Hindutva is the flavour of the season for the Indian Railways.
After the BJP-led NDA government assumed office in May 2014, names of trains, stations, rail circuits or schemes have been largely inspired by the saffron ideology.
Christening of “Mahamana Express” after former Hindu Mahasabha president Madan Mohan Malviya and the Antodaya Express in memory of Bharatiya Jana Sangh ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyaya are the pointers to the latest trend.
The BJP is the offshoot of the Jana Sangh.
The Indian Railways also launched the “Deen Dayalu’ coaches to commemorate Upadhyaya and renamed Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji terminal as the Chhatrapati Shivaji ‘Maharaj’ terminal to strengthen the myth surrounding the Hindu warrior king.
The state-owned transporter is also renaming 16 other zones, suburban and wayside stations in the Western Railways.
The Osiwara station, for instance, has been rechristened as the Ram Mandir station, while the Eliphistone Road station is now called the Prabha Devi station.
Critics allege the BJP is on a renaming spree to appeal to religious sentiments and consolidate its support base along faith lines.
The party also courted controversy by renaming some popular roads in the national capital allegedly pandering to its Hindutva ideology.
The New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) renamed Dalhousie Road as Dara Shikoh Road, the Race Course Road as Lok Kalyan Marg and Aurangzeb Road after former president APJ Abdul Kalam.
Dara Shikoh, elder brother of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb translated the Upanishads in Persian.
But the BJP’s Hindutva push is not restricted to names alone.
On Saturday last the Railways announced a plan to conduct a preliminary engineering and traffic (PET) survey to lay a broad gauge line connecting the “Char Dhams” (four Hindu pilgrimage sites) in Uttarakhand.
A circuit train connecting religious centers such as Haridwar and Vaishno Devi is also on the anvil.
Train names and schemes are also heavily borrowed from the Sanskrit lexicon. The “Uday” – a train shortly to be launched – is an acronym for “Utkrisht Double Decker Air Conditioned Yatri”. The Special Unit for Transport Research and Analytics is called the “SUTRA”.
Train names have always remained symbolic of the dominant political ideology of the period.
In the first flush of the country’s independence, trains took patriotic names such as the Azad Express, Satyagraha Express, Chauri Choura Express, Hutatma (Martyr) Express or the Jallianwala Bagh Express.
After the socialists had their brush with power at the national level, trains acquired egalitarian names such as the Jan Nayak Express (in memory of Jayaprakash Narain) or the Janata (People’s) Express, Kisan Express (farmer’s train), the Sampoorna Kranti (total revolution) express .
A large chunk of trains have feminine names: Archana Express, Gitanjali Express, Pooja Express, Meenakshi Express, Padmavati Express or the Shipra Express. While such names are probably inspired by mythological, religious or historical figures or locations, another set of trains have been named purely on religious line. These trains are Akal Takht Express, Ala Hazrat Express, Amarnath Express, Bhagirathi Express, Golden Temple Mail, Kashi Vishwanath Express, Mahabodhi Express among others.
One category has historical names (Haldighati Fast Passenger, Kalinga Utkal Express, Hampi Express, Lichavi Express, Mauyra Express, Tipu Express, Vaishali Express or the Vikramshila Express), while a clutch of trains have been named after the rivers of India (Ganga-Damodar Express, Godavri Express, Ganga Sagar Express or the Ganga-Sutlej Express).
Some trains have a simple names (Steel Express, for instance), while others have attention-grabbing names such as the Honeymoon Express.