BJP to embark on name-changing mission in Kashmir
The media reports over the past few weeks suggest that the government is flirting with the idea of renaming some of the key institutions and parks in Kashmir.
A band of students hunched over a king-sized table inside the canteen of a local university in Kashmir was discussing the media reports about changing the names of institutes and places in the Valley.
From V D Savarkar to Shyama Prasad Mookerje, the group gave a good thought to the names of many Hindu ideologues that they thought their varsity departments might be named after.
"Our library may be rechristened as Golwalkar library ", said one of them, staring vacantly into space. The media reports over the past few weeks suggest that the government is flirting with the idea of renaming some of the key institutions and parks in Kashmir.
A Delhi based online news portal recently reported that the famous Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket Stadium will soon be re-named as Sardar Vallabhi Patel Stadium. Soon after Jammu and Kashmir was split into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, the Radio Kashmir Srinagar, Jammu and Leh became All India Radio.
The government on October 27 also re-christened the nine-kilometer-long Chenani-Nashri tunnel as Shyama Prasad Mookerjee tunnel.
After the Modi government stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status, the statements made by the right-wing party leaders were like paeans to Mookerjee while upbraiding Jawaharlal Nehru for taking the issue of Jammu and Kashmir to UN and granting the region a special status.
Although the Jan Sangh founder would oppose the special position of Jammu and Kashmir, he was a party to Nehru's UN decision. On August 7, 1952, Mookerjee himself conceded in the parliament: "It has been said that I was a party when the decision was taken to refer the Kashmir issue to UNO. That is an obvious fact. I have no right and I do not wish to disclose the extraordinary circumstances under which that decision was taken and great expectations which the Government of India had on that occasion".
Mookerjee went on: "As the Prime Minister pointed out, we did not go to the UNO with regard to the question of accession, because accession then was an established fact. We went there for the purpose of getting a quick decision from the UNO regarding the raids".
In Jammu and Kashmir, the key institutions, playfields, roads, and buildings were named after the names of different political leaders, rulers, legends, Sufi poets and other pre-eminent personalities. The tallest among them is Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, a mass leader who earned the sobriquet of Sher-e-Kashmir or Lion of Kashmir among the populace.
Various institutes and playfields were christened after his name. Some other important colleges and roads in both Jammu and Kashmir were named after India's first education minister Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Dogra rulers including Maharaja Hari Singh, Pratab Singh, and Amar Singh, and Sufi poets like Lal Ded and Sheikh-ul-Alam.
All these names were readily accepted by the people and any controversy relating to such names was hardly heard of since the end of colonial rule in the subcontinent.
During the autocratic rule, Maharaja Ranbir Singh, the second Dogra ruler had renamed the Islamabad as Anantnag and Takt-I-Sulimani as Shankaracharya.
"The way ruling dispensation is on a name-changing spree; it seems we are living in autocratic times", says Dr. Shahnawaz Ahmad, a political analyst. “What the government is doing is communalisation of nomenclature", he adds.
BJP's local spokesperson, Altaf Thakur, said that Jammu and Kashmir is not the personal property of the Abdullahs so that everything could be named after them. “Both Patel and Mookerjee were great leaders. While Patel played an instrumental role in integrating more than 560 states, Mookerje sacrificed his life for Jammu and Kashmir," Thakur said.
Apart from the name-changing, the BJP government seems also desperate to make Urdu, the official language of the region, to Hindi. On October 30 -- a day before the division of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories took place -- the BJP's National Secretary, Tarun Chugh, said that Urdu will no longer be the first or official language of Jammu and Kashmir. Constitutional experts, however, said that the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act empowers the assembly to adopt one or more of the languages in use for use in Union Territories.