“Let BJP leaders change their Islamic names like Shah before they change names of cities” says Historian Irfan Habib

In an apparent dig at the latest renaming strategy of the Bharatiya Janata Part (BJP), historian Irfan Habib, in a jibe, says names such as Manushi, Majumdar and Shah have Islamic origins, agency report said. The name changing spree of the BJP had drawn flak from several quarters, including the civil society as well as politicians, more particularly the Islamic sounding names. Many felt that the BJP leaders should initially change their own names, before embarking on the mission of renaming and polarisation attempts, especially when the Lok Sabha election is round the corner, as many of these names have Islamic origin. Even the BJP’s alliese have reacted against the renaming ploy of the BJP, noted the PTI report.

Speaking against the renaming, a Minister from Uttar Pradesh alleged that it betrays the BJP’s need to divert attention from the needs of opressed sections of society. The party has a national spokesman, Shahnawaz Hussain, Union Minister, Mukthar Abbas Naqvi, UP Minister Mohsin Raza. They should change their names ‘first’, Om Prakash Rajbhar, Minister and the Chief of SBSP, whose head, Chief Minister Yogi Adiyanath has changed the names of Allahabad, Faiabad and Mughalsarai in the recent past.

To a pointed question on the name of BJP President, Amit Shah, the 87 year old historian, Habib said, “Shah is a Farsi word and not a Sanskrit term. If they have to change names, they should change their own names first and then change the names of cities. It may be recalled that Amit Shah had called for renaming of Mughalsarai station, a proposal that had triggered a controversy in Parliament. Also, there are calls to change the name of Agra – which has monuments like Taj Mahal and a well-known tourist hub – to Agravan or Agrawal. The BJP MP Sangeet Som had alleged in the Muzaffarnagar violence, wants the name of Muzafarnagar to be changed to Laxmi Nagar. The name of Faizabad is already replaced by Ayodhya last week, while Allahabad has been renamed Prayagraj and Mughalsarai Railway Station has been rechristened after BJP ideologue, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay.

Vijay Rupani, the Chief Minister of Gujarat opined that the name of Ahmedabad will also be changed to Karnavati before the Lok Sabha polls in 2019. Nevertheless, the UP CM Adiyanath hasn’t responded to Rajbhar’s remarks, but added: “I did what I felt right and I promise to keep it up.”

Genesis

The renaming fad kick-started with metros across India. Bombay became Mumbai, Madras was changed to Chennai, Calcutta was renamed as Kolkata and Bangalore to Bengaluru. While renaming, the respective governments of the day justified the renaming by stating that they were merely renaming just to revert to the pre-British heritage. The renaming spree continued with changing the names of roads in the national capital, especially, those named after Mughal emperors. For instance, in 2015, Aurangzeb Road was rechristened to Dr APJ Adul Kalam, nevertheless a clever ploy. Also in the same year, VK Singh, Union Minister sent a letter to the Goverment suggest that Akbar Road or any other road in Lutyen’s Delhi be named after Maharana Pratap, the iconic Rajput king.

The Vice President, Venkiah Naidu, when he was Union Minister of Urban Development said that the goverment was not involved in such proposals as its focus was on development, not naming and renaming of the streets. But in May 2018, a signboard came up on Akbar Road, which read “Maharana Pratap Road.” Apparently, the sign board was removed by the police.

Heramb Chaturvedi, professor of medieval and modern history at the Allahabad University was quoted as saying by the report, “You cannot jump from ancient to modern (age) and that too contemporary – 2014 on wards. You can’t move from 8th Century to 21st Century directly. The interceding centuries have to be taken into account. You have to talk in terms of development of human society.”