K B Jandial
There is nothing wrong in renaming the roads and institutions in India as it started immediately after Independence. In fact, the Govt undertook this exercise to identify public roads having names drawn from India’s colonial past and shed the symbols of foreign domination and rechristened these with Indian and local names. Delhi’s Kingsway Road was the first road to be rechristened. It was renamed as Rajpath.
The next road was Queensway which was renamed as Janpath. It was Kingsway Road where the Republic Day parade was held and continues to be the prestigious venue of annual glittering march past and showcasing of India’s military power, progress in different fields and varied rich colourful culture. The only difference is that the stately road was indianised with the name of Rajpath.
Thereafter, Curzon Road was rechristened as Kasturba Gandhi Marg. Later, several other roads were renamed. Ratendon Road was renamed as Amrita Shergill Marg and Kitchener Road as Sardar Patel Marg. This process continued and in 2015, Aurangzeb Road was named after former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. The name of Race Course Road leading to PM’s residence was also changed to Lok Kalyan Marg in 2016.
Not only roads, the important cities were given new names in local languages, respecting the local sentiments. Jubbulpore was renamed as Jabalpur in 1947 itself while Jajesmow became Jajmau, Cawnpore renamed as Kanpur in 1948 and Baroda as Vadodara in 1974. The renaming exercise continued and several more important cities came to acquire new names in their respective languages. Trivandrum became Thiruvananthapuram in 1991, Bombay rechristened as Mumbai in 1995, Cochin became Kochi in 1996, Madras changed to Chennai in 1996, Calcutta in to Kolkata in 2000, Pondicherry into Puduchery in 2006, Bangalore into Bengaluru in 2007, Hubli into Hubballi in 2014, Gurgaon in to Gurugram in 2016, New Raipur to Atal Nagar in 2018. The name of Allahabad dates back to the 16th century, a legacy of Mughal Emperor Akbar but in 2018, it was renamed to Prayagraj, a word that refers to a world known pilgrimage.
Not only the roads as and cities, even New Delhi’s iconic Connaught Place and Connaught Circus were renamed as Rajiv Chowk and Indira Chowk by the Congress Govt .
When India was born as an independent nation, the Constituent Assembly debated for close to two years to finalise what should be the name of the new country. We as a nation became independent on August 15, 1947, but the naming of the country was approved by the Constituent Assembly in the second half of 1949. Most common among the suggestions included Bharat, Hindustan, Hind, Bharatbhoomi, Bharatvarsh, Jamboo Dwipa and Aryavarta. Even after the members zeroed on Bharat, there was still more heated debate on how Article 1(1) of the Constitution should be framed -whether `Bharat should figure before or after India. The proposal to put Bharat before India was defeated by 51-38 votes and the members adopted “India, that is Bharat, shall be the Union of States as Article 1(1).
Bharat was the original name and the given name is India. The invaders of Bharat who came up to the river Sindhu somehow pronounced Sindhu as Hindu, and then Indus. And finally India is stuck on us.
Changing names continued in many other sectors including Railway Stations and educational institutions. Following the national pattern of renaming institutions to martyrs, local heroes and celebrities, the J&K UT administration has recently announced naming of 75 Govt Schools & 75 roads after martyrs and local heros. For the purpose, a 7-member high powered Committee was constituted for considering renaming educational institutions and roads after martyrs and eminent personalities. There could not be a better initiative than this to honour martyrs, decorated defence and police personnel, local celebrities, national freedom fighters and heros as part of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav(celebrations of India’s 75 years of Independence). The Committee has done its work and the Administrative Council has approved naming of institutions and roads after martyrs. It has not only made historical corrections but also remembered their valued contributions and honour unsung heroes.
The 15th century revolutionary farmer, Bawa Jitto is part of Jammu’s glorious history and is worshipped as ‘kissan saint martyr’ but has no institution by his name that could serve as a beacon light for the present and future generations. The supreme sacrifice of the peasant, Jit Mal popularly known as Bawa Jitto, symbolised the fight of the marginalised farmers and appalling condition of peasants in the past. In Jammu region, Bawa Jitto is seen as a legendary hero of the masses who sacrificed his life as a mark of unique protest against the tyrannical feudal system and oppressive forces back in the fifteenth century. .Scholars described Bawa Jitto differently. G.K. Das, former Vice Chancellor, Utkal University, Bhubaneswar connected Bawa Jitto’s life with the revolutionary figures like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King who attacked man’s violence against man. Dr. Vandhana Sharma, Head, Department of Languages and Literature, SMVD University who translated the Bawa Jitto epic play of the Dogri doyen, late Ramnath Shastri in to English, described him in this manner: “Just as Socrates had to drink the hemlock, Christ to hang on the cross, Joan to burn at the stake, Bawa Jitto thrust a dagger in his chest”. Professor Shiv Nirmohi described him as a ‘Shaheed Devta’.
In a current situation when institutions are being named after local heroes and martyrs, no one can stand out more deserving and inspiring than Bawa Jitto. Since he was associated with agriculture, the Lt Governor Manoj Sinha is urged to rename the University for Agricultural Sciences and Technology , Jammu after Bawa Jitto during the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’. Presently, it is named after Sheikh Abdullah.
In any case, naming the agriculture university after Jammu’s iconic peasant martyr Bawa Jitto is no denigration of Sheikh Abdullah who too had unforgettable contribution in standing with Maharaja Hari Singh at the time of acceptance of Instrument of Accession by Pt Nehru’s Govt at critical moment. His name is engrained in some other institutions even in Jammu like Tawi Bridge. Undoubtedly, he was a great leader having strong roots in Kashmir where many important institutions stood named after him. But he is not Jammu’s icon. In fact, NC Govt should have chosen a local icon to name Agricultural University rather than naming both agricultural universities after Sheikh Abdullah. It sounds like Jammu Agricultural University as Kashmir’s Branch in Jammu. There were many iconic personalities which had better credentials than him for naming Jammu Agricultural University. Even Pt Prem Nath Dogra, the most respectable leader Jammu ever had since independence, could be better than Sheikh Abdullah. He along with Maharaja Hari Singh should be seriously considered for naming important Institutions in Jammu during the celebrations of India’s 75 years of Independence.
It is nice that the Lt Governor Manoj Sinha has set the record straight by stating that it was not the tribal invasion of J&K in 1947 but of the Pakistani army masquerading as tribal. It is perhaps for the first time that the top constitutional authority has sought to correct the historical distortion that had given an escape route to Pakistan to distance itself from the invasion but quickly occupied the captured part of J&K. By declaring 26th October as holiday on account of Accession Day the UT Govt has snubbed those who even when in the Govt had questioned the finality of accession. Similarly, distortion needed to be corrected by naming Jammu’s Agricultural University after Bawa Jitto.
K B Jandial