Renaming for "Namesake"

Tuesday, 10 January 2006 00:00

Does the name-changing madness which is happening in India make any sense? After the recent reports about Karnataka State Government's decision to rename Bangalore to Bengalooru, Mangalore to Mangaluru, Gulbarga to Kalburgi etc., one wonder when in India we will put a full stop to these kind of phoney nationalism or tub-thumping chauvinism.

Political parties in India have been caught up in a policy crisis where everyone wants to outdo the other on nationalism. However, in most of the cases, either where the names have been changed or where they are on the verge, it is simply not an issue with ordinary people. Even if they want to change the name for the sake of Indianisation, does anyone care about asking people as to what do they prefer? For example, the localite, kannada speakers call Mangalore as Mangaluru, Konkani speakers call as Kodiyal and the tulu speaking people call it Kudla, while the neighbouring Keralites call it Mangalapuram. None of these people ever questioned the correctness or the motive of others, leaving Mangalore on its own to thrive in upward economic growth.

Most of these names under scrutiny which have existed since the colonial days, have historical significance. These names are associated with the early days of democratic India. The meetings and rallies organised by Indian freedom fighters were associated with the old names of these cities. India shook the world bringing the mighty empire down and questioned its moral righteousness and taught the pioneers a lesson in democracy. No one has ever achieved freedom more honourably than Indians. By keeping these names Indians must ensure its enduring legacy motivates the oppressed people throughout the world to fight for self-rule. These names should also be used to remind the generations to come of the past rulers, of their mistakes and should serve as a warning for any despotic regime on earth.

Instead, it seems, every other person is only interested in changing the names of the cities, roads, streets thus hijacking "history" for scoring either personal or political points. The name "Bangalore” is the brand name of generic “Bengalooru”, a state capital which is globally known and proven to be commercially practical. It is important that the Government of Karnataka does not sideline its priorities with changing names and drive away the all important foreign investment for its lunacy. Does the government of Karnataka hold itself accountable for any consequent decline in the impression about the state, held by people in India and elsewhere? It is a global brand which cannot be rebuilt in a matter of days. Also the fact is that it doesn't make any difference to the local people since they call it Bengalooru anyway, for years now.

Indians promised themselves to be a worthy democracy on the day August 15, 1947. They didn’t bother about the minor technical hitches here and there rather concentrating on the bigger picture of both economic and social inequalities so apparent by then. It is the same, still. So why do we change the focus to renaming which started with Bombay and which has now reached the threshold of public tolerance.

The main aim of Independent India should be to move forward without disturbing the delicate balance of public sentimentality be it religious, lingual or cultural etc. Political parties should refrain from re-tracing the history of roads, cities and monuments without changing the status quo but for national unity and academic interests only.

Published in: Mangalorean.Com


The First Citizen

Saturday, 07 January 2006 00:00

Former president of India, Kocheril Raman Narayanan, who died on November 9th 2005, was refused a guaranteed teaching job despite standing First in English literature from the University of Travancore and was offered a clerks job instead. The local Maharajah refused to see him for the same reason, that he was an “untouchable”. Mr. Narayanan boycotted the degree ceremony; the honours were conferred upon him 50 years later with full respect.

His scholastic brilliance won him scholarship at London School of Economics. After his studies, his mentor Harold Laski recommended him to Jahawarlal Nehru with a letter of introduction. Mr. Nehru, India’s first prime minister gave him a job in diplomatic services. He was the Indian ambassador to Thailand, Turkey, China and later a political appointee to the US. He entered politics on Congress ticket as a Member of Parliament from Kerala in 1984. He was nominated as the country’s vice- president in 1992 and took the top job after 5 years. As an unprecedented move, he queued up to vote in the country's general election in 1998. On constitutional grounds, he twice questioned the government’s move to sack state governments. He also differed with the tradition and insisted that the largest party to emerge after an election must show the evidence of a parliamentary majority before forming the Government as expected then.

In 2002, his final year in office, President Narayanan wanted the army to intervene during the communal rioting in Gujarat. In an interview, in the year of his demise, he complained that his plan had been spoiled by the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party, and also accused them of blocking his second term as president.

He once said that his life encapsulated the ability of the democratic system to accommodate and empower marginalised sections of the society but the march of society, of social change, has not been fast enough, or fundamental enough.

It is true that social change which should have automatically empowered the weaker sections of the society has been an issue of party politics than intention of public conscience. India needs dramatic changes, so as to give confidence to the weaker sections of the society, so that they can contribute towards the development of the country without a tinge of suppression. Political parties should be bold enough to withstand this change amongst themselves if they so desire to see India to be a real secular country in the world. We must motivate the marginalised people so much so that we should practically be able to eradicate caste system so imprinted upon the social psyche.

The media also needs to change the way they report the success of the weak. Mr. Narayanan worried that he would always be remembered as the “India’s first dalit President”. If we cannot abstain from using such remarks while glorifying the enormity of the success of the weak, no doubt this stigma would travel beyond the border. Let’s have a change in our system so that, the next time we get a President from a similar background and if he happens to visit France on official visit, let’s hope Le Figaro, its national daily will not call him “An untouchable at the Elysée” again.


Page 16 of 17


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