Prayag, Ilahabad, Allahabad and finally Prayagraj. The next time that the Prayagraj Express chugs past the vast swathes of the banks of the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna, it will enter a city whose name has been changed yet again.
What does the “rectification” of “the mistake made” by Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar—as stated by the Yogi Adityanath government— mean for the residents of the erstwhile city of Allahabad, now rechristened Prayagraj?
“The renaming of Allahabad to Prayagraj is a good first step towards restoring our cultural heritage and history,” says advocate Awadesh K Saxena, who has been practising at the Allahabad High Court for the last 30 years. Saxena supports the chief minister, who had said in Gorakhpur on Tuesday that Prayag was the original name of the city 500 years ago. Those opposing the change of name are ignorant about their history, culture and tradition, Adityanath had said.
Though Saxena admits that the administration will face “certain short-term difficulties”, he hopes that the government will overcome them within a year. He says, "For example, changing the name of the Allahabad High Court to Prayagraj High Court will be problematic for both advocates and clients. Initially, it will be a little awkward for us (advocates) to refer to it as the Prayagraj High Court—but again, it’s a short term adjustment issue."
Saxena has a word of caution for Adityanath, who has a penchant for renaming cities with Islamic names. “The government should not go on a renaming spree, but rather observe the consequences of renaming Allahabad.” Will he support the renaming of cities like Aurangabad and Fatehpur, which are named after Mughal emperors? He says, "Let us first see the impact, benefits and the cost incurred in renaming Allahabad. If the results are positive, other cities can be renamed.”
Manu Saxena, another member of the Saxena family, differs, stressing that the government should have focussed on the “lack of civic amenities” instead of renaming Allahabad. “Renaming Allahabad was not necessary. The city is plagued by the lack of proper health centres, piling heaps of garbage, cases of dengue and malaria, dilapidated roads, and poor sanitation and sewage systems.”
Manu also doesn’t buy the government’s argument of the “cultural significance” in renaming Allahabad. “Almost everyone knows about the Sangam and its religious significance. Had the government introduced a scheme aimed at making Allahabad the cleanest city in the country or an education hub, I would have welcomed it. But the decision to rename the city will not have any effect, except making it difficult to pronounce."
Two of the city's iconic institutions—the University of Allahabad and the high court—may be rechristened as well. Health minister Siddharth Nath Singh said on Tuesday that an official request would be sent to concerned departments for renaming the high court and some other institutions.
Amit Srivastava, who spent several years in Allahabad before moving to New Delhi a few years ago, prefers to call the city Prayag like his grandparents. “I grew up in in the city of Prayag. I only remember the city of Sangam, Saraswati Ghat and Akshayavat (the indestructible banyan tree)—there's nothing that can connect the city with its erstwhile name of Allahabad. My alma mater was named as the University of Allahabad. Restoring the city’s original name is a great decision,” an elated Srivastava says.
Pankaj Singh, who now teaches in Gaya, Bihar, seconds Srivastava. “My family always preferred the name Prayag. We are glad that it has been renamed.” Besides, if Bombay can be renamed as Mumbai and Calcutta as Kolkata, what is the problem in changing the name of Allahabad, he asks. “Is there a problem in renaming cities with Mughal names, but not British?,” he adds.
Updated Date: Oct 18, 2018 19:45 PM