Alvida Allahabad, Pranaam Prayagraj! But What’s the Point?
“Let’s wait for this democracy to become a theocracy.”
Once again, we have moved a step closer towards Sanskritisation and Hinduisation of yet another city. On Tuesday, 16 October, Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath cleared the proposal for renaming the city Allahabad to ‘Prayagraj’.
The news of retitling the city has been doing the rounds ever since Adityanath came to power. It was only last Saturday that Adityanath on his two-day visit, hinted about renaming Allahabad.
Allahabad is popularly known for Triveni Sangam – the confluence of two rivers — the Ganges and the Yamuna (and the mythical Saraswati river). In ancient times, the city was called Prayaga, which was later renamed by Akbar as Allahabad.
It is very nice of Adityanath to stand up for reclaiming the Hindu identity, there is still no evidence of how it would help in rejuvenating the extremely polluted Ganga that flows along the city.
One guess is that Adityanath might think, if the city is renamed to its ancient name, he would be able to leave a legacy behind which would appeal to the conservative voter base and would help him win successive elections. But our chief minister has forgotten that the seat he held for 19 years was lost to another party months after he came to power.
What would work to increase his vote bank is if he focuses more on infrastructure. But I must admit, he is doing that. What would be good is if he makes some structural changes in the Allahabad Development Authority (ADA), which is rampant with corruption.
Like any other medium-size city, Allahabad too has problems of the same kind: poverty, underdeveloped infrastructure, roads, sewers, crime rate, etc.
What Allahabad also lacks is opportunities for students. Besides three to four government institutions, there aren’t institutions which could provide quality higher education. I, myself, have to travel to the closest city, Delhi, to pursue internships to gain experience.
Renaming the city would also mean we need to rename two other important landmarks: Allahabad High Court and the University of Allahabad, while the former runs well despite few of its shortcomings, the latter’s inefficiency, incapacity, and incompetence are best left unspoken as it can cost me my degree.
Being home to Motilal Nehru and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the city was of great significance during the freedom struggle. Chandra Shekhar Azad sacrificed his life in Alfred Park which was later named as Chandrashekhar Azad Park located in the centre of Allahabad.
I believe, renaming the city is mere Hindutva tokenism. It diminishes the role played by the city and its people during the fight for independence and shifts the focus instead on the religious aspect of the land.
Now that the city has been renamed, should we expect Allahabad to be erased from every textbook, document and milestone? Every judgment that the high court has passed should be unearthed and be replaced with Prayagraj? This sounds absurd.
Shrikant Sharma, UP’s Energy Minister, has said that it is the right of the government to rename any city.
If needed, we will rename more cities and roads. The mistakes done earlier will be rectified.Shrikant Sharma, Energy Minister, Uttar Pradesh
But do people consent to this change in name?
Not surprisingly, the mandate of voters only matters at the time of choosing the government.
I am neither a proud Allahabadi, nor a true Allahabadi, as many hashtags on Instagram claim to be. I am a resident of this two-tier city of the most populous state of India. For the past two decades, I have lived here and not only it is inconvenient to refer to the city as Prayagraj but also erroneous to think that changing a title could obliterate history, however ‘bad’ it is.
For me, Prayagraj will always be the train I catch to reach Delhi. The train has been running for the past couple of decades and dispatches every night from the junction at 21:30.
Recently, Hazratganj in Lucknow was changed to Atal Chowk and Mughal Sarai railway station was renamed after Jan Sangh leader Deen Dayal Upadhyay, former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, who belonged to the same city was not even a potential candidate. Let’s wait for democracy to become a theocracy.
(The author is a final year law student in the University of Allahabad and an aspiring journalist. Twitter: @prateekreports)
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