Politics Of Renaming

Hinduising Heritage

Arup Kumar Sen

Very recently, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition which sought directions to the Centre to constitute a “renaming commission” for restoring the “original” names of places “renamed by barbaric foreign invaders.” The Court ruled that “a country cannot remain a prisoner of the past” and the “court should not be an instrument to create havoc.” A two-judge bench of Justices K M Joseph and B V Nagarathna came down heavily on the petitioner, Ashwini Upadhyay, saying that the country cannot be “kept on the boil” and “Hinduism does not allow bigotry.”The Bench questioned Upadhyay for selectively pointing fingers at only a particular section of society, and told: “You want to keep this as a live issue and keep the country on the boil? Fingers are pointed at a particular community. You are relooking at the past selectively. You run down a particular section of society. India is a secular country. Let us not break society with such kinds of petitions. Please keep the country in mind, not any particular religion.” (Quoted in The Telegraph, February 28, 2023; See also The Indian Express, February 28, 2023)

It should be mentioned in the above context that the well-known historic city in Uttar Pradesh (UP), Allahabad, was renamed as Prayagraj in October 2018 after the State Cabinet passed a resolution under the leadership of the Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath. It was reported that the Centre had approved the renaming of Allahabad as Prayagraj, a fortnight ahead of the ‘Kumbh Mela’, which began in the city in January 2019. Similarly, the proposal for renaming the iconic Mughalsarai Junction railway station as Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Junction, floated by the Yogi Adityanath government in UP, was later approved by the Centre. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, a prominent organiser of the RSS in UP and co-founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the forerunner of the BJP, was found dead in mysterious circumstances near the Mughalsarai railway station in 1968. Amit Shah, as the president of the BJP, inaugurated the renamed railway station in August 2018 and told: “Today is a very big day for the Bharatiya Janata Party as Mughalsarai station, where Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay was killed, has today been named after him”.

The above developments testify that the BJP governments at the Centre and in the State carry the agenda of changing place names having any connection with the Muslim heritage in India. Renaming such places carries the signature of politics of Hindutva. The recent verdict of the two-judge bench of the Supreme Court on the petition moved by Ashwini Upadhyay is a counterpoint to the dominant politics of renaming, being pursued by the BJP as an organic part of the politics of Hindutva.

Back to Home Page

Vol 55, No. 37, Mar 12 - 18, 2023