What’s in a name? A long time ago Shakespeare spoke these words through Juliet and completely ridiculed the idea of an existing barrier that came in the way of love and harmony. Juliet, who fell for Romeo and made an epic love story, kept her intentions unchanged after the name reveal.
After more than four hundred years of the writer’s death, amidst the progressive age, the definition seems altered. The unplanned and non-beneficiary alteration in government documents is a joy for the authority. Suiting the secular approach of the office bearers, names of several places are being changed and more to be changed in the coming years in Uttar Pradesh.
The people of Uttar Pradesh are provided with development by ‘change in name of places’. Rising petrol prices, poverty and rape cases may not be an issue of importance for the Secularist Chief Minister but the Alteration of names is. It has been almost three years to the circus but the Master is never tired and comes up with a new trick.
In the year 2017, the people of Allahabad woke up only to find out their year-long addresses had been changed by the government. Reason being that it was named so by a tyrant. The same one who founded the Taj Mahal. After long explanations by the representatives of the ruling party on television, the issue was dismissed and the residents of Allahabad unwillingly became the residents of Prayagraj.
“We were simply surprised at first and for some time we thought it was just a rumour but later when we switched on the TV we knew it was the truth. There were no happy faces around in the neighbourhood and deep down we were crying too” says a twenty-four years old, who was in the first year of his graduation when the incident happened.
With crushing emotions widely the Minister said “Did what felt right, will keep it up!” In an interview, this might sound unjust and crushing but it is the reality that is faced by the people of Uttar Pradesh. People thought it to be a one-time thing but it was like a carousel and did not stop turning.
Faizabad changed to Ayodhya, Mughalsarai to Deendayal Nagar. Not only cities were targeted but Hazratganj (a famous colony in the city of Lucknow) was changed to Atal Chowk. Recently when the appeals for changing the name of Aligarh and Miyaganj were submitted, not an eye blinked. The government is a bit hesitant to put out the real reason but for anyone who has known the government of Uttar Pradesh and its intentions, the reason is crystal clear.
“I was in Hazratganj at that time and I could see people with orange flags in their hands, shouting slogans as if they had won a battle they had longed for. I still don’t know what good has been brought by that? The metro station is still named the same. What does it signify?” says a nineteen-year-old who was returning from her coaching class when Hazratganj was renamed.
One thing which is common in all these names is the Muslim sounding factor. Allahabad has Allah, Faizabad- Faiz, Hazratganj-Hazrat, Aligarh- Ali. The discourse may turn complex if the present-day names of the places are brought to light, portraying the intentions clearly.
Ironically 2017, thirty-two page, UP election manifesto did talk about new job opportunities, reduced poverty rates and development in the education sector. But the people of Uttar Pradesh were benefited hardly with any. The public is agitated that the next contender can win with a majority vote in the state elections if they have the agenda “to restore names changed by the previous government” in their manifesto.
Hence, for Juliet name may not be a weapon to divide but today for some it is the only basis of politics and the mightiest weapon. What if the people who are unhappy with these acts, actually choose a Minister who only claims to restore the names? This might become a chain process and Uttar Pradesh can see an unending tussle for names in the coming year.
What do you think, what’s in a name?
Syed Taqui Haider is pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Malaika M Khan