Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus renaming: BJP eyeing Sena’s Marathi manoos plank | opinion | Hindustan Times
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Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus renaming: BJP eyeing Sena’s Marathi manoos plank

The BJP has appropriated Shivaji, an icon that has been part of the Sena lore for 50 years, by inserting ‘Maharaj’ in the Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus name. At the same time, the constant invocation of temples – a brand new station has been called Ram Mandir – fits in well with the party’s stated Hindutva agenda

opinion Updated: May 18, 2017 14:54 IST
One of Mumbai’s famous landmarks --- Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus---- will now be called Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus
One of Mumbai’s famous landmarks --- Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus---- will now be called Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus(Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

The BJP has appropriated Shivaji, an icon that has been part of the Sena lore for 50 years, by inserting ‘Maharaj’ in the Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus name

In March 1996, the name of the imposing headquarters of the Central Railway in Mumbai was changed from Victoria Terminus to Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus. The colonial name, it was decided, had to go and in its place came in the Maratha hero’s.

Recently, the Centre gave its clearance to a proposal by the state government to rename it again - now it will be called the Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus. Delhi also gave its nod for the renaming of Elphinstone Road railway station in Mumbai to Prabhadevi.

Politicians now and then get afflicted by the enthusiasm to change names. After independence, streets and neighbourhoods were stripped of names given by the Raj to honour grandees and even small, local officials. Then came the trend of renaming cities: Poona became Pune, Cawnpore turned into Kanpur.

The demand to rename Bombay to Mumbai was pending for a long time, but it was the ever-accommodating Narasimha Rao who finally said yes. Since then, Bangalore and Calcutta have turned into Bengaluru and Kolkata, both words commonly used in local languages — Madras, which was an entire presidency during the Raj, became Chennai in 1996.

But what the politician proposes is not always what the populace practices. Connaught Place still continues to be called by its old name and in Mumbai, asking a cabbie to take you to Gopalrao Deshmukh Marg will get you blank looks, though Pedder Road, the older name, will work instantly.

At one time, the emphasis was to revert to ‘native’ names. Now, it is not merely to remove the vestiges of the past but also to impose names that fit an agenda, however ludicrous it may be. Aurangzeb, the Mughal everyone loves to hate, gave way to APJ Abdul Kalam in a swift move.

In Mumbai, this pandering has reached ludicrous levels. The BJP is demanding changes not just of railway stations named after colonial officials but in other instances where the names are evocative of local history.

Take Marine Lines, a station on the western railway suburban network that got its name from the nearby Marine Battalion Lines which now belongs to the Indian Air Force. A BJP leader wants it named Mumbadevi, after a temple located quite a distance away.

Temples seem to be foremost on the minds of those who want names changed. Elphinstone Road, named after Lord John Elphinstone (Governor of Bombay 1853-1860) after Prabhadevi, a temple that is nowhere near the station. If at all it had to be dedicated to something relevant, the government should have thought of naming it Girangaon (mill village) in honour of the mill workers who lived and worked in the area and whose hard work built modern Bombay.

The BJP in Mumbai is doing everything it can to snatch away the Marathi manoos plank from the Shiv Sena. It has appropriated Shivaji, an icon that has been part of the Sena lore for 50 years, the insertion of ‘Maharaj’ in the railway terminus’s name was not a Sena demand. At the same time, the constant invocation of temples – a brand new station has been called Ram Mandir – fits in well with the party’s stated Hindutva agenda.

Where will this lead to? The possibilities are limitless. There is no dearth of Moghul (and other Muslim rulers’) names all over the country. Ditto British colonials. At the same time, there are temples and deities galore and mythical legends of the hoary past. Less than two years ago M Venkiah Naidu suggested that Delhi could be renamed as Indraprastha or Hastinapur—it is casual airings like this that eventually become policy. Ahmedabad to Karnavati too is an idea that has been floating around for a long time. In Maharashtra, Ahmednagar and Aurangabad could be prime candidates for a name change.

At one level, the impulse to do away with colonial names is understandable, but to do it indiscriminately is short sighted. We can’t wish away the past. Besides, many of the officials contributed to the development of the towns and cities where they worked. And how far does this go back? Are we going to rename the Taj Mahal because it was built by Shah Jahan, who, according to the Sangh way of thinking, was an invader?

Sidharth Bhatia is a senior journalist

The views expressed are personal