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West Bengal name change leaves many disappointed

IN A FIX?: Mamata Banerjee

IN A FIX?: Mamata Banerjee  

Is the Bay of Bengal called the Bay of West Bengal? Is the Royal Bengal Tiger called the Royal West Bengal Tiger? Why then should this State be called West Bengal? Thus ran a recent campaign which strongly advocated dropping the West from ‘West Bengal'. The name change announced on Friday has left people who supported this campaign, and many others, with a sense of despair, with some even seeing the entire matter as futile and childish. PaschimBanga, already in use in State officialdom, will now merely replace the English name West Bengal.

At a time when change or poribartan has become the leitmotif of the Mamata Government, this was one change that most people had warmed up to. However, after Friday's announcement, the question they are now asking is: “Where is the change?”

While announcing the decision arrived at an all-party meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's second-in-command, Partha Chatterjee, was emphatic that this name was chosen through consensus. This was also echoed by the Leader of the Opposition in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly and senior leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Surjya Kanta Mishra.

Interestingly, West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee general secretary Omprakash Mishra felt that the name-change was unnecessary and superfluous. Even so, he felt that if moving up the alphabetical order was the stated objective, then Bengal or Bango would have been better choices.

Eminent poet and academician Sankha Ghosh said that other than doing away with the need for having one name instead of two he was unable to see any change. “Going up or down in the Delhi-ranking of speeches by ministers and bureaucrats could hardly be described as a problem to which the name PaschimBanga can be a solution in place of the present West Bengal.”

According to G. M. Kapur, State Convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) which is involved in heritage conservation, this proves the adage that “the more they change, the more they remain the same”. GenY is still wondering about the “whys” of the change, if at all they perceive any. Says Pratip Lahiri, who is working with a private sector company: “If at all a change had to be brought, we would have preferred the name ‘Bangla' or else this change is meaningless.” This was echoed by Dipayan Dutta, a third year engineering student. “This change seems senseless to me… What good will it do?” he asked.

Debmita Roy, who was catching up on her sleep after returning home from a night shift at her BPO unit, had missed out on it all. But after hearing the news from The Hindu , she said: “Just as well that I had missed it!”

From 1905 there had been a move by the British Government to carve up Bengal. There were widespread protests and Bengal remained united. However, with India's Independence came the Partition and the formation of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), after which West Bengal got its name.

In 1999, under Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, there was a move to change the name in the Legislative Assembly. Even then, the name Bangla and Paschimbanga emerged as front-runners. However, the matter was not pursued.

Recently Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee mooted the proposal saying that a State which had a name starting with the alphabet ‘W' ran a handicap race at meetings convened by the Centre. “Very often when West Bengal's turn came to speak … either the hall was half empty or the audience were asleep… It is important to move up the order to be heard in Delhi… ” she said. However, it was decided that the government will not force things down and that a two-member committee (comprising Mr. Chatterjee and Mr. Mishra) will discus the matter with historians and decide the name. And PaschimBanga was chosen, which Mr. Chatterjee said on Friday would require minimal administrative change as the State was anyway called PaschimBanga in Bengali and only its English name would have to be changed.

He said that doing so would ensure that the State moved up a few notches in its order of precedence in the alphabetical arrangement of the States in the Indian Union.

  • Many see the name change as futile and childish
  • PaschimBanga is already in use in State officialdom

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