Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani on Thursday said that the state government was considering changing the name of Ahmedabad to Karnavati and the Shiv Sena in neighbouring Maharashtra reiterated its old demand that Aurangabad and Osmanabad be renamed Sambhaji Nagar and Dharashiv, respectively.
The announcement by Rupani, on the occasion of the Gujarati New Year’s day, comes on the heels of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttar Pradesh saying it was changing the names of Allahabad to Prayagraj and Faizabad district to Ayodhya.
The BJP government in Himachal Pradesh was last month considering a proposal to change the name of Shimla to Shyamala but scrapped the idea following protests by the city’s residents.
“We are contemplating changing the name of Ahmedabad to Karnavati, the talk of which has been going on for a long time,” Rupani said on sidelines of a public function. “Concrete steps will be taken after considering the proposal from legal and other angles.”
Asked if it would happen before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections or after, he said, “Before the elections.”
Gujarat’s deputy chief minister Nitin Patel on Tuesday said that the name Ahmedabad was a “symbol of slavery”. “The name Karnavati represents our pride, our self-respect, our culture, our autonomy,” he said.
Some historians say that the area around Ahmedabad has been inhabited since the 11th century, when it was known as Ashaval. Chalukya ruler Karna of Anhilwara (Patan) defeated the Bhil king of Ashaval and established a city called Karnavati on the banks of the Sabarmati. Sultan Ahmed Shah in 1411 laid the foundation of a new walled city near Karnavati and named it Ahmedabad.
In Maharashtra, Shiv Sena’s member of Parliament Sanjay Raut asked chief minister Devendra Fadnavis when the state government will rename Aurangabad and Osmanabad. In a tweet, he pointed out that Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has renamed Allahabad and Faizabad.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande said their demand to rename Aurangabad and Osmanabad is not new “but the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) opposed it [when the parties were in power] to appease Muslim voters”.
The demand to rename Aurangabad was first made by Shiv Sena founder, the late Bal Thackeray, in 1988 during a visit to the city after communal riots in the area. The proposal was cleared by the Shiva Sena-controlled Aurangabad Municipal Corporation in 1995 and 2001 but was not accepted by the state government.
The BJP, which rules the state in alliance with the Sena, favoured the renaming of the two cities in the past. In 2015, state BJP chief Raosaheb Danve and senior leader and former minister Eknath Khadse urged chief minister Fadnavis to bring the proposal to the state cabinet for approval.
Aurangabad, once called Khidki, was renamed after Mughal ruler Aurangzeb in the 17th century. Osmanabad was named after Mir Usman Ali, the Nizam of Hyderabad, as it was part of his empire before the district became part of Marathwada after the reorganisation of states in the 1950s.
Diwakar Raote, a Shiv Sena leader from Marathwada and transport minister in the Maharashtra cabinet, said, “We want Osmanabad to be named after its original name.”
BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhadari said, “The BJP is in favour of renaming of these cities and the party will once again push for it.”
Historians and experts feel this is a sheer politics by the BJP. “The BJP just aims to consolidate Hindu votes by playing name changing game. If the BJP really wants to go by the history, then it should be renamed Ashwapali ruled by trial leader Ashvalbhil, who was defeated by Karnadev who then established Karnavati,” said historian Hari Desai.
He added, “ only a year back the government sent over 500 page report to UNESCO saying the city was established by Ahmed shah in 1411 and attained title of India’s first heritage city. Now, within a year they want to change it.”