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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 47 New Delhi November 10, 2018

Yogi Adityanath as Commissar

FROM ALLAHABAD TO PRAYAGRAJ: WHAT’S IN THE NAME?

Monday 12 November 2018

by Ram Puniyani

Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of UP, seems to be in the name-changing spree. In his latest move he has changed the name of the famous city of UP, Allahabad, to Prayagraj. Prayag is the meeting-point of rivers and since this city is the meeting-point of Ganga, Yamuna and probably invisible Sarswati, this name might have been chosen by him in his attempts to remove the Islamic touch to the names of our cities. As such many a version of the origin of the name of this city are circulating. One such says that it was Ila-vas. Ila being the mother of the mythological Pururva. Another such says it was in the name of Alha of Alha-Udal (part of a popular folk lore) fame. More concrete records tell us that Akbar had named it Illaha-bad or Illahi-bas. Illaha is a generic term of Gods. He regarded this city as the holy city of Hindus and Illah-bas in Persian means ‘abode of Gods’. This is clear from the records and from the coins of that time and reflects the inclusive spirit of Akbar. Earlier Yogi had made many changes in the names like that of Mughalsarai to Pandit Deendayal Upadhayay Junction, Agra airport in the same leader, Urdu Bazar to Hindi Bazar, Ali Nagar to Arya Nagar etc. He regards all Muslim- sounding names as being alien.

In an interview Yogi said he has to change many more names. On his agenda is to change the name of Taj Mahal to Ram Mahal, Azamgarh to Aryamgarh and, to cap it all, as per him the name India in our Constitution should be changed to Hindustan. As per him these places were renamed after invasion of Muslim kings; so there is a need to re-change them. In UP Maya-wati had already begun this name-changing game which was to some extent reversed by his successor, Akhilesh Yadav. Now in a more persistent way Yogi is identifying the Muslim-sounding names and changing them one by one.

Adityanath Yogi is the Mahant of the famous Gorakhnath Math. His predecessor of the Math was also in politics, and Yogi has been a major player on the political chessboard in UP. He comes from the Hindu Mahasabha stream of politics. His dominance has been very visible as his slogan, UP mein rahna hay, to Yogi-Yogi kahnahoga (If you want to stay in UP, you have to chant Yogi-Yogi), that had been prevalent in parts of UP. His Hindu Yuva Vahini has been in the news off and on; not for the right reasons. He belongs to the group of a large number of Holy men and women, Sakshi Maharaj, Sadhvi Uma Bharati, Sadhvi Nirnajan Jyoti etc. who have been part of the Hindu nationalist agenda. As such Holy men and women are supposed to have renounced the world to focus on spiritual pursuits, but this lot seems to be more active in worldly pursuits.

The phenomenon of these holy men-women being in politics seems to be there in many post-colonial states. In these countries there has been absence of radical land reforms and there is persistence of the hold of the landlord-clergy which seems to be the reason for the God people to be in the political arena. In these places God men and women have been part of the politics which opposes the democratic values as being Western or alien, being against the spirit of ‘our’ land. They in a way harp on the values of the pre-Industrial Revolution of birth-based hierarchies. Surveying these countries one can see the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, succeeded by many Ayatollahs. In Pakistan the Mullahs have been working closely with the military and landlord elements to undermine the democratic possibilities in society. In Pakistan the most prominent name which emerged was that of Maulana Maududi, who worked closely with Zia-Ul-Haq in the Islamisation of Pakistan. In neighbouring Mynamar, the monks like Ashin Wirathu, also called ‘Burma’s bin laden’, are part of the politics to oppose the democratic society, to target the religious minorities there.

Back in India we have seen the crop of these Holy men dominating the political scene in various ways. Most of these God men-women have been part of the Hindu nationalist movement and are very vicious as far as hate speech is concerned. One recalls that Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti had used the word haram-zade, Sakshi Maharaj was booked for blaming Muslims for the population growth. Yogi himself has many cases pending against him as far as hate speech is concerned. The worst of these was when he advised the rape of dead Muslim women.

Yogi has intensified the communal agenda to no end. The UP State is organising Hindu religious festivals. One recalls that on the occasion of Divali, the helicopter carrying Lord Ram and Sita landed and the Gods were received by Yogi. The UP State also organised the lighting of lamps in big numbers. Recently he had again been in the news for the declaration that the State Government will spend Rs 5000 crores for the Kumbh Mela. All this is taking place at a time when the State is suffering from severe crunch in regard to health care and other infrastructure-related issues. Young children, infants have died in hospital for lack of facilities; times and over again. The cities, where name- change has been brought about, languish with bad infrastructures and the State constantly lags behind in human growth indices, what to talk of the abysmal condition of human rights in the State. The condition of minorities is worsening as state-sponsored moves to trample on their livelihood in the form of closing many meat shops, which was done right at the beginning of his rule in UP, among other steps, has become the order of the day.

Yogi also bluntly stated that secularism is a big lie. His actions are showing as to how he is forcing the march of the State in the direction of a Hindu nation, without any qualms for secular values as enshrined in our Constitution!

The author, a retired Professor at the IIT-Bombay, is currently associated with the Centre for the Study of Secularism and Society, Mumbai.

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