'Kejriwal Must Stand With Us': BJP Councillor on 'Renaming' Delhi's Mohammadpur
Only the Delhi government can rename a village, and so far it hasn't changed the name of Mohammadpur to Madhavpuram
A day after a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) councillor planted three plaques of the ‘new’ name of south-west Delhi’s Mohammadpur village on 27 April, he told The Quint on Thursday, 28 April, that “three more plaques will be added in the village soon.” As per councillor Bhagat Singh Tokas, Mohammadpur is now Madhavpuram.
On Wednesday, Delhi BJP chief Adesh Gupta attended this ‘name changing’ event in the village, where plaques announcing the 'new name' – Madhavpuram – now welcome villagers and visitors.
It is pertinent to note that any exercise that involves changing the name of roads or villages needs consent of the State Names Authority (SNA), which comes under the Urban Development department of the Delhi government. The SNA was constituted in 2017, and is headed by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia. The SNA has taken no such call of renaming Mohammadpur village.
Delhi Police Hasn't Taken Any Action in the Matter Yet
The Delhi Police has not taken any action yet. A day after the ‘name changing’ event, The Quint reached out to DCP (Southwest) Manoj C to know if the police had received any complaints regarding the three plaques. He said, “We have not received any complaint. Name changing is purely a matter under the Revenue Department. What criminal action will we take?”
As per The Quint's Associate Editor (Legal), Vakasha Sachdev, the Delhi Police has an obligation to register an FIR whenever it receives information that discloses a cognisable offence. Sachdev said that the police can register suo motu complaints in cases.
He said, "In this situation, the local BJP leaders have themselves made it clear they have placed three plaques with the new names of the village. These actions can be considered to disclose cognisable offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including section 505 (public mischief creating enmity between different communities) and section 153A (spreading enmity between different communities). If there was damage to the old plaques or any vandalism of existing signboards, then that may even disclose cognisable offences under the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act 1984, ie mischief against public property."
In August 2021, South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) Mayor Mukkesh Suryaan granted “anticipatory approval to the proposal for naming of Mohammadpur village to Madhavpuram village.”
'Kejriwal Should Support Us As We Try to Remove Symbols of Slavery': Tokas
Tokas said that in September 2021, a letter asking for “further necessary action” regarding “renaming of village Mohammadpur of ward no. S-66 to Madhavpuram” was sent to the SNA. So far, the SNA has not approved the corporation’s demand of changing the name of Mohammadpur village to Madhavpuram. All that exists is the plaque placed by Tokas on Wednesday.
Tokas said, “Since then, the Delhi government has done nothing about it. This is the 75th year of Independence and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal calls himself a patriot, he should prove that now and stand with us as we try to remove symbols of slavery. We want to know from Kejriwal when he will act upon it.”
Tokas said that if the “letter asking for this renaming is not approved, there will be a bada aandolan (huge agitation).”
The Delhi government's Revenue Department Secretary Sanjeev Khirwar, who also holds the post of principal secretary of Urban Development department told The Quint that a letter asking for name change has to be sent to the SNA, which can take a call. He said he is checking if the letter was sent to SNA or not.
The SNA is headed by Sisodia, and despite repeated calls and text messages to Sisodia’s team on Thursday, no response was received. A senior IAS officer in the Delhi government said, "The SNA is supposed to meet to discuss such proposals, and to see historical relevance of such names, and how the change will impact law and order situation. Usually, names of villages being renamed is avoided."
As per the SNA guidelines, “Changes in the names of villages, towns etc. should be discouraged as far as possible. No change should be agreed to unless there are compelling reasons to justify it and all proposals should be referred to the Ministry of Home Affairs before any change is made.” It also mentions that “names of villages etc. having a historical connection should not be changed as far as possible.”
'Such Exercises Are Done Only to Alter Memory'
As per a 2021 piece on Mohammadpur -- a Jat-dominated village with a population of 7,000 people -- in Hindustan Times, “some villagers claim that the demand for the name change was first raised in the ‘60s when they had approached then Chief Commissioner Bhagwan Sahay.”
Since 2021, Tokas has repeatedly alleged that “the village was originally named Madhavpuram and was changed to Mohammadpur by the Mughals.”
City chronicler Rana Safvi told The Quint that such exercises are "only done to alter memory." She said, "Since we have Wazir Khan of Wazirpur fame, and Munir Khan of Munirka fame, it is my opinion that the village of Mohammadpur was named after a Mohammad Khan who built it. It could be from the Lodi period (1451-1526 AD) or Saiyyed rule. It has nothing to do with the Mughals."
Tokas has also proposed that names of 40 more urban villages – such as Humayunpur, Yusuf Sarai, Masjid Moth, Begumpur, Hauz Khas, Lado Sarai and Mubarakpur, among others – also be changed.
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