Why is India on a renaming spree?
Updated 22:57, 16-Nov-2018
Khushboo Razdan
What's in a name?
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose… by any other name would smell as sweet…" when William Shakespeare wrote these lines in the 16th century for his popular play "Romeo and Juliet", he wouldn't have imagined people debating the importance of "a name" in the 21st century and how it would become crucial to the identity of a nation which is over 2,000 years old.
According to a latest report by Indian news agency, Press Trust of India, in the last year alone, the Indian government has given consent to rename at least 25 cities and landmarks across the country, and there are many such proposals still pending.
In August, Uttar Pradesh, a state in northern India, renamed India's busiest railway station – Mughalsarai Junction – to Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Junction, named after a leading ideologue from the Jan Sangh, the ruling BJP's predecessor party. On February 11, 1968, the leader was found dead in mysterious circumstances near the station. 
Image Courtesy: Indiarailinfo.com, Odishastory.com

Image Courtesy: Indiarailinfo.com, Odishastory.com

Last week, the chief minister of the state, Yogi Adityanath, renamed the city of Allahabad to Prayagraj and the district of Faizabad to Ayodhya. "Ayodhya is a symbol of honor, pride, and prestige," Yogi said while announcing the new name. 
Just two days ago, a state legislator wrote a request to the chief minister demanding to change the name of Agra, the city known for the iconic Taj Mahal, to Agravan or Agrawal. Another BJP leader Vinay Katiyar even wants to rename Taj Mahal to Tejo Mahalya, claiming that the iconic monument was formerly a Hindu temple.
Another lawmaker from the ruling BJP, Sangeet Som, has demanded that the city of Muzaffarnagar should be renamed after the Hindu goddess of wealth Laxmi, to Laxmi Nagar.
"We are only correcting the mistakes committed in the past," said Shrikanth Sharma, a spokesperson of the Uttar Pradesh government, while speaking with news agency ANI.
But renowned historian S. Irfan Habib, while speaking to CGTN Digital, challenged this view. "You can't interpret history on the basis of what suits your political agenda today," he said, adding that "What are they trying to restore? Allahabad was established by the Mughals, the city never existed before the Mughals came to India."
The iconic Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh. /VCG Photo 

The iconic Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh. /VCG Photo 

However, the rechristening drive is not only restricted to the state of Uttar Pradesh, others too are proposing similar changes. 
In the northern state of Bihar, BJP lawmaker and union minister for micro, small and medium enterprises, Giriraj Singh, has demanded that all place names associated with Mughals in the country should be changed. "India is free now and we should not retain names associated with Mughal rulers," Singh told reporters on October 23.
"General renaming is not wrong but this is targeted renaming, they are trying to rewrite history in their own way, that's not right," Habib told CGTN Digital.
As for the states sending renaming proposals for the center's approval, the government told Parliament in March that the highest number of requests had come from BJP-ruled Rajasthan and Haryana.
Rakesh Sinha, BJP MP in the upper house of the parliament while speaking to CGTN Digital said, "It's not renaming, it's going to back to the original, these cities were forcefully renamed by invaders, and we are just restoring the history."
Indian devotees immerse an idol of Hindu god Ganesha near Sangam in Prayagraj, earlier Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, September 24, 2018. /VCG Photo

Indian devotees immerse an idol of Hindu god Ganesha near Sangam in Prayagraj, earlier Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, September 24, 2018. /VCG Photo

"It's not just the BJP, all political parties even the Congress renamed cities and streets after their leaders but that does not help the people," Swati Chaturvedi, Senior Journalist and Political Analyst told CGTN Digital. 
"They are trying to change the fact that the Mughals ruled India and in fact, they were good rulers who built cities. It's the government's way of diverting attention from its failures," Chaturvedi added.
But people associated with the ruling BJP reject these charges. "It's not about the Mughals or any other religion for that matter, there's nothing called replacing the names, it's restoration of names of cities in order to align with the glory and identity of the past," said Vinit Goenka, former national co-convener IT Cell, BJP while speaking with CGTN Digital. 
"Diversity is India's strength, we have flourished in diversity and now they are trying to homogenize India but in that process, you're making parts of India disappear," said Habib.
"I would like to invite people who are opposing this move as anti-Muslim to visit Ayodhya with me, not a single Muslim is against the decision because that's the real name of the district for ages," said Goenka.