U.P. cities renaming: Muzaffarnagar, Agra, Sultanpur likely in list

BJP leaders have come up with new monikers for Agra and other cities

November 10, 2018 10:25 pm | Updated 10:25 pm IST - Lucknow

Allahabad was renamed 'Prayagraj' recently

Allahabad was renamed 'Prayagraj' recently

After changing the names of Mughalsarai, Allahabad and Faizabad, BJP leaders in Uttar Pradesh are demanding renaming of more places associated with Mughal and Islamic rulers.

While many names are being whispered about, Muzaffarnagar, Agra and Sultanpur are among those being discussed openly.

Sangeet Som, Meerut MLA, has said Muzaffarnagar will soon be renamed Laxminagar, while his Agra North colleague, Jagan Prasad Garg, has demanded that the city of the Taj Mahal be called Agravan or Agrawal. Another BJP MLA, Deomani Dwivedi, had in August already moved a resolution in the Assembly for renaming Sultanpur Kushbhawanpur, after Lord Ram’s son Kush.

Mr. Garg said the old name of Agra was Agravan, derived from the Agarwal trader community that lived there and the Hindi word for forests, van . He has written to Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath demanding the name change “Agravan has a sentiment...[The Islamic era rulers] had imposed such names of slavery and changed the name of Agravan to Agra,” Mr. Garg said, justifying his claim.

Mr. Som said the demand was to “restore” Indian culture, particularly “Hindutva”, which the Mughals had “tried to erase”.

He said the demand for renaming Muzaffarnagar was backed by long-held public sentiment. Asked if he had any historical record or citation showing that Muzaffarnagar was previously named Laxminagar, Mr. Som was evasive“It is on record that 20 years ago lakhs of people gathered for a convention in Muzaffarnagar where a proposal in favour of Laxminagar was passed,” he said, adding that the material could be found freely on the Internet.

There is, however, no mention of Agravan or Laxminagar in official history records. The district gazetteer of 1976 says Muzaffarnagar was founded during the period of Shahjahan at the site of an old town called Sarwar. It was named after one of his ministers, Abdul Muzaffar Khan, who had received 40 villages in jagir (grant), and laid the foundation of a new town, which was completed by his son Abul Mansur Khan and named Muzaffarnagar after his late father. “Sarwar was the chief town of his possessions but it was at that time almost deserted,” says the gazeeteer.

The 1905 official records of Agra say that while it was suggested that the word was derived from either Agarwal Banias, agar (salt pan), agar (house) or agu (fire), “none appears probable”.

Laiqh Ahmed, Mughal expert and retired Professor of Allahabad University, says the name Agra has no connection with the Agarwal community but that it was derived from the expression ag-i-ra , meaning “it’s further ahead”.

The story, according to him, is as follows. While travelling downstream the Yamuna in search of a new capital--the existing one being Delhi-- in 1504 Sultanate ruler Ibrahim Lodi stopped at a place whose elevation he found to be suitable. He asked the captain of the crew, if this place was fit for habitation.

The captain replied by saying, “Ag-i-ra,”

which became Agra.

Mr. Ahmed says that this finds reference in the chapter on the Lodis in the Comprehensive History of India--Volume Vl, The Delhi Sultanate published by the Indian History Congress.

He also argues that Muzaffarnagar has no connection with the word Laxmi.

Sohail Hashmi, academic, says asked the BJP leaders to produce historical proofs linking Muzaffarnagar and Agra to Laxminagar and Agravan. “If there is a connection, show us the documents ... they must be in Sanksrit, Pali or Prakrit languages,” he said.

State response

Uttar Pradesh government spokesperson Shrikant Sharma said the government would “definitely consider” more requests to “restore” names of places.

“We are only correcting the mistakes and tampering committed in the past,” he said, adding that the government would take any initiative concerned with “Indian history and culture”.

The BJP-led government faced criticism in the form of ally and cabinet minister Om Prakash Rajbhar, who said the changing of names was only a drama to distract the backward and oppressed voices from demanding their rights.

He said the contribution of Muslims towards India was unparalleled. Taunting the BJP, he said if it was so intolerant towards Muslims, it should first change the names of its three minioruy faces, Mohsin Raza, Shahnawaz Hussain and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

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