RENAMING OF CITIES
Copyright infringement not intended
Context: The chief minister of Maharashtra announced that “Ahmednagar City” would be renamed “Ahilya Nagar”.
- Ahilyabai Holkar was an 18th-century ruler of the Holkar dynasty, who established her capital at Maheshwar in present-day Madhya Pradesh.
- She was known for her administrative skills, religious tolerance, patronage of arts and culture, and benevolence towards her subjects.
- She built numerous temples, ghats, wells, and forts across India, and also supported education and trade.
- She is widely regarded as one of the greatest women rulers in Indian history.
Renaming of Indian cities/States
- India is a country with a rich and diverse heritage, where different languages, religions, ethnicities and cultures coexist. One of the ways to reflect this diversity and identity is through the names of places, which often carry historical, cultural, religious or linguistic significance.
- Since India gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947, many places have been renamed, either to restore their original names or to honour certain personalities or events.
- The process of renaming places in India involves various steps and authorities, such as the state governments, the central government, the Survey of India, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Railways and the Ministry of External Affairs.
- The proposals for renaming have to be approved by all these agencies before they are officially notified and implemented.
Some examples of renamed places in India are:
Allahabad to Prayagraj
- The Uttar Pradesh government changed the name of Allahabad, which was given by the Mughal emperor Akbar, to Prayagraj, which means "the place of confluence of sacred rivers".
- The new name is based on the ancient name of Prayag, which is mentioned in Hindu scriptures as a holy site where three rivers - Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati - meet.
Faizabad to Ayodhya
- The Uttar Pradesh government also renamed Faizabad district and its headquarters to Ayodhya, which is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama, a revered Hindu deity.
- The name Faizabad was given by Nawab Saadat Ali Khan, who founded the city.
Bombay to Mumbai
- The Maharashtra government changed the name of Bombay, which was derived from the Portuguese term "Bom Bahia" meaning "good bay", to Mumbai, which is derived from the name of a local goddess Mumbadevi.
- The new name reflects the Marathi language and culture of the state.
Madras to Chennai
- The Tamil Nadu government changed the name of Madras, which was coined by the British from a corrupted version of Madraspatnam, a fishing village near Fort St. George, to Chennai, which is derived from Chennapattanam, another nearby village.
- The new name reflects the Tamil language and culture of the state.
Calcutta to Kolkata
- The West Bengal government changed the name of Calcutta, which was derived from Kalikata, one of the three villages that merged to form the city under British rule, to Kolkata, which is closer to the Bengali pronunciation of the name.
- The new name reflects the Bengali language and culture of the state.
What are the constitutional provisions for renaming places in India?
- The Constitution of India provides for the renaming of a state under Article 3.
- Article 3 empowers the Parliament to form new states and alter the areas, boundaries or names of existing states by law. However, before introducing a bill for this purpose, the President has to refer it to the concerned state legislature for expressing its views within a specified period.
- The views of the state legislature are not binding on the Parliament, but they have to be taken into consideration by it.
Procedure for renaming
- The procedure for renaming a state can be initiated by either the Parliament or the state legislature. If a state legislature passes a resolution for changing its name, it has to send it to the Central Government for approval.
- The Central Government then introduces a bill in the Parliament after obtaining the President's recommendation. The bill has to be passed by a simple majority in both Houses of Parliament.
- There is no specific constitutional provision for renaming a city or any other place in a state. However, there are some guidelines issued by the Central Government in 1953 regarding name alteration. According to these guidelines, any proposal for changing the name of a place has to be initiated by the state government and sent to the Central Government for approval.
- The Central Government considers various factors such as historical significance, public sentiment, linguistic affinity, administrative convenience and national integration before giving its consent.
Some of the principles that guide the Central Government in approving name changes are:
- The change should not involve a radical alteration of the existing name, but only a phonetic correction or transliteration.
- The change should not be based on communal or sectarian considerations but on common usage and popular will.
- The change should not create confusion or inconvenience for postal, railway or other services.
- The change should not affect adversely the interests of any other state or union territory.
The rationality behind Renaming Places
Correct the anglicised or distorted spellings of the original names
- One of the reasons for renaming places in India was to correct the anglicised or distorted spellings of the original names that were imposed by the British or other foreign rulers. For example, Jabalpur was respelled from Jubbulpore in 1947, Kanpur from Cawnpore in 1948, Vadodara from Baroda in 1974, and Thiruvananthapuram from Trivandrum in 1991.
- These changes aimed to restore the native pronunciation and meaning of the names that were lost or altered over time.
To assert the linguistic and cultural identity
- Another reason for renaming places in India was to assert the linguistic and cultural identity of the regions and communities that inhabited them. For example, Madras State was renamed Tamil Nadu in 1969 to reflect the predominance of the Tamil language and culture in the state.
- Similarly, Mysore State was renamed Karnataka in 1973 to represent the Kannada-speaking people of the state.
- Some cities also changed their names to match their local names in their respective languages, such as Mumbai from Bombay in 1995, Kolkata from Calcutta in 2001, and Chennai from Madras in 1996.
- An important reason for renaming places in India was to honour the historical, religious or political significance of certain figures or events associated with them. For example, Allahabad was renamed Prayagraj in 2018 to highlight its ancient name and its role as a sacred site for Hindu pilgrims. Similarly, Aurangabad was renamed Sambhajinagar to commemorate Sambhaji, the son of Maratha king Shivaji who fought against the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
- Some places also changed their names to pay tribute to national leaders or freedom fighters, such as Rajiv Chowk from Connaught Place in 1995, Indira Gandhi International Airport from Palam Airport in 1986, and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport from Dum Dum Airport in 1995.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Renaming a place name
- Renaming a place's name can have both positive and negative consequences depending on the context and perspective. Some of the possible advantages and disadvantages are:
- It can instil a sense of pride, dignity and belonging among the people who identify with the new name and feel connected to their roots and history.
- It can promote the recognition and preservation of the local culture, language and traditions that may otherwise be overshadowed or marginalized by dominant or external influences.
- It can attract more tourists, investors and development opportunities to the region by creating a unique brand identity and highlighting its distinctive features and attractions.
- It can foster social harmony and integration by respecting the sentiments and aspirations of different communities and groups who live in or are associated with the region.
- It can create confusion, inconvenience and cost for the people who have to adapt to the new name and update their official documents, records and maps accordingly.
- It can trigger resentment, opposition and conflict among the people who do not agree with or accept the new name and feel alienated or offended by it.
- It can undermine the historical continuity and legacy of the region by erasing or altering its original name which may have a rich or significant meaning or association.
- It can divert attention and resources from more pressing issues and problems that affect the region such as poverty, unemployment, education, health, infrastructure etc.
Renaming places in India is not a straightforward process. It involves various challenges such as:
- The renaming of a place requires approval from both the state government and the central government as per Articles 3 & 4 of The Constitution of India.
- The state government has to pass a resolution in its legislative assembly proposing the new name and send it to the central government for its consent.
- The central government has to consult various ministries such as Home Affairs, defence, external affairs etc. before giving its approval.
- The whole process can take several months or years depending on various factors such as political will, public opinion, bureaucratic hurdles etc.
- The renaming of a place entails a lot of administrative work such as changing signboards, stationery, stamps, currency notes etc.
- It also requires coordination among various departments such as railways, postal services, airports etc. to ensure uniformity and accuracy in using the new name.
- The whole process can incur a lot of expenditure and manpower for both the state government and the central government
- The renaming of a place can have social implications such as affecting the identity, emotions and sentiments of the people who live in or are associated with the region.
- It can also create divisions, disputes and controversies among different communities, groups and parties who may have different views, preferences and interests regarding the new name.
- The whole process can require a lot of consultation, dialogue and consensus-building among various stakeholders to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition.
Renaming places in India is a sensitive and complex issue that requires a balanced and pragmatic approach. Some possible ways forward are:
- Renaming places that have names derived from colonial rulers, foreign invaders or historical figures who are seen as oppressive or antagonistic by some sections of the society should be done with due respect and acknowledgement of their role and contribution in shaping the history and culture of India.
- Renaming such places should not be seen as an act of revenge, hatred or denial, but rather as an act of restoration, reconciliation and recognition.
- Renaming places that have names that are not reflective of the local language, culture or sentiments of the people should be done with due consideration and consultation of their wishes, aspirations and opinions.
- Renaming such places should not be seen as an act of imposition, domination or homogenization, but rather as an act of expression, diversity and autonomy.
- Renaming places that have names that are used as symbols of political ideology, agenda or affiliation should be done with due caution and moderation of their impact, implications and consequences.
- Renaming such places should not be seen as an act of manipulation, polarization or provocation, but rather as an act of representation, participation and cooperation.
- Renaming places in India is a complex and sensitive issue that requires careful deliberation and consensus among all stakeholders. While respecting the wishes and emotions of the people, it is also important to consider the practical and legal aspects of such changes. Ultimately, renaming should serve the larger interest of national unity and harmony.
Must Read Articles:
Creation/Abolition of Districts in India: https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/creationabolition-of-districts-in-india
Q. How does renaming cities in India affect the cultural and political identity of the people? What are the pros and cons of changing the place names that have historical and colonial associations? What are the challenges faced by the government and the public in implementing and accepting the new names? What are the possible solutions to address these challenges and ensure a smooth transition?