West Bengal to be called Bangla: Assembly clears name change, needs Centre’s approval
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West Bengal to be called Bangla: Assembly clears name change, needs Centre’s approval

The West Bengal Assembly passed a resolution on Thursday to change the state’s name to Bangla.

india Updated: Jul 26, 2018 21:06 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Bangla,West Bengal,West Bengal assembly
West (Hindustan Times Media)

The West Bengal assembly on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution, recommending that the state be renamed Bangla, following up on a two-year-old effort to move the state up the alphabetical order of India’s states. The state government will now forward the proposal to the Centre, which notifies new names of places including states.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee told the assembly that the Centre had recently informed the state that it can accept only one name. The Centre’s response came after the state government wrote to it in August 2016 suggesting three names: Bangla (in Bengali), Bengal (English) and Bangal (Hindi). The assembly chose Bangla.

“Although we sent the proposal a long ago, the Union government decided to sit on it. They recently sent a communication, advising us to choose one name instead of three. We do not want any controversy on this issue. We have decided to choose Bangla. Let the resolution be passed unanimously,” Banerjee told the assembly.

The state government first proposed the renaming in 2016. West Bengal parliamentary affairs minister Partha Chatterjee had then argued for the change saying bureaucrats and politicians from the state often complain that they are asked to speak at the end of every national-level meeting in Delhi. This was because the speakers’ lists at such meeting are prepared according to alphabetical order of the states they represent.

“If West Bengal gets the new name, it will leapfrog from bottom of the list to the top of the pecking order,” he had said in August 2016 when the Assembly cleared the three names.

The renaming will help the state appear at the fourth spot after Arunachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Assam in the alphabetic order of the states.

Orissa became Odisha in 2011, but that was just a de-anglicisation of the state’s name. Madras was renamed Tamil Nadu in 1969 and Mysore, Karnataka in 1973, but those also involved re-organisation of territories. This is perhaps the first time a state is changing its name to get ahead in the pecking order.

Historian Rajat Kanta Ray cautioned against the problems that the renaming was likely to cause. “The change will also create problems in all spheres of academics and literature including poetry, prose, sociology philosophy, political science and history. It would have been better if the proposal had not been passed,” said Ray, a former Visva-Bharati University vice-chancellor.

Pabitra Sarkar, a former Bengali professor at the Chicago University, said the name Bangla will create avoidable confusion with Bangladesh. “Abroad, many refer to Bangladesh simply as Bangla,” said Sarkar.

Ray and Sarkar said Paschimbanga, the state’s present name in Bengali, was a better choice.

Theatre director Debesh Chatterjee said he likes the new name. “It takes us closer to Bangladesh.”

West Bengal’s most popular writer Mani Shankar Mukherjee welcomed the new name. “The other side of the border is now Bangladesh. Where is the problem if this side is simply called Bangla? I have no problem since it was a unanimous decision,” said Mukherjee.

The name of the state’s capital, which served as British India’s seat of power until 1911, was changed from Calcutta to Kolkata in January 2001.

First Published: Jul 26, 2018 13:24 IST