Sultan M Hali
THE extremist Hindus ruling India currently are hell bent on removing all traces of Islamic heritage of India as far as their names are concerned. The Sub-Continent was ruled by Muslims for over a century. It is true that many of the Muslim invaders were ruthless and destructive but unlike the British, who replaced the Muslims as rulers, the Muslims settled down in India and most of the rulers, especially the Moghuls, constructed memorable and historical monuments, palaces, forts, universities and parks, which India otherwise unabashedly showcases as part of its own heritage and culture. There is a method in the madness. In the 2014 general elections BJP and its radical leader Narendra Modi, came to power riding on a manifesto of hate and odium against Muslims and other Indian minorities. He promised to revive Hindu supremacy and subjugate Muslims in direct contravention of the Indian Constitution, which preaches secularism.
During its four and half years of rule, Modi failed to fulfil his promises of reviving a failing Indian economy and uplifting the quality of life of average Indians. However, he completed his agenda of reviling Muslims and other minorities with a vengeance. Kashmiri Muslims were the direct recipients of Hindu barbarism. They continue to suffer. Numerous Muslims were lynched under charges of killing cows or partaking beef. Christians, Sikhs and low-caste Hindus, the Dalits have all been targeted vehemently. Those Dalit who embraced Islam to escape the derision of upper class Hindus, were forced to renounce Islam and return to their original religion under a draconian law “Ghar Wapsi”. As fresh elections in 2019 approach, Modi and the BJP are afraid that their failed economic policies will cost them defeat at the polls, so they have decided to harden their stance against Muslims and ensure victory by securing Hindu vote bank on the pretext of nationalism and religion.
Thus, the adoption of the policy to change the names of cities and locations, which have the faintest semblance of Islam or the Muslim rulers of India. The changes are supposed to remove allusions to the country’s historical Mughal-era rule. One of the cities, which fell victim to the name change is Allahabad, which was originally named by the Muslim emperor, Akbar, in 1583. Uttar Pradesh’s cabinet, which is led by hardline Hindu nationalist preacher Yogi Adityanath, agreed to the proposal in the face of protests from opposition parties and went ahead with his fanatic proposal. During the parliamentary session deciding the extreme step, Health Minister of the northern Indian state, Siddharth Nath Singh, told local media: “The city used to be known as Prayagraj since the beginning. To those who are opposing the decision, how would you feel if the name your parents gave you was to be changed?”
Yogi Adityanath and the ruling BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the federal capital New Delhi, justified the move by saying they were merely reverting to the cities’ historical names, which, according to them, were changed by Muslim emperors who governed the Indian sub-continent prior to British rule, which technically began after 1857. “Ayodhya is a symbol of our honor, pride and prestige,” Adityanath said after announcing the new name for Faizabad. The name change drive is not just restricted to Uttar Pradesh; chief ministers of other BJP-led states are taking similar measures — renaming cities, airports and streets.
The BJP government in the western state of Gujarat is contemplating renaming Ahmedabad to Karnavati. Raja Singh, a BJP state legislator in the southern state of Telangana, recently proposed the name of Bhagyanagar for the state capital, Hyderabad. In the northern state of Bihar, BJP lawmaker Giriraj Kishore demanded that Bakhtiyarpur be renamed. There have been also been attempts to change the name of Agra, where the famous Taj Mahal is located, to Agravan, or Agrawal. Similarly, Sangeet Som, a BJP lawmaker, wants the name of Muzaffarnagar to be changed to Laxmi Nagar. Interestingly, almost all cities and other landmarks that have been renamed, or have been proposed to be renamed, have Muslim-rooted names. Besides those named above, these include: Aurangabad to Shambhaji nagar; Ahmed nagar to Anand Nagar; Bhopal to Bhojpal; Hyderabad to Bhagya Nagaram; Osmanabad to Dharashiv; Patna to Pataliputra; Nizamabad to Indrapuri; Karimnagar to Elagandhal; Adilabad to Edlawada; Mehboobabad to Manukonda; Mehboobnagar to Palamuru. The justification being provided by the fanatic Hindus is that “Bharat was invaded by many outsiders, the Britishers and the Muslim invaders. They not only ruled over India, but also looted it, destroyed its heritage and left it with a demolished culture and its heritage. Because of their power at that ‘infelicitous’ time in history, they changed the name of the places they ruled to the name of their own choice or even their respective names.”
Some of the rationale being presented is Bakthiyarpur, a place in Bihar which was named after the invader Bakthiyar Khilji who reportedly burned the prodigious Nalanda University out of sheer jealousy. He encamped Bakhthiyarpur and then went to destroy Nalanda. He destroyed it because allegedly he was jealous of all the knowledge and intelligence Indians had that time. Modi and his goons are desperate to continue their rule and have rejected calls by international academics and litterateurs as well as human rights activists to cease the blood bath by Hindu extremists as well as the renaming Muslims names of locations enmasse.
—The writer is retired PAF Group Captain and a TV talk show host.