Allahabad will soon be called Prayagraj before the upcoming Kumbh Mela in 2019. The Uttar Pradesh government’s approval to renaming of the historic city has triggered many speculations. Will Allahabad Bank also get a new name? Will the Allahabad High Court’s name also be changed to Prayagraj High Court? And what will happen to the poetry of Akbar Allahabadi, Purnam Allahabadi and Raaz Allahabadi now? Will the Yogi Adityanath cabinet now decree that their pseudonyms too be changed to “Prayagraji” in the poetry books?
Even though a section of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters is celebrating the name-change, the government move has evoked sharp reactions in the national and international media besides social media.
Reacting to the announcement, Justice Markandey Katju, former Supreme Court judge who earlier served as the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, took to social media to congratulate Yogi Adityanath. Going a step further, he even released a list of 30 Indian cities, whose names, he stressed sarcastically, must be changed. He urged the UP government and the Central government to change the names of cities named after Mughal-era rulers.
In a series of tweets, Katju however declared that “we Allahabadis will continue calling it Allahabad, come what may.”
The renaming of the city has hogged headlines in the international media as well. A leading British Daily, The Guardian in its report titled, Hindu nationalist-led state changes Muslim name of Indian city, stated: “An Indian city in a state led by a hardcore Hindu nationalist preacher accused of instigating violence against Muslims has had its Muslim name changed to one with Hindu associations.”
The report stated that the city has been ancestral home of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, which has produced three Indian prime ministers, including the country’s first, Jawarharlal Nehru.
Another British online newspaper, The Independent reported that “It (name-change) follows years of pressure to change the name to Prayag, the Sanskrit word for ‘place of sacrifice’, which refers to the Hindu belief the creator of the universe made his first offering in the city at the point where the Ganges and Yamuna rivers meet.”
The report titled: Islamic name of Indian city Allahabad changed by Hindu nationalists, also quoted Adityanath, the chief minister saying that only “people who have zero understanding of our history and traditions would question the move”.
Similarly, a Qatar based media organisation, Aljazeera, in it’s report, India's BJP changes Muslim name of Allahabad to Prayagraj, commented that “It (India) is officially a secular nation, but the BJP has for years contested elections on a Hindu nationalist platform, with party members in the past being accused of making anti-Muslim statements to polarise Hindu voters.
On Twitter, many users have posted their reactions, wondering if the name-change alone would redress all the development needs of the city. Others view the government move as a leverage to distract citizens from the real issues. Then, some cartoons are also being widely shared. Here’s a collection of some reactions:
Meanwhile, quoting the following famous lines from a song, Parda Hai Parda which featured in Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), many users on social media have been speculating if the government would now get the lyrics modified as well:
Mere khwaabon ki shahazaadi,
Main hoon Akbar Allahabaadi
Incidentally, the screenplay of the movie was written by Prayag Raj. The producer and director of the movie, Manmohan Desai, passed away in 1994.