Historians on Thursday slammed BJP leader Vijay Goel's demand to change the English spelling of the capital city to 'Dilli', saying 'Delhi' is an "universally accepted" name and any attempt to tinker with its dual and syncretic nomenclature was "uncalled-for and unwarranted".
Noted historian Irafan Habib said, people are quite comfortable using 'Delhi' or 'Dilli' while referring to the city, then "why upset the balance".
"There is no controversy associated with the name Delhi, people switch easily between the two names, and more so why should a lawmaker waste time over such non-issues, when there are other pressing matters to address," he told PTI.
Goel, a Rajya Sabha MP, and a heritage enthusiast, had made the demand during the ongoing Budget Session, that the name of the national capital be spelt 'Dilli' in English instead of 'Delhi'.
In response, Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai had said, after receiving any such proposal, his ministry would forward it to the department concerned and a decision would be taken on the response received thereto.
"A few centuries ago, 'Dehli' was also used, but only in Hindi and Urdu spellings, not in English. Also, the etymology of the word 'Dilli' is not really known, but, there are several versions of it.
"Delhi, used by the British, eventually became an equally popular name and part of people's consciousness. We should not create unnecessary fuss," the city-based historian said.
Swapna Liddle, another city-based historian and author, also asked if there was a need for changing spelling of 'Delhi' to 'Dilli' at all.
"Delhi and Dilli, both have been accepted in popular consciousness, and no one ever feels confused or otherwise, using any of the names to describe the city. This demand to change the spelling is absolutely unnecessary and unwarranted," said Liddle, the author of "Chandni Chowk: The Mughal City of Old Delhi" and "Connaught Place and the Making of New Delhi".
When asked on the etymology of the word 'Dilli', she, said there have been several version of the city's name and, name's "evolve over time".
"Even before Delhi, there were other names like Dehli, Dillika, so how far back would we go? And, who will decide, which is the authentic version," she asked.
Historian Sohail Hashmi, who conducts regular heritage walks in the city, also termed the suggestion "unwarranted" and "a waste of time".
"'New Delhi', the capital city, has its own fascinating colonial history of over 100 years, the making of new imperial capital which is now a globally recognised city," he said, and alleged, "changing its spelling will change the history and take away the charm of it being a syncretic city".
"Besides, it will create confusion in the minds of students and general people, and have huge ramifications globally, as world over, in maps, atlases, documents, films, the name Delhi is recorded. Where all would we go and change its spelling," Hashmi said.
'New Delhi' was created as British India's new imperial capital after the capital was shifted from Calcutta in 1911. The city was built from scratch by the government designed by architect Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens.
Delhi or Old Delhi refers to the Walled City of Shahjehanabad, renowned for the Red Fort, Chandni Chowk, and the medieval charm of the city built by the Mughals.
Many old havelis in bylanes of Old Delhi, carry the inscripton of 'Dehli' on their entrance doors or walls, evoking the era gone by.
Goel, in his argument had said that though the etymology of Delhi is uncertain, popular beliefs point out that the name Delhi originated from Raja Dillu, a king of the Mauryan Dynasty who named the city after himself and ruled in the first century BC.
Hashmi countered the BJP leader's claim, and asked, "Is he (Goel) a historian? Has any historian been consulted before floating the idea of changing the spelling. The leader should instead raise other pertinent issue in the House".
The historian said, Dehli was used as a name for the city, several centuries ago, and hence, many poets appended 'Dehlvi' after their names, as people did in other cities like 'Akbar Allahabadi'.
"Also, Delhi as a city has been built and rebuilt seven times, know by several names -- Qila Rai Pithora, Jahapanah, Siri, Tughlaqabad, Firozabad and eventually Delhi and New Delhi. All of these refer to different cities, and changed over time. But, 'Delhi' is eternal, as it is not just a city, but a consciousness," Hashmi said.
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