On Monday, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister vowed to rename Hyderabad if the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in Telangana. The party has renamed quite a few roads, stations and cities since coming to power at the Centre. So how is a place renamed and what are the costs involved? Archis Mohan answers.
What is the process of renaming a place?
In case of renaming a street, the concerned civic authority, zillaparishador panchayat, approves or rejects the proposals. If it is to rename a city, the concerned state cabinet takes the decision.
In case of renaming a state, a state legislature needs to pass a resolution for the same, which is then sent to the Centre. The Union cabinet then decides to approve or reject the Constitution Amendment Bill, since it requires amending the Constitution, which both Houses of Parliament need to pass by a special majority. For instance, in July, the West Bengal Assembly unanimously passed a resolution to change the state’s name to Bangla. Such a proposal to change the name of a state requires amending Schedule 1 of the Constitution of India.
In the case of New Delhi area, section 11 of the New Delhi Municipal Council Act, 1994, empowers naming and numbering of streets and premises. There also exists a Home Ministry guidelines on the subject from 1975, which had cautioned against changing names of streets as it “creates confusion for post offices and the public, and deprive people of a sense of history”. It had stated that only new streets, and such old streets as are in existence without specific names, may be named after eminent personalities local, national or international, to honour them. These guidelines lie mostly forgotten.
What is the cost of such a process?
Renaming a city street entails expenditure related to repainting street signs and making the names of civic corporations consistent with the city’s name. For example, the Corporation of Madras was renamed Chennai Municipal Corporation. Calcutta Municipal Corporation became Kolkata Municipal Corporation. But the name change of a city doesn’t require other public and private establishments so named to also rename themselves. The High Courts in Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai continue be called Calcutta, Bombay and Madras High Court respectively.
Is the renaming of states/ cities/roads a recent phenomenon?
The first wave of renaming of city streets and provinces took place after India’s Independence. In New Delhi, such roads as Kingsway, where the Republic Day parade is held, was renamed Raj Path and Queensway was renamed Janpath. Curzon Road, at the heart of the city, was renamed Kasturba Gandhi Marg. But several colonial names across Indian cities survived until the 1990s.
In 1956, the States Reorganisation Commission recommendation led to the creation of linguistic states, including renaming of existing ones through the Seventh Constitution Amendment Act.
Kerala was one of the new states so created after merging Travancore-Cochin and adjoining areas. In the years to come, Madras state was renamed Tamil Nadu in 1969 and Mysore state was renamed Karnataka. In the initial years after Independence, the British spellings of cities were changed to make them more Indian — Cawnpore became Kanpur and Jubblepore became Jabalpur.
A second wave of renaming of street names and city names took place in the 1980s and 90s. In most cases, the effort was to “reclaim” names of prominent cities as prevalent in respective local traditions and languages.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra assembly rejected the more anglicised Bombay in favour of Mumbai. In Tamil Nadu, the Dravidian parties jettisoned Madras so that their capital city could universally be called by its Tamil name of Chennai. Similarly, Calcutta became Kolkata. Baroda became Vadodara, Trivandrum was back to being Thiruvananthapuram, Calicut was now Kozhikode, Tuticorin was again Thoothukudi and Udhagamandalam is what hill station Ootacamund, or Ooty, is now called.
However, not all renaming efforts have been successful. If eager party workers in the Congress got the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) to rename the Connaught Place area as Rajiv Chowk and Indira Chowk after the departed leaders, people of Delhi continued to call the landmark by its original name. Similarly, the Trinamool Congress’ efforts at renaming the city’s iconic Park Street to Mother Teresa Sarani has largely been a failure.
In some cases, Cold War politics played a role. In Kolkata, the Left Front renamed Harrington Road, in the heart of the city, after Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh. It wasn’t incidental that Ho Chi Minh Sarani is where the consulate of the United States of America is located.
What started the more recent renaming spree?
In recent months, the ruling BJP government in states has recommended renaming of 25 cities, towns and villages. It all started in August when the Uttar Pradesh cabinet passed a resolution to rename Mughal Sarai railway junction as Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Junction. In mid-October, the same cabinet passed a resolution to rename the city of Allahabad to Prayagraj. On Monday, addressing a public meeting in Hyderabad, Adityanath said if the BJP came to power in Telangana, it would rename Hyderabad as Bhagyanagar. On November 6, he had announced that Faizabad would be renamed Ayodhya.
Over the last couple of years, the NDMC has renamed city’s Aurangzeb Road after former president APJ Abdul Kalam. The renaming took place after demands from BJP MPs. It also renamed Race Course Road, where the prime minister’s official bungalow is situated, as Lok Kalyan Marg to better reflect Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of lok kalyan, or people’s welfare.
Are there any such global examples?
On Friday, local officials in a Washington neighbourhood voted to rename a street outside Saudi Arabia’s embassy in honour of the slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. If approved by the city council, the stretch of the road outside the embassy would be ceremonially renamed “Jamal Khashoggi Way”, the AFP reported on Saturday.
Earlier this year, a street outside the Russian embassy in Washington was renamed after Boris Nemtsov, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Nemstov was assassinated in Moscow in 2015.