Not content with renaming Mughal Sarai after Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay and Hazratganj Chowk as Atal Chowk, the Bharatiya Janata Party's legislators in Uttar Pradesh have approved the renaming of the historic Allahabad city. Allahabad, to be rechristened as Prayagraj, has a high court by its name, as also a bank and a university.
Following a visit to Allahabad recently, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, often facing fire for frequent encounter deaths in the State, decided to rename Allahabad. Despite protests by Congress leaders, the BJP legislators went ahead with giving their approval to the proposal.
Incidentally, Allahabad has played a crucial role in India's freedom struggle. Not only was it considered the home of the Nehrus, the city was the site where revolutionary leader Chandrashekhar Azad sacrificed his life for the nation. The State government's decision has attracted international attention.
The venerated British daily The Guardian headlined, “Hindu nationalist-led state changes Muslim name of Indian city”. The blurb expanded, "Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, headed by hardliner accused of violence against Muslims, to become Prayagraj”.
The story took a contrarian view of Indian history to that of the Yogi Adityanath government, which does not tire of alleging the foreign origin of the Mughals. It said, “Changing Allahabad’s name has been a longstanding demand of Hindu nationalist groups in India which regard the three centuries in which huge areas of the subcontinent were ruled by Mughal dynasties as a period of foreign occupation.
"The traditional view of Indian leaders has been that the Mughals integrated with the largely Hindu society around them, forging a unique blended culture over time.”
Aljzeera.com, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, gave prominent space to the renaming of Allahabad. It wrote, “Authorities in India's most populous state have changed the Muslim name of an historic city to one with Hindu overtones.” It went on to elaborate, “Allahabad, a city of more than one million people in northern Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) State, will now be known as Prayagraj.... Siddarth Nath Singh, U.P. Health Minister, said the decision to rename the city was made at a Cabinet meeting following a proposal by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.... 'All the Cabinet members were happy and from today onwards, Allahabad's name would change as Prayagraj,'.”
Incidentally, Al Jazeera, too, described Yogi Adityanath as “a priest who has been accused of inciting violence against India's Muslim minority” and said that ever since he “was appointed to lead U.P. last year, he has proposed changing several Mughal-era names of buildings in the State”.
The BJP government remains unmoved by the criticism of foreign media. It proposes to change the names of airports in Bareilly, Kanpur and Agra to associate them with the Hindu faith. As State Energy Minister Shrikant Sharma said, “More names were likely to be changed. If needed, we will rename more cities and roads. The mistakes done earlier will be rectified.”