Names of Places are not changed by PILs but by Governments

By Parmanand Pandey
Supreme Court of India may be final in certain respects, but it is definitely not infallible. It has dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), which prayed for the constitution of a Renaming Commission for suggesting the change of names of those cities and places which were named after invaders by trampling upon their historical, cultural and religious identities so as to restore their old glory. How it will create a schism among different communities, as the Supreme Court has said while dismissing the PILs, is difficult to understand. There is hardly any bigotry in changing the names.
How can we shut our eyes from the fact that the country and its people had been pillaged and mauled by the invaders? There is no doubt that history cannot be eroded or wiped out but we can certainly remove those wrongs of the past, which continue to scrape the wounds and rub salts on them. Names of countries, cities and roads have been changed all over the world. Not far away Ceylon was changed to Sri Lanka, Burma became Myanmar, and Cambodia became Kampuchea. Turkey is now known as Turkiye. Similarly, Southwest Africa has been renamed Namibia. There is nothing new in it. Change is part of nature.
Why do our judges get so upset that with the change of the names of some cities, our secularism will be endangered? After all, what is the point of having a city like Bakhtiarpur commemorating the name of Bakhtiar Khilji who had destroyed a world-famous university like Nalanda and its rich library? Names signify not only the history but also the importance attached to it. Why should Prayagraj or Ayodhya be known as Allahabad or Faizabad? There is a wrong perception that a section of society will be annoyed if such changes are made. People welcomed when the name of Leningrad was changed to old Petersburg or Peking as Beijing. In India itself, everybody welcomed when Madras became Chennai or Baroda as Vadodara and Bombay as Mumbai.
What is more perplexing is why some lawyers think that changes can be brought about only by judicial interventions. After all, many names even in India have been changed by the governments and there have been no directions from the judiciary for those changes. It is the will of the people and the government(s) that are responsible for carrying out such changes. In fact, such PILs are meant more for publicity than for achieving the desired goals. Therefore, it will be better if public opinions are built, and the people’s representatives are made to realise which place should be rechristened or retained.