U.P. Governor says changing city’s name to ‘Prayag’ is timely, given Kumbh Mela is only months away

Amid a growing clamour by the BJP and Hindu seers to rename Allahabad city as Prayag, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik has said he is in favour of the change. In an interview to The Hindu, Mr. Naik said changing the name of Allahabad city to its ancient name of Prayag was “appropriate” and timely, given that the Kumbh Mela 2019 was a few months away. The Governor stressed that this did not amount to renaming the city, but restoring its “original” name.

“’Prayag has the history. Literally thousands of years back, if you refer to Sanskrit literature, the name of that city [Allahabad] is Prayag,” he said. “I am in favour of giving the original name, for which this city has been known for thousands of years, not renaming.”

Whether the new name of the city would be Prayag or Prayagraj could be debated and discussed later, Mr. Naik said, pointing out that the State government body set up to organise the Kumbh had already been named the Prayagraj Mela Authority.

The Governor’s response on the issue was sought a few days after U.P. Health Minister Sidharthnath Singh wrote to him, requesting that the name of Allahabad be changed to Prayag. In his letter, Mr. Singh, who is also a legislator from Allahabad, cited the significance of Prayag in “ancient Hindu texts” as a cultural centre.

The Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, the apex governing body of the 13 Hindu akharas in the county, all of which are important parts of the Kumbh, have also been demanding the change in name from the Yogi Adityanath government.

Sources said the State Cabinet could soon pass a decision for the change.

Request to CM

Mr. Naik said, “The revenue code says the right to change the name rests with the State. I will also request the CM. I also feel it is time, when Kumbh Mela is coming…” He brushed aside the idea that the BJP government was enforcing a Hindutva agenda by changing the names of places with a Muslim or Mughal legacy. He said it was to do with the asmita, or pride, associated with a city’s original name, and cited examples of the renaming of Bangalore, Bombay, Madras and Trivandum.

When it was pointed that the BJP government had changed the name of the Mughalsarai Railway Station near Varanasi after the Jan Sangh leader Deen Dayal Upadhyay, who had little connection to the place except that he had died at the station under mysterious circumstances, Mr. Naik said: “Since Deen Dayal Upadhyayji’s body was found there, naming the station after such a great leader should be appreciated.”

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