Name-changing game on in UP

Name-changing game on in UP

‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,’ goes the famous quote from the Bard.

In Uttar Pradesh, however, name appears to be everything. The state has been witnessing a bitter fight between the two arch rivals in the state—the BSP and Samajwadi Party over names.

The change of guard in Uttar Pradesh has not only heralded a shift in the priorities of the government and shunting of thousands of officials close to the previous regime, but has also resulted in the exit of the icons triggering a ‘political war’ over names.

With the departure of Mayawati, glorification of Dalit thinkers and ideologues like B R Ambedkar and Kanshiram have also made an unceremonious exit from the state and they have been replaced by the socialist ideologues like Ram Manohar Lohia and others. Ever since the Samajwadi Party (SP) stormed to power in the state, the government led by Akhilesh Yadav has been literally on a name changing spree and re-christening everything, whether a park or a welfare scheme, that had been named after Dalit icons. For neutral observers, its a tit-for-tat policy. “The previous Mayawati regime had also done the same,” say the SP supporters in defence.

Returned to power

When Mayawati had assumed the charge of the state in 2007, she had promptly scrapped the ‘Lohia Gram Yojna’ (village development scheme) and instead focused on the development of ‘Ambedkar Villages’ (villages having a substantial population of Dalits). When the SP returned to power earlier this year it returned the compliment, by abandoning the Ambedkar villages and reviving the Lohia Gram Yojna.

The SP and the BSP were locked in a bitter fight over re-naming of the Ambedkar Eco Garden. The government re-christened it after socialist leader and former minister Janeshwar Mishra. BSP has moved the court for restoration of the name even as the government claimed that there was no such park in the official records. “Ambedkar Eco Garden does not exist in the official records and as such there is no question of changing its name,” said chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.

BSP supremo Mayawati had raised the matter in the Rajya Sabha also and her party members had stalled the proceedings of the House for a few hours on this issue. Mayawati accused the SP government of being on a name changing spree since assuming power.

Only a few days back the government had changed the names of eight districts that had been named after Dalit icons and persons for whom Dalits had great regard. The Mayawati government had changed the original names of the eight districts and had named them after Dalit icons. The districts had been named after Kanshiram, Ramabai (Ambedkar’s wife), Chatrapati Sahuji Maharaj and some others. The Mayawati government had started an award in the name of Kanshiram for those doing commendable work in the field of forest and environment conservation. The SP regime re-christened the award after Abdul Hamid.

The SP government also changed the name of the Kanshiram Urdu-Arabic university and re-christened it after the famous 12th century sufi saint Khawja Moinuddin Chisti. The BSP sharply criticised the decision to re-name the varsity and said that it amounted to betraying the Dalit community for whom Kanshiram had done so much. “It was Kanshiram, who had in fact helped Mulayam Singh Yadav become chief minister of UP in 1993,” BSP said adding that it amounted to betraying Kanshiram also.

The BSP leaders accuse the government of showing disrespect to the Dalit ideologues. “From the very beginning, the SP government has shown that it had no respect for dalit icons...we never discriminated among the icons,” says BSP leader Swami Prasad Maurya. The SP leaders reject the charges.

Mayawati had recently warned the state government against ‘tampering’ with the statues of the Dalit ideologues as it might create a law and order problem. Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has said that the statues and parks will not be demolished but the vacant spaces may be used for setting up hospitals.The state also recently witnessed vandalisation of statues of Mayawati in the state capital and Ambedkar in several parts of the state triggering sharp reactions from the BSP workers and threatened to turn into a major law and order problem.

The other parties feel that the fight was nothing but vote bank politics. “BSP wants to consolidate its dalit vote bank...so it is trying to portray the matter as reflective of anti-dalit mindset,” say BJP leaders. The SP on the other hand knows only too well that it will never get Dalit votes and so it is not bothered much.

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