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How Uttar Pradesh got its name

With the state offering answers (uttar) to many vexed questions, the name was chosen after 2 years of acrimonious debates and over 20 suggestions.

lucknow Updated: Feb 05, 2018 14:53 IST
Brajendra K Parashar
Uttar Pradesh has come a long way since the initial days of independence.
Uttar Pradesh has come a long way since the initial days of independence.(Subhankar Chakraborty/HT Photo)

While septuagenarian Uttar Pradesh celebrated it’s first-ever birthday with much fanfare on January 24, not many know that the process of naming the state, which began in 1947, went on for over two years and also proved to be an onerous task.

More than 20 names —like Aryavrata, Hindustan, Himalay Pradesh and Uttarakhand — had been suggested and deliberated upon before there was a compromise on Uttar Pradesh (UP).

The rare and the lively insight into “two years of tumultuous and sometimes acrimonious debates and discussions in the state legislature as well as the Constituent Assembly in New Delhi” has been recorded in book Gyanesh Kudaisya, a Singapore-based-UP-born historian.

Titled, ‘Region, Nation, Heartland —Uttar Pradesh in India’s Body Politic,’ the book delves into political history of Uttar Pradesh.

A separate chapter on ‘Renaming the Heartland’ claims that Aryavrata was the front runner among all names suggested but it could not be adopted for various reasons.

“This is true that Uttar Pradesh got its name after a lot of discussion over various alternatives, many of them quite interesting,” says Hriday Narayan Dikshit, speaker Vidhan Sabha, Uttar Pradesh.

WHEN THE SEARCH BEGAN?

A few days after Independence a debate started in the legislature over the question of a “suitable name” of the newly born province that had been known as United Province of Agra and Oudh since 1902 and was shortened to United Province (UP) in 1937.

During a debate, on September 11, 1947, Chandra Bhal, a Congress MLC, rose to move a resolution for changing United Province’s (UP) name.

“We are witnessing a new birth. I think we should have a new and suitable name. After the birth, the most important ceremony is the ‘Nam Karan’ everywhere and I think we should signalize this birth of a new age and a new life in our people by having a really good name for our province,” he pleaded. The resolution received overwhelming support.

…BUT CONSENSUS ELUDED

Though there was strong agreement over the need to change the name, there was no consensus on what the new name should be. Education minister, Sampurnanand pointed out difficulties in adopting Oudh as the new name as suggested by Chandra Bhal. The name, he argued, may not be acceptable to people of Braj and Kashi.

Chandra Bhal clarified that Oudh was merely an example. Other possible names according to him could be “Aryavarta,” even “Hindustan” or just “Hind”.

Finally, it was decided that government should appoint a committee to consider various proposals for naming UP within a month.

Ram Chandra Gupta, another Congress legislator, supported the proposal and explained in detail how the name “United Province” was an unattractive one.

Soon, speaker after speaker argued that United Province as a colonial appellation was not a suitable name and people could not be expected to feel patriotic about such a name.

ARYAVRARTA FRONT RUNNER

Soon the debate seemed to settle over Aryavarta. Speaking in support of this, legislator, Bandri Datt Pandey said, “When Aryans came here, they called it Aryavarta or the abode of Aryans. I think this the original name. The Aryans came here and settled and they wrote these wonderful books, the Vedas, the Darshans and other systems of philosophy.”

However, there were important dissenting voices too.

Sheikh Masood-ul-Zaman, a Muslim legislator, shot down the very idea of renaming the province. Criticizing the Aryavrata proposal, he said, it would not appeal to many people, especially minorities.

“Suppose we name the province Aryavrata, are we in that case going to be known as Arya Samajist?” he questioned.

Another dissenter was Abdul Hamid of the Muslim League. The United Province, he argued was a lovely name which he claimed reflected a sense of strong unity.

Radhe Ram and Ram Narayan Garg were among others who rose in support of the Aryavarta proposal.

At this point, communication minister, Hafiz Muhammad Ibrahim intervened to say that the term “Hindustan” would be wrong as with it were associations of a much larger country.

As the only Muslim of the Pant Cabinet, he pleaded for a consultative approach. As the debate became more strident, official benches had to intervene to diffuse the situation.

Sensing that the mood in the Council was overwhelmingly in favour of adopting Aryavrat as the name of the state, finance minister, Sri Krishna Dutt Paliwal shrewdly argued that an immediate decision based on a majority resolution was likely to be hasty and that it should be left to the Pant cabinet to consider and resolve the matter in due course.

OVER 20 SUGGESTIONS WERE DISCUSSED

Once the issue came into public domain, a lively debate followed and many new suggestions surfaced.

By June 1948, several local bodies and individuals had already suggested as many as 20 names to the UP Cabinet.

They included, Aryavarata, Aryavarata Pradesh, Avadh, Bharat Khand, Brij Kaushal or Brij Koshal, Brahmvarta, Prant Bhagirath Pradesh, Bhramadesh, Brahmadesh, Hindustan, Himalay Koshlam, Krishna Kaushal Province, Madhyadhesh, Naimisharana Pradesh, Nava Hindu, Ram Krisnna Prant, Ram Krishna Pradesh, Himalaya Pradesh and UttaraKhand.

The issue re-surfaced with some urgency in October 1949 as the Constituent Assembly was finalizing the draft Constitution in New Delhi.

The new Constitution had to feature the names of the provinces in the Union. Members from UP in the Constituent Assembly re-opened the issue of naming the state.

Mahavir Tyagi, a prominent Congress leader from western region, raised the issue. However, no consensus could still be reach.

Under the circumstances, president of the Constituent Assembly Dr Rajendra Prasad ruled that he could not allow a debate on the subject as this would seriously hamper and delay the work of the Assembly.

He suggested the question of nomenclature be left to respective provincial governments and the Constituent Assembly could later obtain their views and incorporate the same in the draft Constitution.

ARYAVRATA VS HIND

The issue was back on the table of the United Province government. On November 1, 1949, at the initiative of education minister, Sampurnanand, the cabinet considered the issue. Reports indicated that within the Cabinet, an overwhelming majority favoured the proposal for Aryavarta. However, a final decision was not taken as it was felt that the matter should also be placed before the Provincial Congress Committee (UPCC).

Later, the same month, the UPCC met at Benaras. In a two-hour long debate, an overwhelming majority of 106 members supported the motion in favour of Aryavarta. The only other name that was considered worthy of discussion and voting was Markandey Singh’s “Hind” which secured 22 votes. Armed with the verdict, Pt Govind Ballabh Pant conveyed the decision to the Constituent Assembly on November 15, 1949.

The Aryavarta proposal was, however, stalled within days.

In a “heated discussion” at a meeting of Congress members of the Constituent Assembly in New Delhi, the Central leadership repeatedly intervened into the matter and the entire issue was dropped.

The Central leadership in New Delhi disregarded the fact that the proposal enjoyed the support of the state government and the UPCC.

On November 17, 1949, Pant retracted publicly from the debate. He informed the Assembly that the Aryavrata proposal was being given up as “this was not found acceptable to other parts of the country.”

FEAR OF HEGEMONIC NAME

Earlier during the debate, RK Sidhwa, a member from CP-Berar, had insinuated that the “United Provinces was anxious to monopolise the name of India.”

Further, he expressed the fear that though the name Aryavarata may have been given, the United Province government might still forward the name Hindustan instead.

Names of this kind, Sidhwa charged “signified not merely United Province but the whole of India.” He was concerned that United Province looked upon itself as the “super-most province of India.”

To address such concern, Union law minister, Dr BR Ambedkar moved a bill, which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949, empowering the governor general to alter names of provinces consisting of the Union. Pant promised that names like Aryavarta or Hindustan “would not be suggested again”

Thus, the push for renaming the United Province as Aryavarta, according to Kudaisya, was stopped in its track by timely intervention by the Central leadership. Following this, a meeting of Congress members of the Constituent Assembly from UP was convened to work out a compromise upon the name “Uttar Pradesh”.

Dikshit said as a country’s cultural unit, the state offered answers (uttar) to many vexed questions satisfying people’s inquisitiveness. “And hence its naming Uttar Pradesh then was the right thing,” he said.

“But with things deteriorating in terms of employment, law and order etc over the years, not many talk of making it an Uttam Pradesh.”