibid.). Only Hindi, which is the first language of 41 percent of India's population, is more common (ibid.; US 3 Jan. 2011). According to the 2001 census, 68,369,255 Bengali speakers, the majority, live in the state of West Bengal (India 2001b). However, there are Bengali speakers in all Indian states, and over one million speakers in the states of Tripura, Assam, and Jharkhand (ibid.).

Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta) is located in the Indian state of West Bengal (India 12 Nov. 2009). Kolkata reportedly has a diverse population (BBC 13 Jan. 2003; Kolkata n.d.; INDFY n.d.). According to the official website of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, the majority of the population of Kolkata speaks Bengali, which is the official language of Kolkata (India n.d.). According to a 2003 article by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 40 percent of Kolkata's residents do not speak Bengali as their mother tongue (BBC 13 Jan. 2003). Several sources indicate that other languages commonly used in Kolkata include English (ibid.; India n.d.; Kolkata n.d.; INDFY n.d.) and Hindi (ibid.; Kolkata n.d.; BBC 13 Jan. 2003). In addition, the website Kolkata indicates that Bhojpuri, Oriya and Urdu are also spoken in Kolkata (Kolkata n.d.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 13 January 2003. "Sign Language Decree in Calcutta." [Accessed 10 Jan. 2011]

India. 12 November 2009. Government of West Bengal. "West Bengal." <<> [Accessed 11 Jan. 2011]

_____. 2001a. Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner. "Census 2001: Statement 4. Scheduled Languages in Descending Order of Speakers' Strength - 2001" [Accessed 10 Jan. 2011]

_____. 2001b. Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner. "Part A: Distribution of the 22 Scheduled Languages - India/States/Union Territories - 2001 Census." [Accessed 10 Jan. 2011]

_____. N.d. Kolkata Municipal Corporation. "Basic Statistics." [Accessed 10 Jan. 2011]

India for You (INDFY). N.d. "Languages of West Bengal." [Accessed 7 Jan. 2011]

Kolkata N.d. "Facts and Figures about Kolkata." [Accessed 10 Jan. 2011]

United States (US). 3 January 2011. Central Intelligence Ageency (CIA). "India." The World Factbook. [Accessed 10 Jan. 2011]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Factiva.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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