Harpreet Kaur, 12, wants a new name for her village, Ganda (dirty), in Haryana’s Fatehabad district. When the Class-7 girl wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi five months ago and got a response, the villagers found hope. But they aren’t the only ones with the problem.
Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Nagaland, and Kerala also want a dozen villages renamed. The reasons are spelling errors, faith, shame, or superstition. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which received all these requests in the past one year, advises against changing names that people have got used to but states have interest groups to appease.
Punjab’s Akali-BJP government, for instance, wants Kotli Khurd village —in Bathinda, home district of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal — renamed to go with a panchayat resolution. “One saint held a satsang (discourse) in the village and advised the people to live with love and in a peaceful manner and not to use intoxicants. Due to this reason, the panchayat has resolved to change the name of the village to Prem Kotli (prem is Punjabi for love),” suggests a letter from the state revenue department to the MHA on January 13. The ministry is still to agree.
Rajasthan wants Dhanpura village of Bundi district renamed ‘Baba Ki Mandi’ after a saint who meditated over a hillock in the area a century ago. “The place is widely known as Baba ki Mandi and the locals have immense faith in him. A big fair is held there each year,” the state government wrote in its recommendation. It also wants Ajmer’s Himmataruparal village renamed to set things right after 1985, when a local teacher, Himmata, used influence to name it after him in the revenue record. The state wrote to the Centre last year that the villagers wanted to call the village Shamgarh.
Ganda Wanda in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district is fighting to be renamed Baijkot, claiming that the present name is a distorted one. In the last three years, the Centre received 30 of these proposals, including nine each from Rajasthan and Nagaland, and approved 20.