All Set to Become Bengal
Name changing phenomenon continues, after Calcutta to Kolkata, now it is the turn for the state itself to turn from West Bengal to Bangla, Bangal and Bengal. First in a cabinet meeting then in a special session of the state assembly it has been decided and is passed in the state assembly as a resolution, securing 189 votes in favour of naming West Bengal to Bangla/Bangal /Bengal. Bangla in Bengali, Bangal in Hindi and Bengal in English and other 31 votes demanding against the renaming, as the number of opposition party representatives together in the assembly is 1-3rd, so naturally the ruling party and its assembly members passed the resolution.
At the start of the debate in the West Bengal State Assembly, the resolution was moved by State Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chatterjee under rule 169 and after a day long discussion and debate in the Assembly, finally the resolution was passed although without the consensus of other political parties.
After passing the resolution, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee spoke to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and urged him to introduce a constitutional amendment as early as possible, so that West Bengal will be Bengal forever. The consent of the Parliament is a must to effect the name change.
All the leading opposition parties in the state assembly though opposed the proposal citing one after another reason; Congress staged a walkout while BJP and the Left voted against the resolution.
Mamata Banerjee justifying the proposal said in the assembly: “We are in favour of Bangla as it goes with the culture, language and tradition of the state, but there is only one problem. ‘Bangla’ resonates with ‘Bangladesh’ and it will create a problem in the international arena and so we have decided to write ‘Bangla’ putting ‘Bengal’ in bracket. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said `Bangla’ is better than ‘Banga’, we endorsed your proposal. What is the problem then? Outside India, we are known as people from Bengal.”
She also said: “Whenever we go out of India or to some other State we are known as people from Bengal. In 2011 we had once proposed to change the name of the state, but it was held back by the Centre. There was no decision regarding it. So we decided to bring it once again to change the name of the state to Bangla”.
On the other hand, the BJP slammed the decision. The most vocal voice in the assembly, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s State President and MLA Dilip Ghosh opposed the resolution and also countered this decision. Speaking to Uday India, he said: “We are against the name changing decision of the state government. It is a planned strategy to wipe out the rich and glorious history of Bengal and yes I’ll try my best to convince the centre to go against the decision.”
On the other hand, the face of Left Front in the assembly and CPIM’s Sujan Chakraborty said, “I have no problem with the name. It can be `Banga’, `Bangla’, `Paschim Banga’, anything. But how can a state have two names, one in Bengali and another in English”.
In Bengali language, the state is currently referred to as ‘Pashchim Bengal’, which translates to ‘West Bengal.’ The proposal is looking to change it to either ‘Bangla’ in Bengali and ‘Bengal’ in English. It is worth mentioning here that already the change in the spelling of the state capital Kolkata took place, which was once officially called ‘Calcutta’ few years back. That it is referred to as ‘West’ Bengal rather than just ‘Bengal’ is also seen by some as the reflection of a colonial hangover. That’s because the British partitioned the then ‘Bengal province’ to Hindu-dominated West Bengal and Muslim-dominated East Bengal.
Bengal was first partitioned in the year 1905 by Lord Curzon, as part of the British Raj’s notorious divide and rule policy. It was a senseless or we can say without logic imperialist decision which cut across much more than just land and water, decades down the line people of both sides are still suffering the wedge this line drew into their lives.
Again after Independence,partition followed in the year 1947, which led to the division of the province of Bengal into West Bengal, which stayed in India, and East Bengal, which is now Bangladesh after 1971.
Now many are of the view that when East Bengal has already changed itself to Bangladesh, then why not delete West from Bengal. Most of the people approve of Bengal, saying it makes online applications easier. Kolkata-based Marketing Professional Shibesh Biswas is of the view that “simply Bengal is beautiful; we are anyways known outside our state as from Bengal. Carrying a West without reason, must be untagged”.
For Mamata Banerjee, it also means jump above the queue. She has often complained that she rarely gets a chance to speak in meetings at the national and international platforms because the name of West Bengal comes at the end of a list of 29 states. With the change of the name now it is expected to solve end number of problems.
Meanwhile, senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya suggested that a committee should be formed with a cross section of intelligentsia to go into the issue. State Congress President Adhir Chowdhurys, too, suggested that it “would be better if a public opinion is sought”.
Senior CPM leader Rabin Deb said that previous Left Front government had proposed the name change at least twice—once in 2000, when Mamata was part of the NDA government and later in 2011. “We had proposed the name ‘Bangla’ but Mamata in 2011, wanted it to be ‘Paschim Bangla’. We had agreed to that as well but her government never sent it to the Centre later,” he said.
In September 2011, the State Assembly, under the earlier Trinamool Congress government, had passed a resolution changing the name of the State to Paschim Banga both in Bengali and English.
In 1999, the Left Front government had passed a resolution, changing the name of the State to Bangla. Both the previous resolutions were unanimous and supported by all parties.
In 2001, the previous Left government led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had cleared the renaming of the state to “Paschimbanga”. The central government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee didn’t accept the suggestion, but Calcutta became Kolkata at the time.
It is worth mentioning the words of William Shakespeare: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” It is therefore important what resonates through your action is best reflected in the name. It is therefore for every citizen of the state, not to forget the essence and importance associated with the name of the state, which, once, was the epicentre of all reforms and which has evolved itself in the course of time.
by Joydeep Dasgupta
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