What is there in a name? A lot, if one goes by the efforts of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in getting the name of a Rajasthan village changed as even after more than six decades of independence, it still carries a derogatory caste-based connotation for the villagers.
A dusty village in Dausa district of Rajasthan, known as “Kuwan Ka Vas,” had its name changed by the revenue officials in 1987 to “Chamaron Ka Vas,” denoting that it was home to a community which was in the business of making leather goods and footwear.
The villagers, for the past 20 years, have been running from pillar to post to get it changed and about 31 of them petitioned the NHRC in 2006.
During the proceedings before NHRC member P.C. Sharma, it came to light that the then District Collector changed the name to “Govindpura” in February 2002 upon receiving a recommendation from the villagers. However, the change was not effected due to bureaucratic and procedural wrangles.
Taking cognisance of the complaint on September 28, 2006, the NHRC issued notice to the Chief Secretary, Rajasthan, who submitted that the State government agreed to change the name to “Kushalpura'' with the consent of the villagers and sent the proposal to the Union Home Ministry.
The problem still persisted as the Home Ministry said that the Railway Ministry had informed it that the name “Kushalpura'' could create confusion as there was a railway station by the name of “Kushalpura Halt.”
It directed the State government to suggest some other name.
In his communication to the NHRC, the State Chief Secretary informed on September 9, 2009 that alternative names received from the Collector, Dausa were forwarded to the Home Ministry for approval but till January this year no information was received.
“The Commission is distressed to note that in a democratic country like India whose Constitution clearly prohibits any discrimination on the basis of caste, religion, language, the name of the village is highly derogatory,” Mr. Sharma observed.
On account of bureaucratic rigmarole, he noted, the matter which was represented in 2006 continued to drag on. “If enough sensitivity had been displayed the name of the village could have been changed much earlier and the feelings of a particular community could have been assuaged,” he said in his order, which asked the Union Home Secretary to respond to the Commission within six weeks.