Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan has got caught in the controversy over renaming Bhopal as "Bhojpal," an idea floated by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan but opposed by a majority of Bhopalis.
Hours ahead of a "peace march" Saturday evening to protest the move to rename Bhopal, activists said that being an outsider, the super star has no right to "endorse" the name "Bhojpal" for Bhopal.
The state government in February proposed to change the capital city's name to honour the memory of philosopher-king Raja Bhoj. However, critics claimed that Raja Bhoj had nothing to do with Bhopal.
Bachchan, who has been in Bhopal for over a month shooting for the film Aarakshan had "indirectly" supported the initiative by the Madhya Pradesh government on his blog Feb 28 - the day the Chouhan government celebrated 1000 years of coronation of Raja Bhoj.
Bachchan wrote: "There is a move here in this city to christen it as 'Bhojpal', instead of its present Bhopal. 'Bhojpal' was apparently its original name, a name it got from the great warrior king, Raja Bhoj."
"A thousand years have passed and the city celebrates his stature and contribution as not just a valiant ruler but one that excelled in literature and the arts and culture too," Bachchan wrote."An astute politician, an astrologer, a medical specialist and gifted with many valuable traits, his larger than life statue gets unveiled tomorrow by the banks of the great lake," the Bachchan blog read.
MN Buch, former top bureaucrat who was conferred with Padmabhushan, criticised Bachchan as well as the state government for supporting the name "Bhojpal," replacing Bhopal - the city of lakes.
In his column "I Love Bhopal" in the Hindustan Times under the headline "The state is not for sale, Mr Bachchan," Buch asked why did the star jump into the fray.
"Amitabh is the son-in-law of a Bhopal-based family (Bachchan's wife and Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan is from Bhopal), but he is not son of the soil. He has no knowledge of Bhopal. With no stake in the city because he lives in Bombay (I refuse to call it Mumbai unless I speak in Marathi or Gujarati) and with considerable property interests in UP, why he jumped into the fray?," Buch, who is currently the chairman of the National Centre for Human Settlements and Environment in Bhopal, wrote.
"Is it because our chief minister hinted that Amitabh my be the brand ambassador of Madhya Pradesh?" he asked.
Buch suggested that Bachchan keep off the issue.
Poet Manzar Bhopali told IANS: "He (Bachchan) has not even visited Bhopal twenty times in his whole life, how could he support 'Bhojpal' name?"
Abdul Jabbar, Bhopal gas tragedy survivor and activist, said: "Amitabh Bachchan could not understand the sentiment of people of Bhopal in only a few days."
Thousands of Bhopalis were getting ready to hold a "Peace March" later in the evening against the chief minister's proposal to rename Bhopal as "Bhojpal".
A campaign on the social networking site Facebook also attracted strong opinion against the proposal to rename Bhopal.