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India or Bharat?
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Bangalore has changed to Bengaluru and Calcuttans get known as Kolkatans. But beyond that, ironically, nothing has changed. The politics of name changing, which is being practised in India, has become such a pastime of the political class that it even fails to make news. The failed logic remains the same almost everywhere. Claiming to be the custodians of popular sentiments, the objective remains gaining political brownie points for capturing votes. This trend (that has vexed cartographers) actually started with the renaming of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta as Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata respectively.
Beneath this so-called self-assurance lies the fact that it took almost 50 years for India’s ruling elite to purge the system of ‘Her Majesty’s influence’! In a mix of around 23 official languages and of thousands of dialects that get used in India, using a local language for marking the name of a city exhibits both the selective usage of the glorious history (as in Uttarakhand) and paranoia, which also shows a tinge of xenophobia as was reflected in Marathi’s ‘aamchi Mumbai’ geneology, as well as in allocating a quintessential Kannada name for Bangalore. Whatever the equations of this name-changing game, it has been a fact that beyond the name, nothing has moved up. Mumbai remains a civic nightmare with sprawling slums, while Kolkata has again been called the ‘largest rural settlement of the world’. Rather than changing names, could our political class change the dismal lifestyles of their majority?
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