Academics, politicians oppose plan to rename Allahabad
Several academics and politicians of Allahabad on Sunday opposed the Yogi Adityanath government’s plan to rename the city and the district as Prayagraj.
Nagendra Singh Patel, Samajwadi Party MP from Phulpur which covers a large part of Allahabad city, said “the world knows the place as Allahabad” and changing its name would affect its identity and importance.
Patel alleged that the renaming bid was a tactic to divert people’s attention from “real issues” such as that of protecting the Ganga — a demand that claimed a fasting monk’s life last week.
“The Ganga in Allahabad is as polluted as ever. He (Adityanath) is trying to invoke religiosity for voters’ support ahead of the Lok Sabha elections,” Patel said, alluding to Adityanath’s inclination for changing “Muslim” place names to “Hindu” ones.
Janak Pandey, former vice-chancellor of Allahabad University, said it might be acceptable if the government renamed only the Sangam area — which lies at the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna and is locally referred to as Prayag — officially as Prayag.
“But changing the name of the entire city and the district is not a good idea. The name Allahabad has its own importance. Many important institutions of the city have ‘Allahabad’ in their names,” he added, citing the examples of Allahabad University and Allahabad High Court.
Scholars and historians say that Allahabad’s ancient name, as mentioned in Valmiki’s Ramayan, was Prayag. The 16th-century Mughal emperor Akbar founded a fort near the Sangam and named the neighbourhood Ilahabad, and his grandson Shah Jahan renamed the entire city as Allahabad.
However, some scholars have suggested that even the name “Ilahabad” may have a Sanskrit root linking it to Ila, daughter of Manu, the progenitor of mankind, and Shraddha, the first woman on earth.
“Besides the Ramayan, there is mention of Prayag in the Skand-Purana and Brahm-Purana. But the city was also known in ancient times as Ilawas or Ilahabas, which means the place where Ila lives,” Ram Sewak Dubey, a professor of Sanskrit in Allahabad University, said.
He said Akbar had named the place Ilahabad after propounding the Din-i-Ilahi, a syncretic religion combining elements of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and other faiths.
Shiv Yadav, a Samajwadi worker in Allahabad, was arrested for showing a black flag to Adityanath on Sunday in protest against the renaming plan.
Patel, the Samajwadi MP, said: “You cannot restore the ancient glory of a place by changing its name.”
“Otherwise, too, the Sangam area was known as Prayag in ancient times and not as Prayagraj. Local people still call this area Prayag. The BJP is cheating the people by playing the name game,” he added.
Patel alleged that Adityanath also seemed to be trying to deflect attention from the delay in the preparations for the Ardh Kumbh Mela next January.
“The entire city has been dug up. The deadline for the completion of the projects was extended from September 15 to October 15, before the chief minister extended it to November 15 on Saturday — and on Sunday changed it again to November 30,” he said.
Adityanath told a news conference in Allahabad on Sunday that he had invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate the Kumbh-related projects, such as road-widening and the building of waiting halls for the pilgrims, in the first week of December.