Compulsive name changers

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Nov 8, 2018, 7:15 am IST
Updated Nov 8, 2018, 7:15 am IST
The pattern is indicative of a wish to rub out any remnant of the historical Mughal rule.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath
 Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose /By any other name would smell as sweet,” Juliet said to her star-crossed lover Romeo. The bard’s lyrical tale of love ends in tragedy. Things could be somewhat different in India where compulsive changing of names of places is the biggest game going on at the moment. The aim of a lot of the current exercise is political although the BJP-led initiatives in Uttar Pradesh is not the first to shake up the country in an effort to obliterate or rewrite history, be it Mughal or British colonial. The names of three major cities have undergone changes with Bombay giving way to Mumbai, Madras becoming Chennai and Calcutta transforming into Kolkata, each change representing a bid to claim political space though language or cultural chauvinism. Karnataka had been through a massive exercise too, but with phonetic changes to accommodate Kannada rather than drastic rubbing out of history as in Bangalore becoming Bengaluru.

The Yogi-administered Uttar Pradesh is on a name changing spree, with the ‘Abode of God’ Allahabad making way for Prayagraj and Faizabad district borrowing the moniker of its biggest town Ayodhya. This is somewhat infectious as a proposal is also in the air to change Ahmedabad into Karnavati. The pattern is indicative of a wish to rub out any remnant of the historical Mughal rule, which process panders to the whims and wishes of victors emerging from a consolidation of Hindu votes. It is moot whether name changes will attract the voters by kindling some religious switch in the majority community. Of great concern in all this is the innate divisiveness along religious lines, which is unlikely to do much for amity in the ancient land whose Lutyens-inspired capital has remained New Delhi — small mercies.

 

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