Vol. XLII No. 46 November 18, 2018

Renaming for What?

ALONG with the revival of the issues of the Ram temple at Ayodhya, the BJP-RSS combine has opened a new front with communal intent. That is the renaming of cities and places which have a Muslim cultural lineage. The BJP government in Uttar Pradesh led by Adityanath, has gone on a name changing spree.  Allahabad, one of the foremost educational and cultural centres of Uttar Pradesh has been renamed officially as Prayagraj. On the eve of Diwali, Adityanath from Ayodhya announced that the district in which it is situated, Faizabad, will be renamed as Ayodhya district.  Earlier, Mughalsarai, the biggest railway junction in North India was renamed as Deen Dayal Upadhyaya junction. BJP leaders are demanding that Agra be renamed as Agravan and Muzaffarnagar as Laxminagar.

It is not the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh alone that is indulging in the renaming of cities. The Gujarat deputy chief minister has announced that the government is considering changing the name of Ahmedabad as “Karnawati”.

The sole purpose of changing the names of these cities and towns is to erase any impact of Muslims and their culture and contributions.  As per the RSS version of history, there was a thousand years of slavery which was Muslim rule.  Before that was the so-called golden age of the Hindus.  So, all the alien historical and cultural impact of these ten centuries should be eliminated. Thus, the city of Allahabad was founded during the time of Akbar.  There was no town called Prayagraj.  The place of the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers was called Prayag, which was outside the city that was founded. Yet, the entire history and culture associated with the name Allahabad has to be eliminated for the sake of a mythical town called Prayagraj.

Just as the anti-cow slaughter and anti-beef campaigns were meant to target the Muslims, the renaming of cities is meant to suppress the history of the composite culture and multi-religious character of our society.  It is not only the way you dress, eat, or the language you speak which is under attack, but the very history and identity of being a Muslim. 

This act of historical vandalism is being undertaken not by the mobs but by the government itself. It goes side by side with the rewriting of history and “cleaning” of culture.

These efforts to rake up the communal agenda are nothing but a desperate ploy to divert the attention of the people from the real issues. Faced with the all-round failure of the Modi government on all fronts, the BJP hopes that changing names will somehow change the reality.

(November 14, 2018)