Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Race Course Road to Lok Kalyan Marg: How name changes are still on top of political agenda

The government on Wednesday renamed Delhi’s Race Course Road to Lok Kalyan Marg. The latest decision was taken by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation in agreement with the Delhi government. According to BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi, the name Race Course Road “conveys a feeling of disassociation and it can’t be the inspiration for any PM”.

This is not the first time that the government has gone for the renaming of an existing structure. Despite criticism for depriving people with the sense of history, the government first renamed the Aurangzeb Road to Abdul Kalam Road and successfully changed Gurgaon to Gurugram. The renaming of Aurangzeb Road took place on the recommendation of BJP’s Mahesh Girri who said that Mughal ruler Aurangzeb was a cruel figure in history and does not deserve to be remembered in this way.

A month after changing Gurgaon to Gurugram, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar also pushed for changing Akbar Road in Delhi to Maharana Pratap Road in “recognition to his valour and spirit of secularism”. However, the suggestion was ignored as critics highlighted that Maharana Pratap Road already existed in Delhi’s Karol Bagh area. Many also dismissed the suggestion to rename Akbar Road as a product “warped communal mind”. And if the name change on the communal lines is stretched further, they suggested, we might get new names for Allahabad, Faridabad, Hyderabad, Ferozeshah Kotla, and many more.

However, the name changing is not synonymous with the BJP government only. As per a report published in The Hindu in 2015, the Delhi government had proposed to rename Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone (LBZ) to the Imperial City of New Delhi. According to the report, the proposal was mooted with an eye on the efforts to earn ‘heritage tag’ for the area from the UNESCO.

Beside the road and cities, the Madras, Bombay and Calcutta High Courts also got new names following the recommendation of the state cabinets. The Union Cabinet approved the Law Ministry proposal to change the names of the three high courts through an Act of Parliament to correspond to the present names of the cities Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

West Bengal too shrugged of its history when state cabinet adopted a resolution to make it Bengal in English and Bangla or Banga in Bengali. The argument behind the name change was that senior bureaucrats and politicians from the state often complained that they were attended to at the end of high-level meetings in Delhi where representatives were called in accordance with the alphabetical order of their states. If the eastern state gets the new name, it will leapfrog from bottom of the list to the top of the pecking order.

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